Monday, January 4, 2016

My PS3 strikes back: The games I missed out on !

So, yesterday I had the abominable, unheard of, never-to-be-mentioned thought of selling off my ps3 :O ! I know, I know, I heard them too as the Meta Soul of all gamers all over the world screamed so loud that every analog stick in the world trembled with rage, rumble motors or not ! I dwelled on selling it off and getting a Vita to play all the wonderful Ys games I never played on the psp. Memories of my time with Ys Seven came rushing through my gamer brain and along came teh tumultuous joyous goosebumps of time lost and hope of it to be found again ! See, the intentions were never bad, exchanging one joy for another , the greed for more gaming was the root cause of the thought of selling my ps3....however convoluted it may sound....:P Tee Hee !

So, what happened then? Did I forego my sense of gamerness and sell off my soul ? Did I do the unthinkable ? Am I proud owner of a Vita with my fingers sliding caressing over Ys games?

Well, lets say, the thought got me thinking about my times with the ps3, which were the best ever, no doubt. What it also got me thinking about are the games I never played on the ps3 and boy it turned out to be quite a list of really really good titles ! Even though I have played tons of games on my ps3, to the point that the poor thing died twice on me and I had to buy new ones, but I was amazed to realise that even after my exhaustive gaming time with the console, I still had quite a few great titlesthat I never really played before the ps4 arrived and swept me away with the 1080p crispness ! So, I decided to give my ps4 a very very well needed rest and turn my ps3 back on again for some good old revisit-a-thon ! :D

So, here goes a list of titles tat I want to play on my ps3, even as my ps4 library grows by the day and begs my time:

Final Fantasy XIII : The poster child of next gen back then which I completely missed out on when it finally released !

I have actually started this one already and boy am I amazed by the graphics, the music, the impeccable presentation and the unique battle system. having warmed up to RPGs over the years, I am enjoying this a lot currently !

Okami HD: I did play this one back in the ps2 era, but never really completed it.

 With the season of sales in full swing, I plan to buy this for the ps3 and see it to the sweet end for real for this time ! With the beautiful art style it has, one only needs an slight excuse to jump into Okami's world.

The Darkness: From the talented developers at Starbreeze, this is one title I always had my eye on but never really played it for some unknown reason !

The game has that very unique Starbreeze touch that continues to this day in the new Wolfenstien games made by the same devs, now called MachineGames. Also, apparently , the game has very unique storytelling moments which I would like to experince first hand. Hope I can get a copy soon, but its a difficult bet these days. Lack of a PSN version is a real bummer :( !

Max Payne 3: Max Payne was the game that thrust me into the business of games and game development but when Max Payne 3 was announced I just could not associate this new bald headed alcoholic to the legend that was Max Payne, the icon who changed my life.
It just did not fit and I never got even a tiny inclination to play this game. Now that quite a lot of time has passed and I have gotten over that gloom, I would like to give this title a try and check out what dpressed maniac has been let loose by Rockstar games.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Whoa ! I know, this title here will throw a lot of people off balance as I am known as a hardcore MGS fan. I even have the game installed on my ps3, its just that .........I don't know, I guess I got too busy enjoying Ground Zeroes and replaying that tiny snippet to hell to come back into this game. This will be top priority after FF XIII, for sure ! Big Boss cannot be kept waiting ! We are the Homo Ludens after all !

God of War Ascension: This was one demo where my jaw never closed at all ! What a rush, what an amalgamation of brilliant visual ideas was this single piece of demo for the game that I was left asking for more RIGHT now ! I thikn the only reason I missed out on this might have been to do something with some Naughty Dog game and the fact that GOWA required a 35 gb download  and I was totally against discs at that point of time. Whatever may have been the reason, I really want to play this now and guess what, it even went free on ps Plus recently and my bad luck that I forgot to add it to my library and missed it ...........Waaaaaaaaaa ! I am searching for a cheap copy now !

Dragons Dogma: Considered a gem by RPG players all over, I really wanna get into it. I really wish they release a ps4 remaster of this one because from the time that I did spend in this game at one point of time, it really was asking for better hardware. I will keep this on the back of the list just to see if a remaster crops up. If not, then ps3 shall rev its engines again for this one !

