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In my previous post, I went over my discontent with Blizzard’s newest games, and why they aren’t doing a thing for me. In this post, we’re going to go over the former flagship franchises of the title and talk about what’s gone wrong with them.

I loved Starcraft as a kid. I was absolutely terrible at it, to be fair, but it had a really imaginative universe (to me, anyway) and a very fun story to play through. And yes, I played through it with cheat codes, because Starcraft was hard, dammit.

When Starcraft 2 was announced, I was hella excited. Finally, we’d get closure on all the plot elements from the first game! And more cool ships, troops, and characters! And it’s gonna be three games, each as long as the original title! Okay, maybe they didn’t quite deliver THAT much content in each game, but it was honestly still enough that I didn’t mind paying for each game. I felt we got our money’s worth.

And yes, it’s fair today that the story of Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan reached its natural conclusion (I’m sure some of you hated the reunion at the end of Legacy of the Void, but you’re a terrible heartless person if you did). But the greater story of the Starcraft Universe? Definitely still a lot of room there. And Blizzard has just sat on it, for the most part. We got some small Nova mission packs, and then that’s it, really. Oh, I guess the Co-op missions get a new commander every so often, but come on. There’s a ton of things you can do with a good sci-fi space franchise, you can’t tell me you’re creatively tapped out on it.

Oh. Oh, you were doing something with it. And then you canceled it. Well, that’s just freaking great. But at least the news about an Overwatch PvE game is worth hoping for some story over.

Let’s move on to Diablo. It took them a while to get Diablo 3 right, but man is it an absolutely fun game now. That’s the game I play when I want to feel like the powerful spellcaster my WoW mage SHOULD feel like. Wizard was my JAM in that title, and once I finally bought Necromancer, I loved playing the game all over again. I know there are people who didn’t care for the story, but I frankly enjoyed it. I just wish it hadn’t stopped with Reaper of Souls.

Look, I know I can’t complain too much about this. Diablo Immortal and Diablo 4 are both in the works, and I’m looking forward to both (yes Blizzard hella botched that Blizzcon announcement, I know, I know). But for now, all we have is Diablo 3, and as much fun as it is to magically slaughter huge packs of demons and zombies, there’s only so much of that I can do without a new storyline. Honestly, I think a second expansion should have been in Blizzard’s plans to go alongside Immortal to tide us over until 4.

Finally, there’s Warcraft. Oh man, Warcraft. I’m not gonna go into all the reasons why Battle for Azeroth is going to be remembered as another low point in the expansion cycle, it’s been done to death already and by far more articulate people than me. I’m just going to cover my single most key problem. If you haven’t caught on to the theme of the last two posts, it’s story.

Battle for Azeroth’s story should absolutely never have happened in this form. The restarting of the faction war was the most clumsy and painful thing I’ve experienced in this game. Sylvanas retreating Garrosh’s every single descent into madness while Horde players are forced to watch it happen is one of the most frustrating things I’ve experienced in my time playing. Sure, you’ve thrown player agency a bone by allowing us to side with Saurfang or Sylvanas, but a) I do not trust that you’re going to do anything meaningful with that and b) it’s too little too late. We should have been able to oppose this from the beginning.

Between that and the seriously bland nature of classes, it’s hardly a wonder I’ve given up on the title for now. I can only hope that 8.2 will make this interesting again, but there’s a LOT of fixes that need to happen to this game, enough that it may warrant an expansion before they can be corrected. I don’t want to wait that long. I want to enjoy Warcraft again, I really do. But for now, other games are filling that need for me in a much better way.

Do you agree with me on the current state of Blizzard titles? Or think I’m completely off base? I wanna hear from you! Toss a comment down below!

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I realize it’s been another few months, but frankly I haven’t been motivated to blog about Blizzard games, something I’m sure you’ve realized by the prevalance of FF XIV posts leading up to this break.

I wanted to use this medium to share in a two part series why I’m not at all excited about Blizzard as a developer lately, by going through each of their titles and my issues with them.

Let me start by getting this out there: I am NOT a competitive person, at all. I would much rather play a solo gaming experience, or one in which I can work together with others to accomplish a story goal. Yes, I did get swept up in the hype surrounding the Overwatch League, it was a bit difficult NOT to given that so many of my gaming friends were, but I don’t believe I’ve watched more than one game in the second season, nor have I really been all that concerned with at least keeping Twitch open to stream the games and rack up the currency to buy the team skins. Honestly, the main reason I even continue to wear my Houston Outlaws merch is to mess with the people in my life who are avid sports fanatics and insist that eSports aren’t “real sports”.

Now that you understand that point, you may think explain my dislike for a good number of Blizzard titles. Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and to some extent Hearthstone are primarily competitive only games. But that’s not the whole of it. Competitive games can go exist somewhere not on my PC or my consoles, it won’t necessarily bother me. What really makes me dislike those titles in particular is that there is an associated veneer of story involved in them that in premise is absolutely fantastic. I want to explore these universes and enjoy their ongoing story, and Blizzard does absolutely NOTHING with them.

Let’s break this down game by game. Hearthstone was once described by Jon Jagger of Azeroth Roundtable as “the version of World of Warcraft that he wanted to play”. And it’s not hard to understand what he’s talking about. Every new expansion to the game just takes existing concepts in WoW and adds more imaginative story ideas and concepts that absolutely deserve to be fleshed out and explored. An MMORPG like WoW is the perfect place for this, obviously, but have we seen any of this anywhere? Any kind of WoW tie-ins to make use of these new story elements that someone created? Of course not.

Side note: Yes I know Hearthstone has PvE modes and events, but at its core Hearthstone is still very much an electronic version of a collectible card game. It does make it possible to earn cards without paying for them, but it is by and large the more easy option. It also fails to truly teach players how to properly build decks, something that frustrated me to no end when I first tried playing the title and felt as though I was wasting my time in needless trial and error. I haven’t really felt the need to play it again.

