Monthly Archives: June 2015

Final Fantasy 7 REMAKE! … My Thoughts

final-fantasy-7-logoWell, well, well….. It is really happening. SQUARE is remaking Final Fantasy 7. After teasing fans for years and years and years, they have finally rewarded our patience with a remake of this classic RPG. Once again, we will return to the streets of Midgar, fight the evil Shina Corporation, witness the silliness of the Gold Saucer, fight the Ruby Weapon and cast Knights of the Round, all in glorious, redesigned HD graphics. What an amazing development to come out of  Sony’s E3 conference this year. So in the spirit of that excitement, let’s talk about it.

The Never Ending Fantasy…Just Keeps Going and Going….

My experience and connection with FF7 is drastically different then that of most of my friends. Unlike the majority of fans out there, I have only ever played this game once and not even to full completion. Now, before you have me tied to a Chocobo and run out of town, let me assure you that I have, in fact seen EVERYTHING in this game, multiple times over. I have witnessed and participated in 6-8 hour farming sessions. I have cried over the tragic death of Aerith more times than I want to admit. I have bred and raced Chocobos. I have been on the edge of my seat while fighting Ruby Weapon and completely exhausted after barely winning. I may not have always been holding the controller, but I was right there witnessing and being swept away by the sheer epic craziness of this game.

What does that all mean? Well, in the late 90s, Final Fantasy 7 was all the rage and everyone I knew was completely obsessed with that game. Rightly so, since it was a fantastic game. Of course, as soon as FF7 hit the shelves, everyone I knew became obsessed. Every friend I had, played FF7 almost exclusively for months and months on end. The desire to play this game was all consuming and it swept through my friends like wildfire.

Unfortunately, I was not in a financial position to buy my own physical copy of the game. That wouldn’t happen till much later. Instead, I was relegated to the sidelines, waiting until one of my friends would allow me to borrow their copy. As one can imagine, since all of my friends were playing this game, guess who was usually sitting on a couch, right next to them, during their gaming sessions? You guessed it…. ME. I witnessed each of my friend’s individual runs, almost in their entirety. By the time I got around to actually getting my own copy, I was simply burned out. I had seen everything, from beginning to end. There were just no surprises left in the game for me and I didn’t feel any great urgency to play it, yet again. However, that does NOT lessen my love for the game and it sure doesn’t make me any less excited for the remake. I just experienced it a little differently then most fans.

tc0ofwda5zek2mfaiivtRegarding Remakes

Since SQUARE’s announcement of the remake of Final Fantasy 7, the world is rejoicing at the news. The internet and discussion forums are all a buzz with speculations and opinions. Excitement is flowing freely. People love FF7, that is obviously clear. However, despite my excitement at this shocking and exciting turn of events, I can’t help but think, am I going to like this game when it hits shelves? The original game had such a HUGE impact on me and every single one of my friends, how can any game live up to that level of importance? I am very hopeful sure, but also fairly skeptical.

Not only is Final Fantasy 7 known as one of the best RPGs of all time, it STILL has a gigantic, very dedicated fan base. If SQUARE changes too much of the game, they run the risk of alienating the diehard fans. If they keep the game completely stock, they might be accused of just trying to cash in on the FF7 legacy. This is not an easy position for them to be in and we won’t know how it’ll play out, until it is in full swing.

So that begs the question, can a remake be as powerful or as influential as the original game once was? Or in this case, is SQUARE somehow damaging the legacy and power of FF7 by remaking a game that literally shaped a generation of gamers. Sure, most of us fans are pretty excited at the idea of seeing such iconic characters as Cloud, Tifa and Sephiroth in HD, but can this remake recapture the love of so many old school fans? Can it rekindle those same feelings of amazement and awe that we felt as we were greeted with our very first FMV? Chances are, no it can’t. No matter how much time and effort SQUARE puts into this project, it will never be exactly as it was. That would be impossible. When this game first came out, it was a different world. It was a moment in time that has long passed and as Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You can’t go home again….”

ff7headerimg599px1512512Final Thoughts…

As the months go by and we hear more and more about this upcoming remake, all eyes will be on SQUARE-ENIX. They are tinkering with a classic and that is a very daring and scary move. Truth be told, this game is going to set a precedence for all other Final Fantasy remakes. If any of us ever want to see remakes of FF6, FF1 or even Tactics, we had best hope that FF7 does extraordinarily well. Unfortunately, I guarantee that before the final game is released, at some point fans will be outraged at the decisions that SQUARE has made. We will read things like “How dare SQUARE do this to this game!” and “I hate them! They have ruined my childhood!” Like Sephiroth’s Super Nova, the drama will seem to go on and on and on. Until we play the final build, people will speculate, trash talk and condemn, but sink or swim, I believe that SQUARE will give us our remake. However, only time will tell if THIS remake is the one that we’ve always wanted. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that it is. I for one, will see you in Midgar.

