#302: The OST

black cassette tape on top of red and yellow surface

Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

I love listening to soundtracks, or OSTs. I have a deep fascination in the different songs that games and movies have, and I love listening to them when I can to bring back the memories of those experiences. When I listen to a song from a particular level, for example, it brings me into the situation, and it’s like I’m experiencing it all over again. Nothing will top that initial, first experience, but there’s value in re-experiencing the world and its wonderful moments when you can. I think that’s one of the key rewards of being into soundtracks. Though, it limits the amount of music I can discuss with other people because my recommendations are mostly built on personal novelty and nostalgia, which vary by the person.

As I write, I’m listening to “Chasing Daybreak,” a new song from the Fire Emblem: Three Houses video game. It’s no secret how much I love that game, but I don’t think I’ve talked about its soundtrack at length before.

There’s also “The Apex of the World,” which plays during the final map for each campaign and features a remixed “F√≥dlan Winds.” It’s intense, and the stakes couldn’t be higher during this encounter. I love when music matches the emotional beats of the level it’s a part of. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze did that really well with its soundtrack; it seems to be a Nintendo staple to have great music.

Then there’s “Between Heaven and Earth,” another track that plays near the end of each campaign during the battle at Gronder Field. It’s particularly memorable because it plays during a tense, consequential battle, and it features some character deaths on the opposing side of whichever house you are playing as. It’s always uncomfortable to have to see deaths on either side, especially after you got to know these characters.

Advertisements

#297: The Vanilla

vinyl record in vinyl player on table

Photo by Drigo Diniz on Pexels.com

The classic experience. When people think about World of Warcraft, they probably think about the original game, the game as it was when it first came out and people flooded the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, recognizable faces polluted trade chat, and Horde and Alliance alike waged war against Ragnaros, Kel’Thuzad, Nefarian, and C’Thun. This age, from 2004 to 2006, is referred to as “Vanilla WoW,” and the most basic (but not in a complexity sense) and fundamental aspects of the game trace their roots to this time period.

I never had the chance to play during this era, so my experience here is restricted. However, recently, Blizzard has released what’s called “Classic WoW,” which is included in the regular, retail WoW subscription price. “Classic WoW” is a separate set of servers that are tailor-made to restore the game as it once was. It preserves this two-year span of history forever in the state that it was at the time. For fans of the simpler days, before sharding took over and when servers had their own communities, this is ideal news. Blizzard’s decision to finally endorse and give in to classic servers was huge, considering their prior resistance to the idea. While I still dip into the retail game from time to time, I don’t currently have a subscription. If I did, I would consider jumping into Classic WoW to get a sense of how things were before probably going back to how things currently are. While I’m not saying the current iteration of the game is perfect, there are certain mechanics and systems to the retail version of WoW that I’m not sure I’d be able to do without, and I just learned flying again too!

Regardless, I respect Blizzard’s decision and the huge wave of support that Classic WoW has received is great to see. I’m a fan.

#296: The Crimson Flower

red flowers roses rose

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses was an emotional experience. The ending almost made me cry, and reading all the different paired experiences for each character combination gave me just the kind of cathartic feeling I was looking for at the end of the game. Certain characters traveled the world and adventured together, some became romantically involved in unlikely combinations, and other characters went solo for a bit, accomplishing their dreams in their own ways. It was inspiring and made me feel things for my team that I had worked so hard to protect throughout each and every mission. I made sure to keep all my characters fairly overleveled through the repeatable battle missions.

My friend finished the same campaign, but the majority of his cast died in the process in that fateful final battle against the archbishop in her dragon form. The only surviving members of the Black Eagle house were Linhardt, Ferdinand, Edelgard, and the professor. I feel bad for him, but at least it was the final battle and at least he made it to the end after all. I’d feel bummed if I made it that far and couldn’t beat the game after all my effort and time spent building up my team.

The music is bombastic, epic, and over-the-top in all the right ways. It draws you in and gets you invested in the story of each mission, fitting appropriately next to the atmosphere they wanted to create.

The story was engrossing, nuanced, and memorable. It’s one I’ll remember for awhile. I’m also pretty glad I happened to side with Edelgard in this conflict, considering her philosophy was pretty agreeable (besides the obviously questionable parts of it, like waging war against your former classmates to reshape society). But overall, I liked the shades of grey that the story presented and I feel that the designers did a solid job of capturing that.

#292: The Season, Part 2

castle near body of water

Photo by Dariusz Staniszewski on Pexels.com

But of course, this is a two-part blog post, so there’s always more to talk about when summarizing the most liberating season of them all.

I had responsibilities that I fulfilled, responsibilities I left open and couldn’t quite complete. There were appointments I should’ve made early in the summer that, by the end of the season, I felt too distracted to make any more. There was potential for so much: we could’ve had endless hangouts, on any day of the week, but drama unfurled in one of my friends’ households involving their post-college plans. That complicated our dreams, but that didn’t stop us from hanging out and playing games while able to.

