Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

It has been over two months since my last post, and my three readers (including myself) are probably wondering what’s been going on in my super-interesting gaming life. So, without further ado, here is the story:

Love for Marvel Heroes Waxes and Wanes

During the last couple of months, I have continued playing Marvel Heroes with various levels of commitment. In the last month or so, I have realized that is one of the great things about a free-to-play game. I am not compelled to log on because I am not paying for the privilege of logging on. I can play as much or as little as I feel like.

In the last couple of months, three great things happened to MH. First, a new zone was added that throws constant spawns of large groups of enemies at you. In addition, they have multi-boss fights, something I have wanted for as long as I have played the game. “Oh look, Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants just spawned. Let’s go beat the shit out of them!” In my book, this zone is one of the best experiences in the game. The drawback to this zone is that you cannot easily bring a pre-made group into the zone, so playing the best content in the game with your friends is almost impossible. This is supposedly going to be fixed in the next major patch (late-September, early-October).

The other major step forward was a big tweak to the defense system, allowing melee to feel much stronger and less likely to be one-shot. The game strikes a good balance between making you feel powerful, but still in danger at times, although the game may be a tad on the easy side at times.

Finally, they added difficulty modes, allowing you to run story missions at higher levels for better rewards and tougher fights. All together, the game feels so much better than it did at launch, and there is much more to do.

On the flip-side, because this is a Diablo clone, there really is only one thing to do – kill everything that moves. MH does a great job with it, but the ARPG genre lacks a lot of what typical MMOs have – exploration, visible character advancement, alternative activities to killing all things. Many MH reviews savaged the game for this reason, but that is not what the game is.

I am going to continue playing MH here and there, particularly when new modes are released, like X-Mansion Defense coming in the next patch. Also, when new characters come out that I am interested in. Gambit and Nightcrawler should be out this year, and I will most definitely check them out. I did, however, start to miss some of the more traditional MMO trappings. So, where do you go when you want to get your true MMO experience?

Enter Pandaland

That’s right, I was finally going to check out the famed Pandaria. I started out leveling my lowbie hunter that I have messed around with earlier in the expansion (for less than a month). After a couple of weeks and leveling to the mid-40s, I said to myself, why am I wasting time with this guy and not back on my level 85 hunter trying out the new-ish content? So, I jumped back over to the original Yngwe, purchased the expansion and started out the leveling process.

There, in Pandaria, at around level 88, I realized that WoW holds very little of interest to me anymore. It’s not that the game is bad, it may in fact be the best than it’s ever been. Here is the rub for me – I raided for three years. Most of the friends that I made through this time either don’t play anymore or they are scattered to the wild winds. Friends are nice, but I have played, and enjoyed, many games without a built-in network of friends.

The problem is, while in the middle of this leveling journey, I know where the train leads. That is to LFR and daily quests. Sure, there are pet battles and farming now, or so I have heard, but I am a raider in Wow, first and foremost. Because I can only play once or twice a week, I don’t have time for anything other than the march to raiding, and that march just is not fun anymore. Kill 10 of this, travel there, kill something else, go somewhere else, participate in a vehicle quest, sit through a cut scene. WoW dangles the carrot in front of you, but I just can’t bare to move my legs to chase after the carrot. I have done it too many times before, and the game mechanics do not hold up for me anymore. I hadn’t even made it to max level, and I already was getting tired.

The straw that broke the camel’s back with my return to WoW was vacation. I didn’t play the game for a week before vacation, then I was unable to for 10 days. During that entire time, there was not one instance where I said to myself “I can’t wait to get the chance to play the game again.” After returning from vacation, I went another week without playing. At that point, I started to think, “I better play, since I am paying for it,” but I still could not force myself to log on. At that point, with less than two months on this current stint, I canceled my sub.

So what now?

A New Fantasy is Born

Around the same time I canceled WoW, I read this post from Lono about Final Fantasy XIV. I have been a fan of Final Fantasy since the original game for the NES in 1987. Granted, I haven’t played any entries in the series since VII, but I still have a strong sense of nostalgia for those games, particularly the original and III (in the U.S., some other number in Japan).

Lono’s description of the game made me think that it had what WoW is missing – for me. I did a little more reading and decided that I would jump in.

I am only about 20-25 hours into the game, but I am happy to report that it is exactly what I am looking for. It is not so different from WoW, but it does a lot of things very well. Chief among those is the class/profession system, which allows you to be any class and any profession that you want. Instead of making a tank alt, just go learn the tank class on your main character and level it up. Although you have a GCD of 2.5 seconds, long compared with other games, combat feels faster and more fluid for me than WoW.

But it is the class system that makes me love this game. I have no preconceptions of Final Fantasy XIV. I have no goal I need to reach. I have nothing I need to do. I can do whatever I want to do that day and that minute. I have tinkered around with the Archer class and have leveled Leatherworking. I have decided to run a few more story quests, because a mount is not far off. Once I do that, I think I want to check out the Conjurer (healer) class, because I think it would be handy to have the Cure (heal), Protect (bubble), and Raise spells. I also want to level Botany and Carpentry, because I want to see if I can make a High Quality Bow for myself.

And this is why FFXIV works for me. As a casual player with only immediate, reachable goals in mind, I can do exactly what I want to. There is nothing that compels me to log on, and there is nothing that compels me to do anything in game that I don’t want to do. With the sheer amount of classes and content, I could see enjoying this for a long time, and that has me pretty excited.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will be spending the majority of my gaming time in FFXIV, with the occasional foray into Marvel Heroes. As of today, everything is good in my gaming world.

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