#296: The Crimson Flower

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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.

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#292: The Season, Part 2

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

#277: The Takeover

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When a game takes over your life, it’s a feeling like no other. Usually this happens when I play games with long playtimes, such as Xenoblade Chronicles, Paper Mario 2, the new Fire Emblem, games of that nature. Long, epic adventures with grand stories to tell. They’re addicting in that I want to reach the end, but I also want to enjoy what I have while I can. I talked about this feeling in my blog post titled “The Delay,” in which I mentioned that I don’t want to beat Persona 5 yet because it would mean the end of my friendships with the characters and fictional story. When a game takes over your life, you have to let it pass over you, and you have to enjoy every minute of it. Thankfully, that’s so easy to do. RPGs make it easy, as there are so many systems you have to understand in order to grasp the game. Mementos, diner dates, social links, activity points, confidant availability, faculty training, fishing and sharing a meal, materia, whatever else there is.

The new Fire Emblem is starting to take over my life in the same way that Persona did, although I’m taking precautions to make sure when school rolls around soon, I’m not too invested that I can’t keep up with work. It’s important to have a healthy balance of fun and work, after all. But that’s one of the reasons why the summer is so difficult to rebound from; you get used to living life one way, and then boom, it’s back to 10 months of intense work.

The title of this blog post was inspired by the song “Take Over,” the new ambush battle theme for Persona 5: Royal. It’s been stuck in my head and I don’t know what to do about it except continue listening!

#271: The Aether, Part 2

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Aether is paramount to understanding the Final Fantasy story, though. If I were to introduce you to its boundless lore, I wouldn’t know where to start, partially because I don’t have a lot of familiarity with it and partially because I haven’t been paying a deep amount of attention into the lore thus far. Because it’s all still early game progression to me, I haven’t been reading quest text as diligently as I sometimes do in World of Warcraft. Others I know who rarely, if ever, read quest text have said that the Final Fantasy XIV lore is worth getting into, but I still remain unconvinced for the time being. It’s just so much to take on all at once, so much to understand with no real application benefit.

I do appreciate having a lot of lore, though, and I think a great MMORPG requires it in order to function well, in order to feel like a vast, unexplored world to conquer and adventure through. It’s one of the big appeals of World of Warcraft, to me; but also, I know the general lore of WoW and could definitely explain it to someone if they were interested to hear about it. It’s completely buckwild, but it’s fun and it takes up a vast space in my memory regardless. That’s what I get for playing that game for so many hours and days and years of my life.

But sometimes, when you’re playing multiple games at once, the burden of understanding so many different lores and universes and the laws of their individual universes is a lot. Like, for example, I’m currently playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses as well, and in that game, there are crests, units, kingdoms, castles, so many things to understand about the world. But I can’t simultaneously keep that in my head while also trying to learn about Final Fantasy’s vast, open world, if that makes sense.