Heroes of the Storm sets up not only the idea of Blizzard’s different franchise characters interacting with each other throughout different points in their history, but it literally sets up a plethora of alternate universes where we see these characters in either changed histories or completely different stories. Do I want to play a full story game set in Neo-Stormwind?  Or the Raven Court? Maybe fight alongside the Superheroes battling the Eternal Empire? Or join up in the resistance against the organization known as Viper? Of course I do, for all of those! Those are all great story threads, and I would love to more fully explore their stories! Blizzard, however, seems to be content on leaving these ideas within the small backstory blurbs and occasional video trailer for their MOBA title, where they will never be developed. It’s actually sad to see such a waste.

“But Brandon” I hear you thinking in your head because you’re a metaphor for other people in my head, “At the end of the day those ideas are just Blizzard characters in settings that are paper thin rip offs of mecha anime, Ravenloft, the Power Rangers, and GI Joe, respectively! They’re not worth turning into real games with that flimsy of a premise! And neither are any of the other universes HOTS sets up!”

Okay, even though I disagree with you (Blizzard homages to the great media franchises of the past could be absolutely great), I’ll grant you they’re not exactly unique and Blizzard could absolutely be spending their money developing a new unique story we haven’t really seen before with new characters and a massive new world with a grand and epic plot to let us all enjoy.

Oh wait. They did that, except they did the exact same thing with it that they did to the alternate worlds in Heroes of the Storm: give it some backstory but never actually progress the plot. The only difference is they just gave it more backstory in prettier trailers.

Overwatch. I don’t have words for what an absolute waste this game is. So much potential for a truly awesome story, and it’s consciously ignored in favor of a toxicity-ridden PvP grindfest for lootboxes. Lootboxes, mind you, that continue the same problem of Heroes of Storm by setting up alternate versions of the characters which will never see their stories told, because we’re still begging Blizzard to tell the story of the main Overwatch universe.

Blizzard used to be one of my favorite companies for storytelling. I loved the stories of Warcraft 2 & 3, both Starcraft titles, and Diablo 2 & 3. There’s been times in WoW that I have hated the story, but there’s been just as many truly incredible and epic moments that I’ve been thrilled to play in. Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch have incredible potential for an amazing storytelling experience, and it makes me so sad to see all of it completely wasted.

In the second part, I’ll go into my discontent with Blizzard’s (former) flagship franchises. Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

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Before I proceed into the story for the Heavensward expansion, I’m trying to level a few classes to 50 first. My goal is to get a better feel for them, see what I might like to consider my main going forward.

Today I got the Black Mage to that goal, and completed the level 50 class quest, earning the Artifact armor for the job as well. I had better level gear than the artifact set by this point, so I placed it in a glamour plate. After I got it all set up, I found myself really happy, more than just the satisfaction of completing a goal you’ve set for yourself. And I couldn’t figure out why.

So I got to thinking about all the various Black Mage characters I’ve seen in the different Final Fantasy games I’d played, and a realization hit me.

Up until now, I’d put my love of spellcaster classes and characters back onto my college D&D days, but what I realized is that it goes back further than that, to playing the original Final Fantasy on the NES as a kid.

Back then the heroes didn’t have names, you assigned them yourself. And I never owned the game myself, I always played on my friend’s console. We had a saved game that we both played together. Among my childhood friends, I was the least athletic, the guy picked last in games of street football, the one considered the “easy tag” in hide-and-seek, you get the idea. So my friend was ALWAYS the Fighter. The big strong guy who hit things. He named the Black Mage after me. At the time, it was kind of an insult. The Black Mage didn’t hit hard with weapons, and he rarely bothered to cast spells unless it was a boss fight. And we never made it far enough into the game to fight the really hard bosses, like Astos or the Fiends.

It wasn’t until later Final Fantasy titles that I would learn just how integral magic was to most of the games, and it wouldn’t be until I learned to play D&D in college that I consciously chose to think spellcasters were my preference above non-magic classes, but I definitely think that seed was planted a long time ago.

And now, my character in XIV has just completed their first milestone with the class that started it all. It’s almost like we’ve come full circle.

Final Fantasy XIV has definitely got it’s hooks in me, because it’s filling that massive story void that WoW is struggling with right now, so expect posts about it to continue for the time being, gang. Hope you’re enjoying them!

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I have a friend, I won’t name him because I don’t want to embarrass the guy, but we used to play World of Warcraft together, and we would often talk about class preferences. He was always a tank, or at the very least a melee DPS. He had to be in the enemy’s grill, swinging away. It was just what he preferred. As my loyal readers all know, that is absolutely not my thing. I’m almost always on a spellcaster, keeping my distance, and unleashing devastating (and really cool looking) magic. My friend would constantly give me (good-natured) grief about this, asking me “Just once, don’t you ever want to just get up in some bad guy’s face and just hit them as hard as you can?” or some version thereof. And of course, my answer is always something to the effect of “No! Why on earth would I ever want to hit something with a big piece of metal when I can literally tell the laws of physics to sit down and shut up?”

I was reminded of this particular back-and-forth teasing recently when I decided to watch all of the trailers for the other Final Fantasy 14 expansions. I had never seen them, and I found myself curious. I even ended up catching the trailer for the original 1.0 game and the 2.0 “Realm Reborn” trailer as well. If you’ve seen them, you know there’s a recurring character: a male Midlander Hyur (the game’s equivalent of humans) who goes through a number of changes as his story sort of unfolds. In the original game’s trailer, he’s depicted as an archer who bands together with a group of unlikely allies. In one of the “Realm Reborn” trailers that depicts what happened at the end of the original game, we can see that this Hyur (who has been nicknamed Derplander by the fans, but is apparently officially known as “Meteor”) is now a Warrior and his adventuring companions are now the fabled “Warriors of Light”. A bunch of bad things happen, a dragon god shows up and starts annihilating the world, and a powerful NPC that was your mentor (I think?) ends up sending them all five years into the future to save them from the resulting Calamity. In the launch trailer for Realm Reborn, we see this adventuring party arrive in the future, and happy that the world seems to be in one peace still, they whistle for a bunch of Chocobo mounts (somehow) and ride off to whatever destiny has in store for them.