~GB

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My Trouble with Destiny… aka…What the Crap Bungie?

Destiny-LogoAh Destiny, what can I say about this game that hasn’t already been said a hundred times over? To be honest, not much.  Regardless, this post has been a longtime coming, but up until now, I just haven’t felt that I had enough practical experience to judge this game fairly. Well, things have changed and I have been playing a lot more of Destiny. I now feel that I am more experienced with the game and can give my honest opinions. Unfortunately, I am afraid that those opinions are not favorable.

In my experience, when someone asks “Hey, how’s Destiny?” answers seem to vary. Some say that is is the greatest game ever made, others say that it is the worst game ever made. Like most game reviews, the truth lies somewhere in between. My typical short answer is “It’s OK. The graphics are great and the game looks really pretty, but something feels like it is missing.” That is actually what I tend to tell people and it is how I truly feel. Something is missing in Destiny. Now, if you want the long answer to that question….. just keep reading.

Personally, I didn’t want to spend $60 on a game that was just “OK.” I wanted an epic game, about magical, space-traveling warriors, wearing cool outfits and carrying crazy, futuristic weapons! I wanted to see distant, imaginary worlds and pilot my own space craft across star systems. I wanted to hangout with friends and fight the evils that dwell deep in the blackness of space. That’s what I wanted and in the early trailers and developer videos, it looked like that’s what we were going to get. Destiny was supposed to be HUGE and I was ready to be swept away by all of it.

So the question is, how did a game with such visually stunning graphics and loads of potential, turn into an over-hyped, repetitive, lackluster experience with shallow characters, an unsatisfyingly short story and a frustrating loot/rewards system? How did it all go wrong? What happened? Why is it that the Destiny I saw back in 2013 looked and sounded so much cooler then what I am currently playing? I just don’t get it. It is baffling. But, since I am all fired up and in the mood to write, let’s take a look at Destiny.

Things I Like….

Destiny may not have been the epic FPS MMO that we were all wishing for, but never-the-less there are a few areas in the game that I honestly do like:

First off, the visuals are stunning and the game looks absolutely amazing. The art style, the textures and overall look of the game is really beautiful. Yes, the environments are sometimes barren and desolate, but in most cases, they match what I would envision a particular planet to look like. Also, most of your gear and weapons are very nicely detailed. As a fan of detail, I can appreciate that.

Secondly, the ship designs are pretty cool to look at. You might not have as much free roaming ability with them, but they are nicely designed and look good against the backdrops of space and high altitude clouds. I would have wished for more customization and maybe the ability to pilot them myself, instead of them just being background filler for loading sequences, but we got what we got. Also, cruising around on your Sparrow (or “glorified speeder bike” as I like to call it) is absolutely a blast. It does get a bit repetitive, especially when you have to traverse the same ground over and over again, but it is still entertaining.

Thirdly, I love co-op and the co-op in this game IS pretty fun. Strategizing with friends, taking out a huge boss together or just getting into team firefights with hordes of baddies is all pretty enjoyable. That is the ONLY reason I’m still playing Destiny. If it weren’t for my friends, I would have given up on this game during the first month of its release.

Lastly, the music is very nice, although you will get tired of the same tracks over and over again. Truth be told, I have since turned off the music and now I just run with the game sounds and the sounds of voice chatting with friends, but the music is top notch.

Unfortunately, that is it. Those are all of the elements that I LIKE in the game, so now it is time that we get on with what I don’t like about Destiny and there is quite a lot. Remember, this is just my honest opinion. Some players are very much in love with Destiny  and I’m not trying to anger them or make anyone defensive. If people like it, then they like it. It is up to the player to decide whether a game is worth their time and money. What follows is just how I personally feel about the game. No offense to anyone out there.

eceb470ea2d0556ab1619d367e091591b5aad5172a4e54c014b2948e48805647_largeThings I Don’t Like….The Story

So, for those of us who followed Destiny during the early development and release of the game, you might remember the tagline “Become Legend.” It was all over the internet, the game box, heck, there was even a live-action trailer by the same name (and that trailer was pretty awesome). In terms of taglines, how epic does that sound? I thought, “Become Legend! Heck YEAH! I want to become a legend!”

