Microsoft’s next-generation of consoles officially released on Tuesday (11/10/2020), bringing the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S into the Xbox family. I was lucky enough (persistent enough) to snag a pre-order back in September and have been eagerly awaiting 11/10 since that point.
I will preface this post by admitting that I haven’t nearly had as much time with the new hardware as I would have hoped, but I’ve seen enough that has impressed me enough to share both my “day-one” experience first impressions.
I was up bright and early (5:30 AM to be precise) Tuesday morning to swing by my local Best Buy for my Xbox Series X pre-order, opting for store pick-up as opposed to waiting around for UPS all day. For a little context, Best Buy had sent out an email a few weeks ago suggesting I book an “appointment” time for launch day. Being the eager nerd I am, I chose the earliest timeslot available, which was the 6:00 AM – 6:30 AM timeslot. I’m guessing they just didn’t want crowds of socially-non-distanced people lining up outside their store all at once. Regardless, there was actually more people picking up their Series X|S than I expected. There was a steady stream of early bird nerds going in and out with their new consoles as I was parking and it was just a few minutes after 6:00! I meant to ask a store associate how many launch consoles the store received, but in my excitement I spaced and completely forgot to inquire.
I had thought about doing an entire “unboxing” video, but given the strange PR circumstances of 2020, influencers and press have already had the console for weeks at this point with thousands of unboxing videos across all media — so I figured it was a bit redundant. Instead, enjoy some quick snapshots I took as I opened everything up:
Being the hype machine I am, I had already watched more than my fair share of unboxing videos, so I knew what I was getting into. The thought and engineering that went into package is quite evident as soon as you open it up for the first time. It gave me Apple vibes with the attention to detail and slick presentation. I feel like Microsoft respects that you just paid $499.99 (plus tax) for a big black box of teraflops, and shows that in their attention to detail in the presentation of the box’s contents. It’s something simple and small that goes a far way.
One of the main bummers of both consoles this November is that they have a distinct shortage of games that are exclusive to their respective console. Luckily there is still a decent selection of games that have been “optimized for Series X|S”, which essential means the game has been updated to take advantage of the new hardware. I can only speak for a few optimized games at the time of this writing: Watch Dogs Legion, Borderlands 3, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Tetris Effect Connected. I have more in the queue for install, but those are the examples I have actually played. I plan on going into deeper detail about game performance and graphics later on, but I will say that AC: Valhalla and Watch Dogs Legion are the most “next-gen” looking of them all.
I can easily compare it to the previous two games in the franchises, having played both AC: Origins and AC: Odyssey on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X respectively. As impressive as those games looked on the One X and PS4 Pro, they still felt like a few notches below the PC counterparts. Valhalla and Legion on the Series X actually feel like you’re playing a game built for the bleeding edge. I haven’t played Valhalla on a PC rig sporting an RTX 3080, but I’d imagine this is what it would look and feel like. It’s downright jaw-dropping at some points and the ray-tracing in Legion just gives a depth to the world screen-space reflections just can’t do.
“Smart Delivery” is one of those things that just seemed like a PR buzzword until people finally started to get their hands on the new consoles and saw how messy the cross-gen situation has made things. Anecdotal stories of PlayStation 5 users playing the PlayStation 4 version of games speaks to how clean and seamless Microsoft’s answer to this cross-gen-dilemma really is. On Microsoft’s unified “Xbox” platform, your game library is just your game library. I still have all my games I’ve bought digitally or acquired through Games with Gold, all the way back to the OG Xbox and Xbox 360. If I go to install a game that has recently received an optimized for Series X|S patch, it will know that I have the Series X and install the optimized version automatically. Smart.
The Xbox Series X has given new life to those games I’ve had in my backlog from the 360 and One consoles, because I know I’m playing the best version of them – whether it’s the insane improvement to load times that the SSD has given them, or the auto-HDR sprucing up the look and lighting of them.
I’ll have more to say about specific games in the weeks to come.
I could go on and divulge into why I’ve been a ghost for a bit but it’s honestly too complicated, melodramatic, and depressing to really get into, so just take this post and appreciate it! I’m overdue to talk about my recent over-indulgence of WoW, but I’ll save that for another time. For now, let me talk about my first impressions (we’re talking first night) of Champions Online.
I was excited to give Champions Online a try, for if nothing else, to get back into blogging and updating my site. Something about WoW just leaves me completely indifferent towards writing about it, so it’s always nice to play something else and get some actual inspiration and creative juices flowing.
