Down the Video Game Rabbit Hole: A Silence in Three Parts

(Don’t hurt me, ronan wills!!)

I’d love to update y’all saying my life has been SOOOO busy with my cool new dog, and how I went jetskiing in Cuba, and then maybe saved a whole bunch of babies and kittens from a fire, but the sad truth is, I’ve just been sucked into a bunch of video games, which has leeched my brain power just so that doing normal things like cooking or updating a blog has been tough.  But who am I, if not someone who has learned since kindergarten that sharing is caring?  In order of time suck, here’s what’s been occupying my life:

#3 – Tie between Pokemon Soul Silver and Flight Rising:

This one is weird, because they’re really only tied as a result of being my last-resort games, depending on location. Flight Rising has limited registration, I’m assuming to reduce the load on its burdened servers, but most of what you can accomplish in FR is limited to daily-type efforts – gathering, breeding, trading, etc. are all for the most part limited to daily, or hourly events.  Once you’re done for the day/hour, there’s not much you can do.  With one exception: the coliseum:

coliseum flight rising

The Coliseum isn’t limited by anything other than the breadth of your patience for a laggy, clunky, turn-based combat system. Leveling is incredibly slow (for example, I play it fairly regularly, and my dragons are only level 17), often crashes or hangs up, and actions don’t play through when you’re tabbed into another tab. (HINT from a friend: it WILL if you’ve moved the coliseum to its own window, though since your monsters have no auto-attack abilities, that doesn’t mean much in the end.) Why bother at all? It’s one of the only consistent ways to get treasure that aren’t limited by the daily/hourly limits mentioned above, and also one of the only places to get familiars for your dragons without paying for them. For a perfectionist collector type like me, this presents a problem.  But the tedious nature means it’s limited to playing only while waiting for something better, like a queue to pop.

Pokemon is my Flight Rising for when I’m already in bed.  This is especially a problem because I just reached Goldenrod City, which means:

voltorb flip

Even worse than the Coliseum because it a) requires counting and b) the Pokemon you can buy with the coins gathered from playing Voltorb Flip are otherwise difficult ones to catch in the wild. Then of course, I saw a picture of a Dratini and there I go, counting and muttering to myself.  There are, of course, online calculators you can use to determine locations of payouts, but as I’m usually playing in bed, I’m at the mercy of my own dubious math skills.  We’ll see if I change my tune when it comes to getting the items worth tens of thousands of coins.

My interest in Pokemon lies pretty much in two things: I like cute monsters, and all my friends were playing Pokemon X/Y, and I felt left out.  I own… three Pokemon games, none of which have I progressed beyond beating most of the gyms.  On the other hand, you can pretty much pick up any Pokemon game much later and still have a reasonable idea of what you’re doing!

I also really resent the kidnapping scam the day care dude and lady are running.  “Hey, let us watch your Pokemon for you, we love those lil darlings. Oh, you want your slowpoke back? That’ll be 1080 gil/gold/key thingies, thanks.” Elderly scammers :C

#2: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn:

I joined the beta with friends back in the early summer when it was open, and enjoyed the pretty graphics a lot. As a lifelong gnome irl, I am totally in love with the Lalafell:

Finally, when I found out that the backstory to FFXIV: ARR was the absolute failure of the initial FFXIV game, as told via the in-game NPCs, I had to have it.  It was well-timed; as much as Mists of Pandaria was pretty and compelling, it had maybe too much going on.  Leveling alts became almost impossible, and that was one of my favourite ways to while away the end of an expansion; there was simply too much to DO on my main character.  FFXIV takes this inclination and builds it into your character – she can be any of the jobs and classes in the game all on her own, simply by changing her weapon.  So my thaumaturge is carrying around a scepter, a bow (for Archer), a spinning wheel (weaver), a hatchet (botanist), a fishing rod (fisher) and a skillet (culinarian).  That’s not including the classes I haven’t yet even dabbled in!  Because it’s all on one character, it doesn’t feel super overwhelming – if I need some stat food made, I just equip my skillet and add it myself.

Bank alts are built into the system – at a certain point in the story, you’re granted the opportunity to hire retainers, which hold your excess items and allow you to post things on the Market Board (aka the Auction House).  You can even design them to look any way you wish, and in the future (I think), you’ll be able to dress them too.  The retainer system can be a little clunky, because you have to be in a major city to access them, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.  The only other downside is in order to access gil you’ve made from selling items, you also have to go to your retainer.  (Buying items from the Market Board puts the items directly into your bags.)  This can be a problem when you accidentally spend 20K gil on fishing lures.