Well to live-up to a tagline like that, you have GOT to have a story that is an amazing piece of storytelling. The player has to feel engaged in the world around them. They have to feel like their actions and the actions of others, have some profound repercussions on the world as they know it. What player would not want to feel like they are shaping the very narrative of a game? I had supper high hopes that this was going to be amazing.

Instead, Destiny‘s story wasn’t an amazing piece of storytelling, it didn’t make me feel like a legend and it was disappointingly short. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I think that most gamers would agree with me on those points.

If only the story was better executed, we could have all actually “Become Legend”, and it would have been a fun and rewarding experience. This game could have told a brilliant narrative. Just look at the art design or read some of the vague plot points for the game. It is clear that Destiny had some major potential, but the game turned out as a lackluster experience that felt hollow and unfinished. The story didn’t grab me, it didn’t make me care about anything that was going on in the world and the repetitive game play just killed my interest in experiencing more of the game.  How could a title with such a beautiful world, be so utterly hollow in it’s storyline? It is all just so disappointing.

Let’s talk a bit about Grimoire cards. Yes, I know there are cards that you can unlock that teach you more about the world and lore of Destiny, but they feel like an afterthought. Plus, as far as I know, they are only accessible through the internet and not in-game.  I’m not going to take time out of my day to go online and read a bunch of cards, just to try and fill in all of the gaps and holes that this story has. If Bungie wasn’t willing to put that amount of time and effort in putting this information in the game, why should I put that much time and effort in to reading and studying cards on a totally separate device?  There are better, more immersive ways to do this. For example, I’ve always thought, why not add a physical library to the Tower (the player social hub area)? Add an awesome looking, in-game library were players can go and read up on areas and lore that interests them. That would have been far more engaging than a handful of cards on a website.

Things I Don’t Like….NPC Characters

Not only were we NOT given much in the way of a narrative, we were also not given any meaningful NPC characters. No one really stands out or even seems to matter. They are all fairly bland, unimpressive, forgettable and generic NPCs. I was constantly getting confused as to who was who and why I was talking to anyone. This is really disappointing as there are some topflight voice talent in this game. For example, this is a list that I found online for the Voice Actors of Destiny:

  • Peter Dinklage
  • Bill Nighy
  • Lauren Cohan
  • Gina Torres
  • Lance Reddick
  • Nathan Fillion
  • Lennie James
  • Shohreh Aghdashloo
  • Peter Stormare
  • James Remar
  • Erick Avari

Even if you didn’t recognize every name, trust me, there are some very iconic actors mentioned here: like Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres, both from Firefly and Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones. Why the heck did Bungie bring in so many talented actors, if they were just going to create such lifeless and bland dialogue for NPCs? That money could have been better spent in other areas of the game. How about use it to write more story!?

Things I Don’t Like…. Leveling and Looting

One of my biggest complaints about Destiny is the way in which you level up your character. I absolutely hate their system of leveling. At first, the game plays out as any normal RPG would: kill stuff… gain experience…level up….repeat. However, once you reach level 20, things change and not for the better.

Level 20 is the maximum level that you can attain by the usual methods. Once you reach level 20, if you want to continue to level up, you have to start collecting armor that has a “Light Rating.” This “Light Rating” artificially raises your level pass the cap. By simply equipping certain pieces of armor like a helmet, chest plate, gloves and boots, you will add more “Light” and eventually you will go up in levels. Of course this means that you are constantly needing to find better and better armor and this means killing tons and tons of enemies. In order to get the good drops you have to grind, grind grind…that’s all you get to do. The more you play, the more chances you have of maxing out your character with the best stuff. What a deal, right?

Wrong! This system feels artificial and forced. Why not just have the cap be at the higher level? Why make us jump through so many hoops? I have spent a bit of time playing my lvl 20 Hunter and so far I have only reached level 22. The majority of drops that enemies tend to give are all crappy weapons and equipment that I do not need. It is so frustrating and feels like a total waste of time.