I started video games that changed my life, like Persona 5, which introduced me to some wonderful friends while also introducing both Alex and I to a compelling large-scale narrative that kept us occupied and engaged for a month straight. It’s been ages since I’ve felt so engaged and motivated to play a game just for its story, and it kept us hooked enough to motivate us to buy a huge poster of the game’s cast of characters which now hangs above our printer desk. That reminds me of Connecticon, which we went to with Bella, and the upcoming Renaissance Faire, which will be a blast, too.

Bella’s leaving for college, Miranda’s already left for Florida, Madison’s in Orlando with the babies and sooner or later will be moving westward in Connecticut to better accommodate her and Mike’s jobs. Life is changing, whether we are ready for it or not, and we can only hold on for the ride.

I’m the kind of person who tends to think nostalgically even about bad times, and though this summer was by no means a bad time, I can definitely see myself looking back fondly on these times regardless of how they went.

#291: The Season, Part 1

pathway between green grass field

Photo by Javon Swaby on Pexels.com

Summer is great, isn’t it? It’s not too early to be nostalgic about it, hopefully. I have rose-tinted glasses about it already. There were nights when I had no concerns in the world, when I stayed up past 2am playing Monster Hunter: World on the big TV with friends I had met from Twitter while Alex had to get ready for work in only a couple hours, and on those nights I truly felt what it’s like to live freely and without a care. It was like being unemployed all over again; technically, I was unemployed, if that clears anything up, as I wasn’t being paid over the summer. That made things difficult; budgeting became a pain, and I had to account for 10 weeks when I had no regular paycheck to my name.

But it was liberating all the same. The summer was like a dream to me, and I’ll look forward to it next year just as I did this year. Nothing will have changed about it in my mind. It’s crazy to think that there’s a whole 9 1/2 months standing between me and my next break of this size, but not everyone has the same liberties that I do.

There were days when I wished I could’ve done more, when I had no money to spend but lots of ideas about what to do. There were days when I didn’t have a car to use, two weeks in fact, and I had places to go but no method of transportation to get there. There were days when I had plans but I didn’t want to do them, when I was supposed to visit friends in New Jersey but had other things in mind to occupy my time. There were so many days of listless mental absence, and I’ll miss those feelings a lot, but now it’s time to strap back in and be responsible again.

#290: The Rotten Vale

herd of cattle in daytime

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

In Monster Hunter: World, there are about five different biomes you can explore: Wildspire Wastes, Coral Highlands, Elder’s Recess, Ancient Forest, and Rotten Vale. Each biome is home to different monsters, so if you’re interested in farming an Anjanath for its plates, you’d likely find one in the Ancient Forest (although one does pop up in the Wastes in a story mission, but… forget about that.) If you’re fighting a Jyuratodos for Aqua Sacs, you’re going to find one in the river area of the Wastes. Certain monsters have certain zones within these biomes that they frequent, such as the Jyuratodos and the lake/river area, and the Pukei-Pukei and the poisonous forest crossing in Ancient Forest.

I decided to write more specifically about the Rotten Vale because the music for it is currently playing from my computer speakers. It’s like the Takeover post I made, which was inspired by the new battle music for Persona 5 Royale. Music inspires writing more than you might think on this blog.

The Rotten Vale is a steamy, poisonous mess. It’s partly jungle, partly cavernous, partly boneyard and infested wasteland. Odogaron, Girros, Great Girros, Radobaan, and Vaal Hazak make their home here, feeding off of the effluvium vanes and the corpses of dead monsters. The vale is one of my favorite biomes in the game, despite the tendency to get electrocuted or poisoned in some way by the monsters that inhabit it. Everything causes a status effect or heightens an existing effect, such as Vaal Hazak’s effluvium health reduction which requires Nulberries to nullify. It’s a true test of preparedness and coming into things with a clear goal and mindset. If you don’t come prepared into the Rotten Vale, things will go south pretty quickly. It features one of the things I love so much about Monster Hunter; you are a tracker just as much as you are a fighter.

#289: The Shadowbringer

afterglow avian backlit birds

Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

Shadowbringers? It’s kind of a generic name, but that’s fine. “Bringer of shadows” could mean anything in the world of fantasy. It could mean that you’re a wielder of dark magic, like a necromancer or warlock, or it could mean that your morals lean toward the evil and corrupt. In this case, it’s referring to the newest expansion for Final Fantasy XIV, which released earlier this year. The earlier expansions set the stage for this one, and they’re also bundled into the same package, which makes it a worthwhile investment for me. I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy XIV recently, even though I’m a ride-or-die WoW expert, because I needed a change of pace from all the monotony of world quests and exploration through WoW. I think having new scenarios and scenery opens up my imagination again, compelling me to continue playing and immerse myself in the game’s deep, complicated systems. Being that I’ve had a lot of time recently to play the game, I’ve been able to invest myself through the initial campaign. There’s nothing like diving into a new, massively huge game and being able to explore it for the first time. It makes me happy to see.