Dark Souls : Yes Yes, I admit it T_T ! As much as a die hard Bloodborne fan I am, as much as I swear by the level design of Demons Souls and BB, I have not played Dark Souls and my soul cries for the heresy committed ! I feel deeply hurt for having not played it but having played Dark Souls 2, an unpure, non-Miyazaki game ! My heart cries for a Dark Souls on PS4, but considering DS3 is almost here, I do not believe we will ever see the original remastered for the ps4 ever, which is a massive shame cos I would pay full price for it anyday !

HAZE:  Yes, as much as it was hated, I liked the shooting in the demo a LOT !
The game has bad story and bad bad writing but I somehow feel it would be a very fun game to "play" and sadly I never got my hands on the full game. I really wish I can find an old cheap copy  but it is extremely hard to find considering no one has it anymore. Everyone seems to have rid themselves of it. Wish I can find one and try it out myself.

ICO: Shadow of the Colossus is all time favourite game along with MGS3,
but yes, I never really got to play ICO and I believe the ps3 version is the best way to go before The Last Guardian finally graces the ps4 and sweeps me off my feet again !

Puppeteer : The game where nothing is ever repeated, everything you see on screen is new ! I bought it very proudly only for the ps4 to wean me away again before I could finish it ! Honestly, the game looks so so so good that it could easily have been a ps4 launch title and wowed everyone while at it. I am coming back to wield those magic scissors again !

Tales of Xillia : Because : the amazing and unique Battle system !
I have the game purchased and installed , just waiting for the go ! If one can't have a Ys game on a system, one needs some kindof replacement, I am hoping this will be the one !

hmmm...this has turned out to be quite a long list, feels shameful in a way that I missed out on all of these during my time with the ps3 but OTOH, it also shows how solid and diverse a library PS3 has that even after begin a loyal and dedicated gamer for so long, there are still such beautiful gems ready to be enjoyed on a system that almost a decade on now ! Here's hoping I actually go past FFXIII and manage to play these games and am able to withstand the calls of my beautiful ps4 for the time being atleast !

Here's to the New Year and some Old Wines that are yet to provide the heavenly bliss of gaming !

Monday, December 28, 2015

Borderlands 2 : Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep !

My on going playthrough of the absolutely wonderful DLC for Borderlands 2!  will keep adding more videos as I progress, which I definitely ill considering how much fun it is ! The nods to Dark Souls and Skyrim are priceless :D !

Just Cause 3: Can you handle the freedom !

So, out of the blue, in the midst of playing the fantastic Borderlands 2 and the kindof miffing Fallout 4, I had a tryst with Just Cause 3 for about 2 hours and the 2 hours had enough "Boom Boom Boom !" to silence Fallout completely and make think twice about going back to Borderlands 2's fantastic DLC campaigns.

Here's a snippet of what I found myself doing pretty soon of starting this "slam-bang explosion of freedom of a game" :

The question in this game is not "what can I do?" but instead "Hmm, what should I do with all that I can do in this game?" 
The game is a sandbox or a toybox , as everyone must be telling u right now, which provides u with a rather very pretty playground and a bunch of toys to play with.

A flyby with a quick explosion, I guess !

A fine day for mayhem ! 

But there is also another thing people are talking about : Instant Gratification!

 The game lets you have almost everything from the get go ! I want to differ in that regard, the joy of instant gratification will last not for more than an hour if you think that is the hook of this game. No, the power fantasy of having all kinds of explosion causing devices at your disposal is just the surface of the game and not to be mistaken for the whole game. The joy of the game lies in "playing" with it ! :) If you are the kind who can have fun thinking up crazy things to do and then finding ways of doing them with the archaic tools at hand and can enjoy failing in them and laughing away while your plans go completely haywire, then you will have fun in JC3. If you feel smug hanging upside down from a jet plane while launching off cars off a cliff in a whacky show of fireworks without the game providing you with applause/kudos/meaningless-appreciation-shenanigans then you will have fun in JC3. 

The game is for the one who is content in the process and not craves for the applause at the end !  Thats what I feel till now , will be back with more vidoes soon as I get to play more of it :D ! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Indian gaming scene heating up ! WWE2k16 Championship is here !