So the big question is WHY? Why do this to players? I’m sure there are a few different reasons, but in my honest opinion,  this system seems like a perfect way to insure a lasting player base. It artificially extends the life of a mediocre and lackluster title. It’s the never ending loot hunt. I think, if Bungie keeps adding loot and raising the artificial level cap, players will be more likely to continue playing. They will always want the latest gear, so everyone has to keep playing….more and more and more. Unfortunately, this system makes me feel like the game is taking away my power as a player. It is forcing me to bend to the will of a random, loot generating equation. As a gamer, I hate that. Let me earn my cool chest piece by working for it, not by just killing the same enemies or doing the same repetitive missions over and over again, until it randomly drops.

Things I Don’t Like…. Pay Walls

In this day-and-age, most gamers will agree that DLC is nothing new. You buy a game and a few months down the line, you get DLC. Heck, most of the games I have played over the last 4 years have all had some form of Downloadable Content. I’ve always assumed that DLC was meant to extend the life of a certain game, by adding more content and freshening up a stale title. However, more and more companies are using DLC as a way to pilfer additional money from us gamers, by locking parts of their games away behind pay walls and releasing the unlock code as DLC. Destiny seems to be no different.

So often with games now-a-days, you buy something for $60, only to find out that it is essentially an incomplete experience. Then there is a Season Pass that runs upwards of $30 to give you access to all the DLC, which is basically the rest of the game. That means that your new game is actually going to cost you $90 (assuming the Season Pass is $30). WTF! Game developers are notorious for this and I absolutely hate this practice! I’m sure other gamers will agree.

Destiny has released two DLCs for their broken experience of a game, and it would appear that both were already included in the original copy of the game. When I purchased the season pass, it didn’t download anything substantial and all of a sudden I had access to both DLCs. that means, the content was simply placed behind a pay wall. Every time that happens, I just end up feeling cheated and betrayed.

But wait, Bungie has announced that there is more Destiny on it’s way. Coming in September, Destiny  fans can purchase the first true expansion for the game, called The Taken King.  It promises to be a whole new experience! Yeah right…get ready for more grinding. To be fair, this is an entirely new edition, with added gear and a new class, but it will not be accessible to current Season Pass holders. You will have to purchase The Taken King separately, I believe anywhere from $40-$80. Great, just great! Thanks, Bungie.

Final Thoughts

Let’s face it, in this gaming industry, it is all about money. AAA game studios spend a huge amount of cash developing and creating ideas that they think will be profitable. Once they settle on a title, they create the game for millions of dollars and then try and desperately recoup their losses. How do they do this? Well, by cutting out story and game play elements and locking them behind pay walls, releasing them in DLC, or maybe they include micro transactions into their game. They try and find any way that they can to drain our hard earned cash and continue draining us for months and months after the game’s initial release. They do this until they have squeaked out a modest profit and then, they do it all again with another title. It is a sad state of affairs and a pretty rotten business model.

Destiny is a good example of everything that I hate about this current gaming market and it is an excellent case study of how greedy and pervasive this business model can be. It has been reported that Destiny cost approximately $500 million dollars to develop and promote. That is an amazing amount of money. It is no wonder that both Activision and Bungie have made certain decisions regarding DLCs, Season Passes and Expansions. They have to recoup their losses and they are going to take it from the only source that they can… us, the fans. They are going to squeeze every last Glimmer out of us and I for one, do not appreciate that.

And $500 million dollars later, we get a game that is nothing to be that excited over. A bland, hollow experience, that I really don’t find that fun or immersive. In fact, I can honestly say that I find more enjoyment in $15 PSN games like Helldivers and Shovel Knight, than I do a $60 AAA game like Destiny. Not only did I have more fun with both of those titles, their story lines were vastly more engaging then Destiny‘s and I actually felt like playing past the initial play through. What a strange turn of events.

Artistically, Destiny is a beautiful experience, but as a game, I find it lackluster, repetitive, tedious and boring. I wanted so much to love this game, to be swept away by the sheer expansiveness of its world. But, I was let down and truthfully, I am not really that surprised. It seems like Bungie tried to make a game that would appeal to a ton of different types of players. They tried to make a game that encompassed elements that MMO players would enjoy, FPS players would find familiar and that co-op players would appreciate. Instead we got a game that has hints of really awesome stuff, but ultimately falls short of being an amazing game. Maybe they bit off more than they could chew, or maybe Activision forced a bit of their Call of Duty mentality onto Bungie’s vision. Who knows. All I know is that we have not heard the last of Destiny and it will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds.

~GB