The next time we see Meteor is in the trailer for the first expansion, Heavensward. His adventuring companions nowhere in sight, we see him trudging through a blizzard, gigantic Warrior axe on his shoulders. Players know that he’s been exiled after the events of the patch 2.55 content (which I won’t get into because possible spoilers and well), and eventually we see him arriving in the City-state of Ishgard, where he is taken in by allies and friends. We see him set the axe aside while he observes his new temporary home. Eventually there’s a dragon attack, and Meteor is shown wearing the armor and weapon of Ishgard’s dragon-killer knights (and one of the Jobs you as a player can be), the Dragoons. This marks the second time we see Meteor change classes/Jobs.

Fast forward to the trailer for expansion number 2, Stormblood. Our friend appears again, first having picked up the Monk Job sparring with someone. Later on in the same trailer, we see him in a city clearly modeled after ancient Japan, wielding a Katana and wearing the traditional attire (or at least the stereotypical attire) of a Samurai, which just so happens to be one of the two Jobs added in this expansion. Two more Jobs in Meteor’s repetoire.

Now we move on to the third and forthcoming expansion, Shadowbringers. This trailer is a lot more ambiguous, since the expansion hasn’t come out yet we obviously don’t know a lot of the details around what’s happening here. We see Meteor wandering what appears to be a battle-scarred field, wearing his old Archer gear (and seeming like he never bothered to do the quests to upgrade that Archer to the Bard job, but that’s neither here nor there), in some kind of a daze, painfully reliving a lot of past memories. He comes under attack from seemingly angelic looking creature made of stone or something like it. First it breaks Meteor’s bow, so he switches to Warrior, but his axe shatters against the creature’s shield. He switches to Dragoon, then Monk, and finally Samurai, all of which prove ineffective, before finally completing a dramatic change to Dark Knight, which defeats the creature, as the trailer tells you “Become the Warrior of Darkness”.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Well, we’ll see when Shadowbringers releases, I suppose. That’s not what we’re here to talk about. Remember the story I told you earlier? Seeing any parallels between my friend and the character in 14’s different trailers? Aside from the Archer in the original trailer, he’s exclusively been shown using Melee Jobs, be they tank or DPS. No spellcasters, and it doesn’t even seem like he bothered to upgrade his one ranged class into it’s respective Job.

Look, if you have played this game a lot, I know what you’re probably typing, so let me spare you the trouble: I KNOW THAT THIS MIDLANDER HYUR IS NOT AN ACTUAL CHARACTER IN THE GAME. I know he’s just supposed to represent us, the players. I know it’s very likely he has every job, and I know that none of this means anythingTHAT IS NOT THE POINT.

The point is that all we’ve seen this guy have is melee Jobs, and it reminded me of the old argument with my friend I mentioned earlier.

Imagine Meteor and a previously unknown friend, making the journey to Limsa Lominsa after the five years that passed between 1.0 and 2.0, not really having any memories of what happened to them (which is what is implied happens to players when they start in Realm Reborn), but deciding to become adventurers together. Meteor wants the both of them to join the marauders guild, but upon arriving in the city, his friend decides to become an Arcanist instead. Meteor just shakes his head in frustration.

Skip ahead to the Heavensward trailer. Meteor, having upgraded Marauder to the Warrior Job, still traveling with his giant axe. Next to him, his buddy, who has taken his Arcanist and upgraded to the Summoner Job. They arrive in Ishgard, and settle in, setting their weapons aside. “You know, allies or not, I’m willing to bet Ishgard’s church will take a dim view of you summoning primals in their city. You might want to curb that while we’re here” he says to his friend. “I know,” the friend replies, “I’ll think of something”. Later, after Meteor has become a Dragoon, we find him searching all of Ishgrad for his friend. They’re gonna be dragoons together, and stand side-by-side protecting Ishgard from the dragon menace, dammit! Finally, Meteor will get to rope his friend into fighting in melee with him! He searches and searches, unable to locate him, until finally he looks outside of a curious building known as the Skysteel Manufactory. There stands his friend, garbed in leather armor, and wielding a gun. He has joined the ranks of the magitek-wielding Machinists! Seeing Meteor standing there, surprise on his face, the friend smiles at him, spins around, and lands three deadshots on the practice dummies in a row. Meteor throws up his hands in frustration, and walks away.

Move forward to Stormblood, specifically the scene where Meteor has dispatched his foes using his new Samurai Job. He stands up to see his friend applauding his efforts. The friend is wearing very strange garb for this part of the world, a bright red double-breasted suit with a long red jacket and feathered fielder’s hat, but even stranger is the rapier at his side! A shocked, but happy expression appears on Meteor’s face “Well, it’s a strange sword and a stranger outfit you’ve chosen, but I’m happy to see you’ve finally chosen to embrace the greatness that is meeting your foes face to face!” His friend’s expression suddenly changes. His eyes narrow and he frowns, looking past Meteor. Meteor turns, and more of the thugs he just dispatched are coming. He turns back to his friend, who smiles at him. “I’ve got these”. With those words, he draws his rapier with his right hand…and holds up a small crystalline object with his left. “Wait, what’s that?” Meteor asks. His friend flips his rapier, now holding it blade facing downwards, and attaches the crystal focus to the pommel of the hilt. “What are you doing??” Meteor asks incredulously. His friend says no words, raising his makeshift staff up as he begins channeling magic through it. As he begins unleashing torrents of a combination of black and white magic at their approaching foes, Meteor can only yell “OH, COME ON!” The friend soon ends his magical barrage, channeling power into his rapier before dashing into melee with the few remaining thugs, dispatching them with a series of magic-enhanced melee strikes, before leaping back with an acrobatic flip, landing precisely where he had stood. “Well?” he says expectantly, looking back at Meteor. Meteor scowls back at him. “That. Is. Cheating” he growls in reply. The friend can only laugh as the pair walk away.