Looks like finally Indian gaming scene is getting the attention it deserves.  Indian Gaming Expo is right around the corner and their latest announcement has me impressed:

1.5 lakhs worth of prizes ! Looks like us gamers have made a mark , after all , all that money pouring into the gaming arena cannot be wrong, lol :P !

Check out the actual prizes:

1st Place: 1 PS4 Console + Rs.30,000 cash + 1 WWE Championship Title* Mattel Toys

2nd Place: 1 PS4 Console + Rs.10,000 cash + 1 WWE Championship Title* Mattel Toys

3rd Place: Rs.15,000 cash + 1 WWE Championship Title* Mattel Toys

Colour me impressed ! Had it been my kind of game, I would have charged straight into the venue :D !  
On a serious note, if you want to enter the competition, here are the details from their website:

"WWE 2K16 fans can register themselves here to enter for the championship. The registrations starts from today onwards. All the mandatory rules & guidelines are stated in the registration form. No entry fee is charged to participate in the tournament.
For more information on IGX, Kindly visit

I will just leave this here and wish you guys luck ! GO participate and win a ps4 ! There ain't a better gaming machine out there !

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

PES League: Road to Milan is here and now !

Woo...looks like gaming activities are finally picking up in our country :D ! E-xpress just announced the dates for PES League Road to Milan qualifier rounds and its very very soon !

So, if you got your soccer feet soaked in PES or any football simulator then go and play that game of yours cos you might end up representing India at the world stage at the PES League World Finals to be held in Milan, Italy. Who doesn't want to do that , frankly ! I mean, I do, even if I can't tell my right foot from left while playing football !

........and by soon, I mean like really soon. The qualifier round will be held on 20th September, 2015 at Infiniti II Mall, Malad (W) in Mumbai.

So, for a change our dear old Infiniti  Mall will ring aloud with cheers of our fellow soccer fans and gamers instead of shopaholic shrieks of hyperactive kids ! So, get your game on and register yourself here:

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Metal Gear Solid V throbbing in thy veins !!!!

Wake up, Sire, its a bright new day and you seem to possess hazy dead eyes ! Let me present to you the finest medicines of the world to bring back your light !

If this doesn't move you, you are probably dead anyway tongue emoticon !

and....... Top it with this and goosebumps all over guaranteed :

pour this on top and you can accomplish anything to day !!!!:

There you go , sire ! Charged up and roaring you are now ! Now put these on repeat and smash the day ! ! ! 

Here's a parting song to play in ur head while u make mince meat of your work:

HooHaa !!!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight: A Tale of two Heroes!

Batman: Arkham Knight
A Tale of two Heroes…..dividing and delighting gamers alike !

This review of the ps4 version of the game is 100% story-wise and gameplay-wise spoiler-free to keep your gaming goodness intact while playing this game.

Secret (totally fictional but completely probable) Conversations overheard in the HQ of Rocksteady :

“But what could be greater than Batman? He is our hero, the reason people play these games, the World’s greatest Detective!”

..…pondered the brilliant brains at Rocksteady. What could make this detective, this puzzle solver who pieces together clues and sneaks up on villains without a rustle, create the biggest explosions ever and make him enter the next-gen with a bang and a bang louder than any other game can ever muster?

“The Batmobile!”

Shouted a brain mightier than others.

“ How could we have missed that ! Batmobile is the solution to it all! It’s his coolest gadget just waiting to be unleashed !”

Now that would be cool J ! This one gadget in the arsenal of the millionaire superhero is the one which makes more of a spectacle than anything else he specializes in. Batmobile guarantees a grand entrance, a dazzling display of pyrotechnics and deafening roar to numb any thug’s false hopes of winning over Batman ever!

“It is time to break the silence that Batman that lurks around in, it is time for letting in the next-gen Batman ! “

(Gleeful sinister laughter echoes in the silence…….)

Jump along, lets deep-dive into the dark skies of Gotham, with Batman and his whacky troupe in toe……..

The Adventure: Tanks, Explosions and Jetsons !
Rocksteady introduces the world of Gotham with a touch of mystique and flamboyance that instantly catches attention. Things are set in motion within minutes in a very theatrical way and soon we have the stage set for Batman, the saviour, to arrive and save the day ! …...or to be literal, start saving the night.