I read this great article from Kotaku recently, titled “How To Get Into Final Fantasy XIV In 2019,” and it helped me get my footing when I was first starting out in the game. It’s important to pay attention to the game’s story, believe it or not, as it reaches “fantastic heights.” I’m interested in what that includes, as the story hasn’t been super engaging thus far. I might even invest in a “story skip” so I don’t have to worry about completing content I’ve already completed a ton of, and whose story I already have a fairly decent handle on.

#286: The Queue

close up photo of hay

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Role queue is a new feature recently added to the game Overwatch, and it’s changed everything. Previously, you were able to choose heroes freely, without having to worry about what role they filled. You could have an entire team of damage dealers, or supports, or tanks, and the game would do nothing to stop you from trying that hilarious (but probably ineffectual and frustrating after awhile) strategy. Role queue is meant to fix that problem, among other problems present in the game’s social side of things, by forcing a 2-2-2 team composition on every team that plays in Quick Play or Competitive Play from here on. While initially I was hesitant to accept the limitations towards creative freedom that role lock posed, I became more in favor of the idea the more I heard from people on the PTR who said it drastically improved their playing experiences. They were able to queue for whatever role they wanted, and it didn’t matter what other hero people picked. They knew that their team would be good from the outset, at the very least because it was 2-2-2.

Previously, there was always the lurching fear that your team would descend into total chaos because one of your healers switched to a damage dealer, or your only tank swapped to a healer when you already had three healers. There have been innumerable instances of playing Overwatch where the other team wins over us just because they have a better team composition than we do, and now the field is a bit more level. There can still be times where your two damage dealers are Bastion and Symmetra on Offense on a 2CP map (*cough* *cough*), but at least the odds of that happening are less and less. Eventually, role queue will be coming to Quick Play, and I’m looking forward to that so I don’t have to do Competitive as much!

#282: The Squad, Part 2

adult african american woman business businessmen

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This post is a continuation from my previous post about Monster Hunter and forming a squad online.

Initially, as a fan of the Monster Hunter series, I presumed that the game was primarily solo, with some online multiplayer if you wanted to. But realistically, the entire game’s campaign can be completed online, and that’s what I ended up doing with one of my friends over the past few nights. We’ve been hammering through the campaign at lightning speed, mostly because I have some overpowered weapons and gear right now. It makes for interesting times, and the completions are at record speeds for us. That being said, when I spoke with some of the other members of the squad, they said they’ve been playing long enough that they have kills on some of the late-game monsters in under five minutes. That’s insane for me to even think about, but congrats to them. The person I was speaking with said that if I perfected my builds and practiced, I could do it, too, which left me feeling a bit hopeful about everything. That even a noob like me can one day reach those incredible heights in a game. If you can dream it, you can do it, and all that sappy stuff.

What’s also interesting about having a squad is the feeling of belonging that’s associated with it. It’s so easy to hop right in that I don’t have to worry about feeling left out. Because it’s still currently summer vacation for me, I have the ability to stay up late at night with some extra coffee to play some Monster Hunter with my online friends. Sometimes way late into the night, even though I probably shouldn’t be messing with my sleep schedule so much right before school season begins again. The time is almost coming.

#281: The Squad, Part 1

iguana

Photo by Fabricio Trujillo on Pexels.com

Playing Monster Hunter: World has been brought to a completely new level: I can now play with multiple friends at a time. Previously, I had played with one of my friends who recently bought a PS4 specifically to play with me, and that’s been a blast so far, but now the experience has been upgraded. I can’t say I’ve had an experience like this on an online game since my days of playing World of Warcraft in a guild. A sense of camaraderie between teammates while fighting for a unified objective, while also playing online with friends who you care for and who care for you.

When I used to raid in WoW, I don’t know how close I ever got to my teammates. I know I eventually told them my age and all that, and I know that at some point I went on voice chat with them and broke through that whole barrier. Back in the day, we used Ventrillo which was a computer application you had to pay for. Discord nowadays is so much more convenient, considering you can do whatever you want from there and for free. You can set up a server for just your friends, and you don’t need to pay for it, most importantly!

Forming a squad on Monster Hunter, though, has been a wonderful experience. I love meeting and befriending new people online, and I love perpetually closing the social gap that I have with other people. There’s satisfaction in slowly overcoming obstacles that have persisted through time, from a young age to an adult age. Having a squad means no one is out of place, everyone’s here for a reason, and everyone in the squad is welcome whenever. All you have to do is just log in to Monster Hunter: World and see if anyone else is playing, too. It makes the game so much more multiplayer based than I ever thought it would be.