Finally, we move to the Shadowbringers trailer. Meteor’s been beaten up, but his ally has stood next to him the entire time. First he fights the angelic statue as a Summoner, then a Machinist, and finally Red Mage, losing every time. The pair are getting smashed underfoot, about to get stabbed by the angelic statue, when not only does Meteor raise his greatsword and channel the power of the dark at it, a staff is raised as well. When Meteor stands and reveals himself as a Dark Knight…there stands his ally as a Black Mage. Both have embraced their new roles as the Warriors of Darkness….and then Meteor suddenly looks over. “Seriously? Even now?” he says. “As though you expected anything else” the friend responds.

This is the kind of thing I think about in my head sometimes. I take a real world situation that’s happened to me, and I imagine a fictional world version of it taking place. Hope you’ve enjoyed this look into my psyche. Until next time, help control the Lalafel population: have some potatoes with your dinner!

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Final Fantasy XIV has its hooks in me, pretty deep. I’m loving the story, really enjoying the different take on class design, and the graphics are….well there’s no kind way to say this, they blow WoW out of the water.

I’ve been given the repeated advice of “Stick with one Job and make it through the main story quest of the base game” because between the original game story and the absolute ton of additional story added in patches before the first expansion, there’s a LOT to get through, and you have to play through all of that main story to even unlock anything in the first expansion, including five additional Jobs. Basically, I’ve only really given any serious playtime to one of the jobs, Summoner, but I am crazy excited to get to the other Jobs and try them out. So for this post, I’m gonna rank all 16 jobs by my excitement level to try them out. Bear in mind I have ZERO endgame experience with Final Fantasy 14, so stuff like rotation difficulty or how well it synergizes at max level is gonna be given a lesser priority over things like class fantasy.

SPOILER ALERT: This list will include the new class announced for Shadowbringers, so if you consider that a spoiler, be aware.

Let’s get started!

  1. Machinist

I know the trope of “technology in a magical fantasy world” has plenty of detractors, but I am not one of them. In fact, I’d call myself the exact opposite. I love the dichotomy, and by all accounts, Machinist has an absolutely awesome look to its animations and gear that I cannot wait to see. This class, more than any other, is driving me to complete the MSQ as quick as I can (while still enjoying the story of course). I know it has a pretty clunky rotation that requires perfectly lining up a lot of things, but it’s also scheduled for a pretty major gameplay revamp in the Shadowbringers expansion, which will likely be out by the time I can get that far!

2. Black Mage

I know, it’s a real big shock that the guy who loves spellcasters in fantasy worlds would rank the game’s pure caster so high. It would have been number one, but a magitek class is such a rarity in fantasy games I had to put it higher. I’ve played Thaumaturge, the class that eventually becomes Black Mage, up to level 10, but I know I’ve only barely scratched the surface. I’m very much looking forward to unleashing all that high level devastation with one in the future.

3. Gunbreaker

This might come as a shock to some, because a lot of people who know me know how adverse I am to tanking and melee in general, but I’m ranking the new Gunbreaker job as my number three most anticipated job anyway. Why? Well, I’m told tanking isn’t that awful in FF XIV for one thing, but the other is that Final Fantasy 8, the game that introduced gunblades into the Final Fantasy mythos, is one of my favorites in the series. Gunblades in 14 are tech that comes from the Garlean Empire, so it also seems like it’ll be pretty heavy in the magitek tropes as well. I’m really looking forward to trying it out

4. Summoner

Hey, I did pick it for my first class/Job, I probably should rank it pretty high, right? The major reasons it’s not higher are the fact that I’ve been leveling a lot with it lately, so I’m just a bit eager to try something else out, and I honestly am having a hard time dealing with how small your summoned minions are. I’m used to summons calling in very large creatures to the battlefield, and while I know there’s plenty of reasons for that not to be the case in the MMO, both story and gameplay-wise, would it honestly kill them to not make them at least as big as the player character? Even in cutscenes, they appear bigger than they do in game, and I think it would do wonders if your Titan-egi was at least as big as the player, and not a parrot sized chicken nugget. All that aside, I know at higher levels the job changes dramatically, and you get to summon a big ol BAHAMUT as a temporary minion. Can’t wait to see that!

5. Red Mage

Normally, I’m not a fan of the idea of Final Fantasy’s Red Mages. Red Mages are basically the jack of all trades class. They can cast both white and black magic, but they aren’t as good as a pure White or Black mage (either they aren’t as powerful or they can’t use the highest level spells). They can also fight, but not as well as a pure fighter class. Normally, I prefer to maximize focus in one area. However, this is an MMO, and in the interest of balance, Red Mages have to offer comparable damage to the other DPS Jobs, so the feeling of “I’m not quite as powerful as I could be” isn’t quite as present. Red Mage represents an interesting rotation of casting magic at range to build up a pair of gauges and them dumping that by leaping into melee, executing melee strikes, and then heading back out to range to resume casting. It’s a really interesting way to bring in Red Mage into an MMO, and I can’t wait to give it a shot.

6. Astrologian

If there’s one thing that scares me more in an MMO than tanking, it’s absolutely healing. So why put Astrologian so high? Because the whole random card drawing system is weird and different and I like that. Will it probably be too stressful for me to really get into it? More than likely. Do I want to try it anyway? Heck yes. It’s something different than what I’ve seen in an MMO healing class, and I’ll never know if that is what does it for me unless I try it.