The action gets going relentlessly and people who like flash and bang action will love the start and people who were looking for the cerebral detective Batman may not. The beautiful city makes a supreme first impression dazzling you with stunning graphics and a perpetual rain so dense that it in itself becomes a spectacle during the free flowing flights of the Batman and the tense chases involving the other hero of our game, literally the second protagonist of the game: The Batmobile !

You are going to either hate it or love it but Batmobile has a presence in the game equaling or , to be honest, surpassing Batman and frankly, it stops being a gadget or a car and becomes the second playable character to an extent that can annoy some people while delighting others with its gameplay literally reminding them of their cheerful childhood evenings spent playing Battletanks ( or not if you weren't a biological entity yet back then, in which case you will have no memories to fall back on, sorry, sometimes being older has its perks !). The game integrates Batmobile with Batman so smoothly that playing from within the car and as Batman feels seamless. The game lets you switch between them absolutely seamlessly creating a flow of traversal so fluid that it easily gets addicting to just zip in and out of the car just to see how cool it all is. Oh and the rest of the game also shares that philosophy of coolness.

           The whole focus is on high octane action in this game! Dazzling graphics with lots of explosions thanks to our new found Battletank ! Batman’s on foot sneaking and brawling abilities are fully fledged out only in the side missions scattered around in the open world of Gotham City while the main story continues swinging along with the escapades of the Batmobile. So much so that , without spoiling anything specific, some Boss fights turn out very very anti-climatic because of it ! The side missions do make up for it and make sure you do not leave with a bad taste after the main campaign. In fact, the side missions are very well integrated in to the theme of the game and you can easily get distracted from the campaign completing separate independent mini quest-lines while earning those much needed Wayne points to level up your character, gadgets and Batmobile.

            The game as a whole is fun and the variety of gameplay that Batmobile brings to the game actually keeps things fresh and frantic. While the sneaking can feel familiar and placid sometimes, especially after two (rather three) previous games, the fresh infusion of car chases and tank battles never do. They are always fast and tense keeping the tempo high and bring much needed excitement into this grim tale. Whether they fit into the Batman’s detective world or not, is a debate I will keep away from here. Are they overused? Definitely yes, the game feels like a Batmobile game instead of a Batman game. A little less focus on the Batmobile could have made this game better and could have increased our empathy levels towards Batman, in my humble opinion, as playing for too long as a tank breaks one’s immersion of being Batman…….and that requires no debate.

                Another aspect that can break immersion very strongly are the tutorials in the beginning of the game in the form of Augmented Reality Challenges. The icons pop up right inside the game world, in the middle of all the chaos and the player is asked to perform various make-believe tasks, like taking out thugs and busting virtual tanks, while victims are being held hostage literally 5 meters away.I still can't fathom Batman punching air to train himself smack in the middle of real thugs....I am sure newspapers would carry news of Batman's insanity the next !

Playing alongside Sidekicks is a lot of fun !

That brings us to another new gameplay system introduced in Arkham Knight : The Sidekicks ! You can smoothly switch between Batman and a sidekick during combat and even issue small commands to the sidekicks for quitter takedowns. This is a very welcome addition and I, for one, love this feature. It is well implemented and very fun to play and smoothly integrates into the freeflow combat system of Batman. In fact, it feels strange that the sidekicks are used only in a handful of missions in the game. They add a layer of excitement to the standard brawls and show a promise of adding a layer of strategy if fleshed out and used in majority of the missions. Here’s hoping sidekicks play a major role in the next Rocksteady title. Dual takedown all the way, please !!! :)

The Stories: Heroes, Villains and a wisdom full of Insanity!

             The story is on the lines of standard comic book fare but it does try to explore a bit deeper than usual and succeeds too. It’s good fare, not V for Vendetta or From Hell good, but it does try to veer thematically towards the Neil Gaiman stories of Batman, exploring Batman’s inner thoughts and dilemmas a bit more than a standard comic would.

The undercurrent of Batman seeing the good in everyone is strong here and the story goes on to break the hero/villain stereotypes of various characters. The definitions keep veering around the edge of either and this also serves well as a backdrop for the self-revelatory journey Batman is on. Events and expositions tug us around on a stage-full of unpredictable characters with what seems like insanity edging on the brink of wisdom and being justified either way by the well-presented cast. The game can really get under your skin sometimes, creating surreal moments of wonder and the anticipation of the unknown.