Did I mention the game is really pretty??

ffxiv_09182013_203801

 

There are also some small cosmetic changes that are so glaringly simple, you wonder why WoW doesn’t have it already – for example, when marking creatures in dungeons, your choices are 1, 2, 3 etc. Normally not a problem in WoW, save that I’ve been in raids where skull actually meant DO NOT ATTACK rather than ATTACK ME FIRST and that did not go well for me. Similarly, monsters out in the world are labelled with letters, so that you can similarly note which target to attack first if need be (say, in a FATE).  I’ve not seen the latter done before, but it’s an option, which is handy.

Bag space: not only do you have your bags, you also have an armoury chest, where items you can equip go automatically, a key items bag where quest items go automatically (and which opens automatically when handing in a quest), and a crystals bag, where your crystals for crafting go. Your retainers have 9 bags apiece, in addition to a crystals bag of their own.  This is good because there are a lot of items. The one potential downside to being all things in one character is you keep everything in case you need it for some class, somewhere. The major complaint I have about all this bag space is that there’s no search feature, and keeping your bags organized can be a hellish chore.

#1 Tied (for now) Hearthstone and Puzzle and Dragons:

I only received my Hearthstone beta key a week ago, so it’s hard to tell at the moment whether my fascination is novelty, or if it has staying power compared to PAD.  But for someone who’s never played a TCG before, Hearthstone is surprisingly accessible, easy to learn and hard to master, and an interesting soundtrack.  Beta is a great time to try weird and daring things since everything will be wiped come release day.  My main concern so far has been in the versus competitions, it seems like the most common/viable strategy is to just place as many minions as you can and overwhelm the other player – which doesn’t seem very fun to me when you have cards like Flare, Blade Flurry and Angry Chicken to play with!

angry chicken

The nice thing about Hearthstone is that there are no chatrooms.  You can only communicate with your opponent via a small group of pre-set sayings, like Greetings, Thank you and I’m sorry. You can also disenchant cards you don’t want and use the subsequent reagent to build the cards you do, taking out the card bloat that can plague TCG.

The bad thing about Hearthstone is it’s very easy to want to play a few games and earn a little gold towards a new card pack, and suddenly realize it’s four hours later.

See also: Puzzle and Dragon, albeit with a caveat.

PAD is a f2p/microtransaction game that is essentially Bejeweled meets Pokemon.  It hits all my weak spots: cute monsters! deceptively simple game play! semi-hard “time to quit now” limits! gambling!

bastet

 

The tutorial walks you through most of the how-tos, so I won’t bore you here, since you’ll clearly be downloading it after this post.  Basically, you enter dungeons, doing damage or healing by matching 3 or more orbs.  Damage can be multiplied through multiple combos or monster abilities. While there’s an in-app transaction mode, you can progress quite well through the game without ever purchasing the currency, with a little luck and perseverance.

My first game, I started with an Archangel. The auto-heal ability was good, but there came a point in the game progression where I got stuck.  I recommend any new player start a game, move forward with whatever they get at first and see how they like it.  If they luck out with a good starter, they can keep going. If not, you can do what I did, and re-start the game.  In the Android version, this requires going into the task manager, deleting the game data, and starting over.  THIS IS EXTREMELY TEDIOUS so I don’t recommend a new player go through with this unless they’re sure they’d like to keep playing, either for free or with game purchases.  Keep running the tutorial and using your five free stones at the rare egg machine until you roll something truly excellent, like one of these:

kushinada lucifer kirin horus

 

(From top: Kushinada, Archangel Lucifer, Kirin, Horus)

 

There are others worth starting with too, especially since some of these (like Horus and Kirin) require making multiple combos each match, which can be challenging for a new player.  My two accounts (shh) started with Haku and Artemis, and both have served me very well.  Besides, LOOK AT HOW CUTE.

If you do start playing, and have a facebook account, I highly recommend joining “Puzzles and Dragons Global” They have very useful FAQs for beginners and more advanced players, are extremely active (great for when you want to know when a new event is starting!) and excellent rules. (“Avoid using offensive racial/ethnic slurs or terminology relating to sexual orientation/acts.” “No harassment towards other members.”)

All set? Good, I guess we’ll see each other in a few months.

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