7. Bard

The pairing of the Archer class and the Bard job is still kind of strange to me. I would have thought it would lead to a Ranger or Beastmaster job, but instead, we get Bard. It’s strange, but the idea of having songs as support buffs in concert with doing archery DPS is yet another strange combination that I haven’t seen in another MMO, and I do like trying new class ideas.

8. Dragoon

Dragoon has been a longstanding staple of the Final Fantasy series; a warrior that wields a spear, is capable of truly incredible feats of jumping, and is known for wearing armor patterend after dragons. I’ve only ever played Final Fantasy games that featured a Dragoon-inspired character (such as Cid Highwind or Kimahri Ronso), never a game with a dragoon job, and you don’t see many classes focusing on spear-wielders. If you haven’t caught on to the pattern now, I’m heavily favoring different or unusual classes here. Dragoon ranks below Bard only due to my slight preference for ranged over melee

9. Ninja

I’ve only done about 10 levels on my rogue, and their class quest is very pirate/outlaw themed up to this point. Taking that and turning it into the Ninja should prove either hilarious or awesome, possibly both. From what I’ve read, it seems that FF XIV is taking a more mystical approach to the Ninja tropes, and while I would honestly prefer sticking to the more mundane tricks and tools elements of actual real-world ninja, it doesn’t turn me off enough that I don’t want to give it a shot one day.

10. Dark Knight

Our second tank on the list, Dark Knight has always been an interesting class to me thematically, and what I’ve read of their questing and Job lore seems pretty great. I have always been a fan of the whole “bad powers good people” trope, but the Black Mage and to a certain extent the Summoner fulfill that while still remaining spellcasters instead of tanks. I’ve also heard that Dark Knight is a bit clunky to play right now, and people seem very excited for the changes it’s getting in Shadowbringers. For now, Dark Knight is pretty far down on the list of Jobs I’m excited for, we’ll see what the future holds.

11. Scholar

Now we’re getting into things I am pretty much unlikely to ever play, and healing is pretty high up there in general. Astrologian gets a pass because of it’s unique mechanics, but how long will that hold out? I don’t really know. Scholar’s a pretty standard shield focused healer, and I get to level it for free alongside Summoner, which is nice, but the level 40 job quest, which made healing even a single NPC seem impossible, REALLY turned me off from ever wanting to try this in group content. Also, it seems to be the case that healers are expected to DPS when heals aren’t needed? No thank you, healing is stressful enough, now you want me to worry about doing DPS on top..

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Well, let’s head back to the start of the year. I made a pretty ambitious set of goals, and I know for a fact I accomplished at least a couple of them, but it wasn’t even close to half.

Work out at least once a week

Nope. Didn’t quite pull this off. I got sick at some point early in the year, and pretty much never got back in the habit of going back to the gym. And given that my gym is through work, and I’m losing my job in what is looking like May of this year, it’s hard to be motivated to head back in there.

For what it’s worth, my wife and I have been doing more walking, but as far as intense exercise, I’ve kind of fallen off that one.

Blog at least once a week

Well, all my readers know this one hasn’t happened. I did blog a fairly decent amount of content this year but it wasn’t quite on the “once a week” level. I eventually ran out of things I personally wanted to talk about, and a lack of enthusiasm for a lot of the current state of WoW hasn’t really helped. But we’ve had a new patch come out since then and we know a lot more about what’s on the horizon, so maybe we can re-up out content output going forward.

Stream at least once every other week

Again, didn’t happen. Part of it was my own head, I felt silly sitting down and talking out into an internet where no one was really listening, part of it was time, and part of it lately has been that one of my monitors died. Streaming with only one monitor is kind of difficult if you want to pay attention to your chat, so until I can get that replaced, it’s something i have to put on hiatus again.

Read one new book a month

This one I feel like I got close on, even if I stopped tracking it a while back. I did get through most of the books I had listed, and a few others (including a number of D&D 5th edition tomes, and frankly, those should count). I don’t believe for a second I did all 12 I had set as a baseline, but I think I did pretty good, all things considered.

Finish the last two class storylines for my level 100+ characters –

I did finish the Warrior and Demon Hunter storylines I was referring to here, but I never quite got around to completing all of the Broken Shore nonsense needed to unlock their class mounts. Given that I play the Demon Hunter very rarely and my absolute dislike for the Warrior storyline, I’m personally fine with that result.

Complete whatever requirements are necessary to unlock the Allied Races

I was obviously only referring to the initial four races we got, but I did complete this one, and I’ve made at least one example of all four of them.

For what it’s worth, I’ve also unlocked Mag’har Orcs in early 2019, and have all the requirements completed to unlock Zandalari Trolls once they are released. Getting around to unlocking those same requirements for the Alliance counterparts…will probably be a goal for 2019.

Kill Argus on Normal mode with my raid team

Happy to say FERT did actually save the world….er, whole of creation I guess, and prevented Sargeras from using this new Dark Titan in his crusade to end all life. And with it we completed all the Legion raids before the next one unlocked, something we’re hoping to continue in BFA! We got it done for Uldir, and we’re making good progress in Battle of Dazar’alor right now.

Complete KOTFE and all released KOTET story content on my core three characters (Bounty Hunter, Jedi Knight, Sith Inquisitor)

This one was lofty, because KOTET not only had it’s own story chapters but some subsequent content on Iokath and the Nathema Conspiracy content as well, which I believe I was counting when I made this. Either way, I didn’t quite get this far on any of these three. My Hunter, I believe, is currently working on the Iokath story, and I don’t think my Knight or Inquisitor made it through the initial chapters of KOTET. I’ve worked on getting both of them through that content since then, during lulls in BFA, but that’s about it.