           I am sure, one can safely say that Rocksteady has done one of the best fan-services in interpreting these comic book caricatures as relatable characters. A Hero or a villain, each presents a somewhat eccentric, yet relatable and realistic point of view of this world. Give and take a few notches, Rocksteady has toed the line wonderfully, if not exceptionally, on the theme, given the set cast of characters and the world of Gotham.

                         The game also satisfies the innate Batman fan by roping in a lot of the series’ villains and characters in fitting roles. Complete optional quest-lines (side activities in the open world) are dedicated to particular characters which take you through mini stories woven around them replete with a boss fight in the end. This approach by Rocksteady works out very well and serves the dual purpose of providing worthy context to side activities while letting multiple villains have noticeable presence in the game without overtly straining or muddling the main story. Rest assured that you will meet a lot of Villains and you can have your sweet time with them.

Gotham at its finest:
The open world is heavy, moody, huge and yet claustrophobic in every alley you traverse! The outdoors are simply stunning and it is safe to say that this is the best Gotham city you can roam around in your waking life. The beautiful indoors are similarly very well crafted and moodily lit and keep evoking my dream of seeing a next-gen Bioshock soon. The colours, the atmosphere and the art are spot on here and sometimes you feel a zen moment just gliding through the sparkling rain while zipping around the rooftops or admiring the beautiful indoors that have an uncanny sense of unease to them ( as if they have imbibed the spirit of the Joker in them!). During the course of the game the city changes many moods and each one seems to induce the same wow feeling as the previous one.

                    The city is alive in more ways than one and the constant contextually correct banter from the NPCs keeps the immersion alive while also lightening the mood occasionally. Some of the chatter between thugs is genuinely funny and can make you stop and just listen to them for a while. Similarly, Rocksteady has paid a lot of attention to little details to make you, the player, feel the change he brings to the world. Thugs you apprehend start filling up the GCPD cells and taunt you while you walk around the place. People you rescue also show up in the safe haven and converse with you and intelligently comment on the most recent threats of the villains, as do the GCPD cops. Their reactions to your actions, however small, really make them a bit more believable and your actions a bit more palpable than would otherwise feel.

              It is these little details which create a sense of belonging to this doomed city. As an example, there is this little moment of two cops taking a selfie with the Batmobile while you are away and they scramble around and apologise to you profusely as soon as you reach the spot. That one little conversation suddenly turned those two NPCs into real people with families and responsibilities and really made me stop and take notice apart from breaking into laughter, of course. The Last of Us brought these little in game interactions to the fore and Rocksteady seems to be picking their inspirations from the right places !

An Open world yet eerily claustrophobic !

As for the sound design, well, it’s punchy and loud, like an action game sounds should be. The soundtrack does not catch attention but does not get in the way of the game either.

Final thoughts:

      It's almost as if Rocksteady decided that Batmobile was to be THE GAME in Batman: Arkham Knight. The whole main campaign and the City are designed around it. They have provided for the classic Batman gameplay in the side missions you can optionally tackle, but this still remains a very polarizing aspect of the game. If you end up not enjoying the Tank gameplay, the appeal of the game will drop considerably. At least for the main story, you are almost always in your Tank. So, the merit of the game lies a lot on whether the player falls in love with or abhors the Bat-Tank set free here! And there-in lies the dilemma in passing any judgment on this game.

The game redeems itself with a very satisfying end to the campaign and all is forgiven for the way the manic characters and the finale is treated in this game. Also, the side activities involving the Riddler are just too good to be ignored. In fact, I found myself more interested in acquiring the Riddler trophies and stopping Two Face from looting banks than actually catching the Arkham Knight during my time with the game.

If you have played the previous Batman games then you have to play it simply to see how it ends and gratifying it is to play that final chapter of the game. If you have not played the previous games then chances of feeling disappointed are diminished as you do not have a preconceived notion of how Batman game should play and the tank sections might not trouble you that much. Either way, if you have time for another game, go for it. It is not the best fare this year has to offer, but it sure is fun ! This is the best Gotham you will get to play until at least next or next-next generation of consoles arrive so savour it while you can but be prepared to be a Tank rather than a flying bat…..or a detective !

+Stunning visuals with the best slick, grimy and wet Gotham City you can experience in your waking life.

+Well realized memorable characters.

+Batmobile’s gameplay keeps the action fresh and fun

+A very gratifying Finale.

+ The side missions with the classic Batman gameplay.

+Riddler puzzles !

-Lopsided focus on the Batmobile. Feels like a Batmobile game, not a Batman game.

-off putting and odd boss battles in the main campaign.

-Some immersion breaking choices in presentation.

-No real Detective work for the World’s greatest detective.


“A fun romp throughout and a fitting end to the series. Best to try out the new Batmobile gameplay before buying, though.”

(*all screenshots taken with the Share button on a PS4 system)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Final Fantasy XIV highlights the shortcomings of Dragon Age Inquisition.

I recently made my first foray into MMOS by playing the FFXIV's 14 day trial on my ps4. To not make a long story out of it, I enjoyed it a lot and ended up buying the game for myself but that's not the reason I am here. I am here because what I thought about the most while playing Final Fantasy XIV was , surprise surprise: Dragon Age Inquisition !

Yup, every fun moment I had in FF XIV reminded me of the fun I did not have in Dragon age Inquisition ! I am not saying I didn't have fun in Dragon Age at all, but for each time I did I can count 10 where I did not. For all of its grand designs, the game felt bland and lukewarm in every implementation. For all its shiny exteriors, Inquisition felt like a monotonous trudge through a series of beautiful environments.

Enough complaining about it, though. Here are some of the points which I realized were similar in FFXIV and yet more fun or engaging than Inquisition:
  • The Combat:
    This is where the two games are most similar. Both the games have ability based combat which is governed by cool down meters for those abilities. Multiple abilities share a common cool down meter while some abilities have their own cool down time. Abilities also stack up on each other well if you chain them in a proper sequence. But this is also the aspect where FFXIV is a lot of fun while Dragon Age Inquisition is just serviceable at most. Chaining abilities and taking crit shots in FFXIV is exhilarating while in DA:I, even though we can switch between characters and have cross class combos, when you do land a crit its just another hit, just another fight. One does not get the feeling of having pulled it off correctly or intelligently or victoriously. So what is it that makes FF better in this regard?:

  1. Well, for one the Cooldown times:
    They are faster in FFXIV. I have not measured them in milliseconds or anything, but combat is faster and more hectic in FFXIV making it feel more energetic and involving than DAI where the slower pace makes it feel drab and button spammy in nature. I know these are perceptions and can vary with each individual but then games are perceived experiences and the main emotive or perceptual goal while designing a combat system is the feeling of excitement, the adrenaline rush, while making you believe that your actions and decisions matter. In other words, the goals of designing a combat system include a rise in pace/attention and player agency. If any of these fail the game's combat is bound to feel bland or lacking without the player being able to tell why. Both, a sense of player agency and a higher pace of events than normal requiring higher level of attention, snapping the player out of the exploratory humdrum,are essential in imparting a feeling of being in combat.
  2. Finisher moves:
    this is where Final Fantasy nails it and imparts an indispensable feeling of achievement and decisive agency. Playing as an Archer I acquired a skill called the "Misery's end" which is high powered shot from the bow which can be triggered only when the target has less than 20% health. The idea being that you fire this as the last finisher shot to end the battle on a victorious note. This might sound pretty simple but it leads to a small but significant moment in battle where I, the player, feels a complete sense of agency, power and accomplishment in one go! Of course, there is a chance that the target might live through the move, especially if it's a boss, but even then it foreshadows your impending victory bringing an ebb and flow to every tiny battle you fight. Thats storytelling techniques within each battle ! It is like an announcement by the player that I am about to win this right here, right now ! When it kills, it's like the exhilaration of declaring 'Checkmate' after a well fought chess match ! And to top it all its not some end game skill which one unlocks at the fag end of his/her levels but something that is provided to you very early in the game. From what I played DAI lacks this sorely during its early hours leading to the battles lacking any kind of flow to them. It's stacking attacks upon attacks till the enemy dies. That is not to say that DAI doesn't let you use tactics, it does and does pretty well later in the game but can it make you stay in the game till then? And that brings us to our next point.