Complete the Shadow of Revan content leading to KOTFE on at least two other level 55+ characters

I’ll need to double check this one, but I think I only completed this on one character, my Jedi Shadow. I didn’t quite get around to doing it on anyone else.

Figure out how to fit my new 8 lower-level characters into the overall shared narrative

It’s hard to call this a measureable win, but I definitely fleshed out a lot more of my character’s backstories and overall place in the narrative. I don’t think I’ve quite figured out every single one of them, but it’s getting closer than it was.

Finish Witcher 3 (including the DLCs)

Beat the two Megaman games from Megaman Legacy Collection Volume 2 that I haven’t previously played (or more, simply, complete Megaman 9 and Megaman 10)

I’m grouping these two together, because as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, I have had a difficult time trying to figure out how to add console gaming into my lately more limited gaming time frame. I still don’t know how to do this one really.

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All right, I want you to imagine a different world with me….a different World…of Warcraft.

Imagine that each of the game’s 12 classes only had ONE role they were meant to do at endgame (Yes, a bit like the days of Vanilla. Keep going with me, though, we’re heading in a different direction, promise).

Let’s say that Warriors, Paladins, and Death Knights are the game’s tanks. Priests, Druids, and Shaman are the healers. Rogues, Monks, and Demon Hunters make up the game’s melee complement. Finally, out at range, we have Hunters, Mages, and Warlocks. Hey, three of each role, nice balance we got in this fictional alternate game.

But let’s not stop there. What if the game’s talent and spec system as we know them…did not exist? What if there were no specs at all? And no talents either? Every class has the same abilities as any other?

Let’s even keep going! Now every class can only use ONE type of weapon! Warriors get two handed axes (but just one, no more Titans Grip for you guys!). Paladins are our sword and shield wielders. Death Knights get to use 2h Swords (we’re gonna call em Greatswords now, tho). Rogues get a pair of daggers, Demon Hunters use warglaives, and Monks get fist weapons. Hunters, you get bows, cause that gun nonsense is OUTTA HERE! Casters are a little bit tricky, hrmmmm….let’s do the following. Mages get staffs, Warlocks get wands, Priests you can have one handed maces, Druids….hrm this is actually a bit tricky. OOH I’ve got it. Druids get an entirely new weapon type that is somewhat like staffs but uses all the more “natural” looking staff artwork the game has, we’ll take that from mages (maybe use some of the 2H mace art too if it fits). Let’s call them….Rootstaves? Animabranches? Something like that. Let’s do something similar for Shaman, actually, they get Totems as weapons. Lot of new art needed here, but maybe some of the off-hand focus items can be re-used.

Are you absolutely horrified yet? Does this sound like an awful version of WoW to you? Well, relax a bit, cause A) this is totally fictional and B) we’re not done yet. We’ve taken away a lot from WoW’s classes, let’s try adding some stuff back.

Now let’s essentially re-imagine every class’s toolkit. We’re not going to stick with the simple 1-2 bars is enough for most of your class abilities, we’re going to give you a lot more. And not just utility, no, we’re talking combat abilities, from across different specs. Your combat rotations are now a lot more involved than they used to be. You’ve got a unique resource mechanic for each class. Most classes have different stances they can be in that can alter their gameplay a bit on the fly, for example Priests can now switch between a shield-focused stance, or a direct healing stance. Mages are mixing fire and frost magic with a mechanic that encourages this. Tanks can swap to a DPS stance for soloing or when they don’t have the boss’s attention at the moment. You get the idea.

And now here’s the kicker. What if…one character could level all the classes?

Yeah that’s right. You tired of being a hunter? Go talk to a warrior trainer and start leveling up as a warrior. Or maybe you want a healing backup? Time to go see that Priest trainer and become a priest. Once you have the multiple classes, switching between them is as easy as switching your equipped weapons.

Now I’m sure you’re about to protest “LEVELING TAKES TOO LONG AS IT IS, YOU WANT ME TO LEVEL AGAIN TO SWITCH ROLES?” Okay, yes, I’ll grant you it’s a painfully long process. Let’s take a level squish to go with this. Let’s say….70. 70 is your new max now. Also, let’s throw in a whole bunch of ways players can get bonus XP for leveling additional classes.

Does this seem so horrible? Yes, it’s different, VERY different, but is it necessarily objectively bad if you take out the fear of change component?

If you play Final Fantasy XIV, all of this probably sounds familiar. This is pretty much exactly how their class system works. I’ve played the game a couple of times, but I’m by no means an expert, and had to let my subscription lapse for financial reasons. With their upcoming expansion, I’ve had renewed interest, so I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube Videos and done some reading online. I thought it might be interesting to see how their design would apply to WoW.

The WoW Refugee Guide to Final Fantasy XIV - YouTube

I don’t for one second believe that all of these design principles should immediately be moved over, but I do think there are some interesting things about FF XIV’s jobs that WoW should absolutely examine. Specs could absolutely use some increased gameplay complexity or just more fun abilities, and I definitely see there is a massive need for a level squish.

Have any of you played Final Fantasy XIV, dear readers? What do you think of their class/job setup? Is there anything else you think WoW could learn or take from FFXIV?

Let me know in the comments below. Until next time!

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So it’s been….almost four months since I’ve written here. Last time I was around we were talking about Blizzcon’s first day, and I never quite came back to talk about Day 2. Not sure there was much more to say that others hadn’t covered in detail.

Since then we’ve seen the holidays come and go, and both WoW and SWTOR got a new patch of content or two. I’ve canceled my sub to SWTOR for the time being, I wasn’t able to get in and play it much at all lately with BFA being out and a limited amount of playtime.

I was out of town with no access to my games the week those patches dropped and I still feel like I’m catching up on all the content, but my super casual raid team did finally complete a goal we’d set for ourselves: we took out G’huun on Normal before the Battle for Dazar’alor raid came out, thus continuing our Legion streak of downing a raid while it’s still current content. It was our first night of attempts on him as well, which felt really good. I don’t think any of us expected that one.

As far as how I enjoyed Uldir, it’s hard to say. I think the lack of good feelings on WoW’s current gameplay systems may have colored the experience somewhat, but I don’t have a whole lot of good feelings on the raid itself. Some of the fights were interesting and unique, but others were just annoying to get through. Taloc would have been interesting, but fighting on an elevator exposed a number of problems with WoW’s engine that need to be corrected before something light that should ever be attempted again. Zul was just a constant add swarm fight and I hate those. You get the idea.

I think perhaps the worst offender might have been the lack of good transmog. Those sets are goddamn hideous. The weapons were all right, but man, stepping away from class tier sets was and continues to be a giant mistake.

Currently we’re working on Battle for Dazar’alor, and sitting on 4 bosses down, having just taken down Opulence after a few attempts. I’ll talk more about my experiences in that raid in another post later

Anyway, you’re not here for that. You’re here for the newest Blog Challenge topic, or rather topics since our fearless leaders have posted three at once and then announced a hiatus. I was hoping that this was a “just until the new year” hiatus because I don’t want this to be the end of the challenge, but so far it seems to not be the case.

So why do I choose the games I do? Well, I mean ultimately, for me gaming is an escape, a chance to go out to a new world, do things I can’t do, experience a story that isn’t likely to happen to me. So if a game plays well and can tell me an interesting story? Well, I’m definitely up for considering it. I’m also not a competitive person, so anything that focuses primarily on a player versus player setup is probably gonna be skipped (come on Blizzard, add a story mode to Overwatch already, stop making me regret buying it)

After that, it’s really just a matter of finances and if I think I’ll have time to play it. Those two have killed off more game purchases this year than anything. I still have barely cracked open Witcher 3 despite having it for over a year. I don’t know why, I just have a hard time fitting in console gaming into my usual day to day routine. I can generally game maybe an hour or two a night unless we have something else to do or my wife and I decide to catch up on a show. And usually there’s some content in WoW I want to try out, and if not that then there’s always some story in SWTOR to check out.

I made a goal to finish a couple of PS4 games in 2018, and I accomplished neither of them. Perhaps I should try it again, but honestly I’m not sure if it’s in my cards for now. I can take advantage of Youtube to enjoy watching the content when I can’t game myself, so that at least allows me a little bit of experiencing the process. But for now, that’s the best I can hope for I think.

So my next post should be live in a couple of days. It’s going to be the last Blog Challenge post, number 45. I’m skipping #44 because it’s basically “30 days of photos” and I don’t really ever take screenshots in the game all that much. Post number 45 asks me to revisit the 2018 bucket list, so we’ll get that up and running soon.

After that, well, I’m basically left with blogging whatever I feel like. I have a couple of BFA related topics I want to go over, including what it would take to get me really invested in the story again as well as what I hope to see happen with some of the characters. After that, we shall see where things go from there.

If there’s anything you’d like to hear my thoughts on, feel free to drop a comment below! Until next time, help control the gnome population, roll a troll today!

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The first day of BlizzCon 2018 is in the bag, and well, opinions are a bit mixed, it seems. Thought I’d go over some of the announced content and talk about how I’m feeling about it all.

Let’s start with Starcraft….or rather the lack thereof. We got a new co-op commander, and that’s it. I know people like to talk about Diablo being the abandoned franchise, but holy cow has Starcraft been left in the dust, or what? Blizzard has a truly great Sci-fi/space-fantasy universe here, and it’s a shame they’ve decided to do nothing more with it.

EDIT: I just looked it up and apparently it’s classified as “military science fiction“, at least on Wikipedia.

Where was I? Oh right. I do get it, pretty much every major character had their story wrapped up at the end of Legacy of the Void, but surely there’s other stories we can come up with in this universe? I just hate to see such a great franchise meeting a slow end like this. (I mean, maybe it’s not slow, I have no idea how popular the co-op commander mode is)

Next up is Hearthstone…which I don’t play, so I’m going to skip.

What? Okay yes, they have a new expac out and it’s Zandalar themed. Cool, I guess? It’s still a CCG which is a gametype that I don’t particularly care for. None of them ever teach you how to properly deckbuild, so you have to hope you have a card in some pre-built deck somewhere. Maybe Hearthstone is better about it, but CCGs have always seemed very pay-to-win to me, so I’ve never gotten much into it. I tried it when it first came out and I couldn’t beat anything outside of the tutorial mode.

Okay, enough griping about CCGs, let’s move to Heroes of the Storm

I don’t play against other people in Heroes, so I’ll skip all the matchmaking-y stuff since it doesn’t mean much to me. The big things are the new hero, Orphea, and the changes to hero roles. The big thing I’ve noticed is that the “Specialist” role is going away, with all of it’s heroes being fit elsewhere, mostly to the new “support” role or to “ranged assassin”. Quickmatches will also force a tank/healer/range assassin comp and fill the remaining spots with whatever. Sure, this seems fine, I guess, I just hope they can keep up a variety of hero design and not end up with repetitive heroes that all seem the same. Case in point is Sylvanas, She’s one of my favorite heroes to play because of her trait that can lock down buildings, and now she’s getting a rework where that will be an activated ability? DO NOT WANT. Ah well, I’m hardly the game’s target audience, so I guess my opinion matters least.

As far as Orphea, I like that Heroes is getting it’s own lore characters with hopefully progressing stories, but let’s not make the same mistake you’re making with Overwatch and just set up endless backstories with no character progression, please? I haven’t paid much attention to the whole Raven Lord vs Queen of Thorns story, but it sounds like it’s going somewhere, so let’s keep that up!