  • The Pace of Levelling up:
    this is another area where FFXIV scores ever DAI in keeping your interest intact during the early hours of the game. In FFXIV you level up fast, very fast initially. I was levelling up every 20 minutes or so during my initial hours and even faster when I had my sanctuary bonus running in the background giving me double xp for every quest. What this means , other than gratification and general sense of accomplishment, is that I was gaining new abilities, new toys to play with, every 15 -20 minutes! OTOH, in DAI After spending double figure hours in the game, I realised I had only managed level 7 or 8 which directly equates to the number of skills I had at my disposal to play with. Of course, these numbers are not directly comparable between games but it does show the disparity in rewards and the number of choices I had in each game to play my way or feeling that l could choose my play style after a specific amount of time. FFXIV manages a perfect 'flow' in its "challenges vs rewards" curve and keeps the player engaged and interested while the much much slower reward pattern of DAI makes the similar combat feel like a grind ! It's a designer defined experience and the choice to keep the initial hours slow in terms of progression and choice can lead to that definite feeling of grind. OTOH, giving out too many rewards can make the game feel hollow and nullify the importance of the world you are fighting for or engrossed in. The 'flow theory' is at work here and FFXIV manages that challenge vs rewards graph very smoothly.To be honest, FFXIV is more Grindy than DA:I but it doesn't let you feel it at all which is not just  due to the faster levelling up and engaging combat but also due to another aspect which brings us to our next point.

  • Characters and humour:
    this might seem not to affect the player's impression of the grind but actually it contributes equally towards the perception the player forms of the activities he is tasked to perform. Believability and sense of purpose are the two defining factors here and FFXIV scores better on both fronts but not by making the characters and the world more realistic but instead it makes its world, characters and activities 'believable' by doing the exact opposite ! FFXIV doesn't strive for realism and instead embraces its existence as a game. The characters do not pretend to be real in their dialogues or actions and are perfectly contended in being non realistic 'cartoons', for the lack of a better word. Since there is no make believe going on here, the player's mind also accepts them as fictional cartoons which do whimsical and silly things. The game spices it all up by adding humor to every scene or dialogue cementing the notion that it is all in good fun and none of it is to be taken too seriously ! This approach, well balanced in FFXIV, works wonders and whenever one is tasked with another one of the good old fetch quests, one doesn't cringe at it as there is no suspension of disbelief, there is no part of your brain fighting with the unrealistic demands of the game as the quest giver itself also is aware of the meaningless quest as highlighted by the humor in its quest description. OTOH, DA:I chooses to go the 'realistic' route and as good as Frostbite may make the characters to look and sound, they feel like clay puppets trying to sound too serious in vain. The believability is lost each time a character speaks only to look like a shiny plastic doll devoid of expressions or an exposition is presented out. At each quest description, your mind jumps out to inform you of the futility or the un-feasibility of the required task and the illusion built so delicately by the graphics of the game falls apart. The Witcher 3 succeeds in this department while still keeping the world and characters realistic, thanks to some well written dialogue, the humor and the very well made emotive faces.

  • The dense and alive cities:
    another aspect that elevates the believability and immersive-ness of the world of FFXIV is the way all of its areas feel dense and full of activity all the time. This is where the MMO nature of FFXIV brings in its advantages. Each and every area is bustling with activity creating a convincing illusion of a living breathing world, all thanks to the multitude of players populating its worlds. Even if you never interact with any of them, your world is always full of other people going about their own quests or businesses and that sets the world apart ! Being a single player experience, DA:I cannot do that convincingly and we cannot hold it at task here but this does bring forth the importance of having people together in your game. We could , for example, have a system, somewhat like Demons Souls, where in you can see a lot of players in your game, playing around doing their own thing, even if you cannot interact with them. It would still make the world feel alive and bustling with activity ! Though, of course, your fiction must be able to accommodate this influx of heroes :).

Playing FFXIV has actually made me more interested in going back to Dragon Age and finishing it as it has shown me how good a cooldown based combat can be. Now , I am re-downloading DA:I to see if the game improves in the later stages of the campaign and actually delivers on the promise of being not only an expansive and exhaustive RPG but also an enjoyable and immersive RPG. But the game will have to do it fast because MGS V approaches soon and then, its all over to Snake and Master God Kojima San !

Here's wishing me luck ;)