Moving on to Diablo. Boy, when they put out that little mini-announcement about not getting our hopes up, I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I guess now I see the reason. We got no Diablo 3 expansion, no Diablo 4, nothing about a Diablo 2 remaster, instead we get a….mobile game? Really? I’m….less than enthused about this. I already don’t mobile game a lot because frankly I don’t like playing on a system where a touchscreen is the only form of input and screen real estate is already something of a premium. A Diablo game is going to require constant input, which means your thumbs will likely never NOT be on the screen, and you’ll be constantly obscuring SOMETHING (and this is the key problem that makes this different than their phone version of Hearthstone, you don’t necessarily need your fingers over the screen all the time, so it’s a different experience). I would much rather play this on a mobile system with controllers attached, like the Switch, or even better a PC, but it seems they’re only bringing this to smartphones initially.

Maybe, depending on the price point, I’ll give this a shot, but I rarely game on my phone anyway. Hopefully they’ll do more with the Diablo franchise, because as announcements go, this one didn’t really excite me.

Okay, let’s move on to Overwatch. Here we got a new cinematic featuring McCree and a bunch of new characters, one of whom would be our new hero, Ashe. As usual I loved this cinematic. I’ll listen to Matt Mercer voicing things any day, but to hear the voice of Commander Shepard herself, Jennifer Hale voicing the new lady was just icing on the cake! Ashe looks like she’ll be a fun hero, one who rewards people who can nail amazing shots every time. Sadly, Overwatch is a little too fast paced for me to be much good with her, more than likely, but I’m looking forward to trying her out all the same. I think my one gripe here is probably the same I have for every Overwatch cinematic: It does a great job of setting up a character’s backstory, but that’s all we get. I love this narrative and universe Blizzard is building, but they will not move the story forward at all and seem adamant about not having any kind of single-player PvE campaign. I don’t get why. If all you want is an esports shooter title, I doubt competitive players care about a character’s story so why go to all this trouble to make cinematics, comics, everything to build up this world, and never actually tell a story in it? It’s incredibly frustrating.

Finally let’s go with World of Warcraft. As expected, we got a bit on patch 8.1 (including a release date!), and more on coming stuff in 8.1.5 and 8.2. Let’s do a very brief recap on what’s in each of those.

8.1 – Battle for Dazar’alor and Crucible of Storms raids, a Darkshore Warfront, Incursions, more story with Tyrande, Vol’jin, and Saurfang, dwarf and blood elf heritage armor. There’s more, but we know most of it already. Also here’s the Anduin and Saurfang trailer because YEP

Cinematic: "Lost Honor" - YouTube

8.1.5 – Kul Tiran and Zandalari allied races, revamps to AB and WSG, some profession quests, new holidays, WoD timewalking, and a new Brawlers Guild.

8.2 – NAJ’ZATAR zone with the raid holding Queen Azshara, a new Mechagnome themed zone with a megadungeon, more story for the characters we’ve set up so far, Gnome and Tauren heritage armor, Heroic Warfronts, and FLYING (but I bet it’s disabled in Najzatar and Mechagon >_<)

All in all, a whole bunch of neat. I’m definitely excited to see where the story goes (and I’m backing Saurfang FOREVER), but I also can’t wait to see what different mechanics the Darkshore warfront has, how good and fun the Incursions are for leveling alts, and check out what kind of weird and crazy environments we get in Najzatar! BFA’s start might not have been great, but hopefully it can finish a lot stronger!

Oh, and I suppose I should talk about the other two projects in the Warcraft Universe. Warcraft 3: Reforged and WoW Classic. I have zero interest in the latter, but the former looks spectacular and if the price point is good, I’ll definitely replay WC3 with awesome new graphics. Classic just does nothing for me. I don’t get why it would for anyone. I played classic back when it WAS WoW, and it was way more tedious and less fun than WoW is today. You may have issues with WoW’s direction in BFA, but Classic is guaranteed to be far less fun once that nostalgia wears off.

SERIOUSLY THEY LOOK SO COOL

Okay, that’s my quick thoughts on Blizzcon Day 1! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you for a Day 2 recap!

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If the title doesn’t make it obvious, Z and Cinder want to know my favorite role in an MMO. In other words they want me to

I don’t think it will surprise anyone that the guy who plays a mage (when he isn’t trying to switch to a warlock or elemental shaman) says his favorite role is Damage. Even outside of MMOs, I always wanted to be the guy who unleashed the damage on the bad guys in RPGs, both tabletop and electronic.

I have tanked and healed before in various levels of content. I’ve never done much of endgame tanking, but I have healed in raids when we did alt runs. I don’t particularly enjoy either role. Tanking pretty much requires you to take the lead in whatever group content you’re doing, and far too often if someone doesn’t like your leadership for some reason or another, they’ll go into business for themselves and force you to pick up whatever pieces are left over. Healing feels like you’re playing whack-a-mole constantly, only with other people depending on your choices. Neither makes me feel good enough as a gameplay feedback mechanic that I would be willing to consider doing them full time right now.

I generally keep to the damage role in other MMOs I play, but there was one variation on a healer that I absolutely loved and want to see implemented again. If you ever played RIFT, they had a “spec” for their mage class called the Chloromancer that was essentially a “life transfer” flavor of a healer. In essence, they had the “damage to heal” style of play that WoW knows from the Disc priest, but they did it much better. No idea if this is still how it works in Rift, I haven’t been in that game for a long time, but I seem to recall you could give one player a permanent buff that converted a percentage of all your damage to heal that player, and you had some additional options for healing the rest of the party. I only was able to use it for a couple of dungeons, but I loved the idea. When Blizzard announced that the Disc Priest would be getting a similar playstyle, I had hoped I would see something similar, but the lack of a permanent buff in lieu of Atonement juggling ruins the entire idea for me. Not interested, thanks!

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