I went into Champions Online retail knowing that performance of the beta client had left a very nasty taste in my mouth, but I was going to try and look past it. About a day into playing, and the game’s performance is really the only knock against the game I have. The graphics are perfect for the style they’re trying for, the character customization is deserving of all the hype (if not more), the depth of character progression and customization (beyond visual) is reminiscent of Star Wars Galaxies level of options, and the combat feels fresh and “actiony,” but still enough of the traditional MMORPG feel to make me happy.
I can’t go into much more than that at this point as I’ve seriously only played an hour hear and there. I’ve been scrapping and remaking characters just to try out a few of the power-sets and I think I’ve settled on the “Telekinesis” powers, which are quite fitting for my psychological-adept, mind-game hero “The Passive-Aggresive.”
Two weeks have passed since I began playing Lineage 2. I was sucked into the game pretty hard and pretty fast, and my post count suffered becasue of it. But hey, let’s call it research.
The fact that I’m still playing and still talking about it two weeks later is a good sign, as I’ve been known to be rather A.D.D when it comes to getting into a new game. I will usually know within the first three days if I will stick around. With Lineage 2, I definitely knew within just a few hours that I wanted to start playing it as my main MMO. The trial sold me and I was at the store picking up the retail box the next day.
I’ve had an adventerous first two weeks in game, meeting some very friendly people all across the world, joining a clan, leveling a handful of characters to lvl 30+, and a scary encounter with the Demon Sword Zariche. I’ve put off writing this till I was at least 40+ on the character that I wanted to stick it out with as my main, which happens to be 1080, my Gladiator. I have some alts I will level when 0-vitality leveling gets me down (think rested xp in WoW, but in a game where every exp point is crucial) but I’m on a mission to get my Gladiator to 75, dammit. When I talk about Lineage 2, I may use some lingo and Lineage 2 terms that are foreign to anyone who doesn’t play the game, but there is so much depth and unique mechanics to Lineage 2 that are different from other MMOs that It would be a novel itself just trying to explain every one in detail. I’ll try to keep it simple.
Before I get into a categorical breakdown of the game, I felt I had to share an epic experience that was bestowed upon me late last night. I was on my Glad, just grinding away on Alligator Island, naturally just auto-looting everything that drops, when my screen begins to shake furiously and everything turns blood red. I’m transformed into some demon named Zariche who posses the Demon Sword. At the time I had no idea what madness was going on, as I stumbled to take a few screenshots and examine my transformed character. After I was hunted and killed by other players longing for the demon sword, a helpful player that I happened to take down before falling myself, filled me in on what the hell had just happened. Apparently the sword is a random drop that transforms the owner into an uber raid-boss type player. It buffs your CP (combat points) and bestows the epic weapon in your hands that will allow you to hunt the hardest monsters in the game solo, when they usually require full groups of lvl 75+ characters. Once the demon sword has dropped, every player can see it’s location on their map, so that they may track him down and take him out for it. I was told it usually takes a handful to take a Zariche player down, but I was pretty much fodder because I was 1.) a scared noob with no idea of what was going on and 2.) lvl 41 without the S-Grade ability, so I was facing debuffs just by using the S-Grade weapon. Nevertheless, it was a heart-pounding experience and it got my blood flowing. After understanding it, I just thought it was a really unique addition to the game. It adds in a sort of tag/tackle-loco type of pvp minigame into game world but still sets itself in the overarching lore of the world still.
And now the breakdown:
Presentation: What sets my current Lineage 2 impressions apart from my experiences with the game four years ago is the addition of much need polish and streamlining of the presentation. Four years ago Lineage 2 was a blatant Korean MMORPG with very little substance but a ton of grind. It was just another Korean MMORPG grind-fest where no actual sign of a game was present until you had invested a few months of killing mobs aimlessly. Over the years the dev team must have been hard at work adding content and general polish to the entire game, as it finally resembles a AAA game that is worth the retail shelf space.
The UI still feels a bit archaic, but it’s nothing you can’t get accustomed to. It doesn’t have the overall customization options or bells’n’whistles of a UI like that of World of Warcraft, but it’s minimal sleek design gets the job done once you have learned where everything is.
Graphics: Amazing. The Unreal 2 engine really shines as it shows how well it ages over time. The graphics in Lineage 2 still hold up as some of the best MMO graphics on the market, not much else to say about that, but I’ll let the screenshot gallery at the bottom of this post speak for itself.
Sound: A mixed bag, but it does the job. The actual sound design is excellent, from the sound of a soulshot loading up on your weapon to the trademark Lineage 2 critical hit noise. It may just be my nostalgia for the souns of Lineage 2, but I think it does the job. The music on the other hand is passable, decent at best. It rarely queues up and it has a tendency to just restart again whenever you enter or leave an area. I just muted the music and load up my custom MMO playlist in winamp consisting of the soundtracks from Blizzard, EVE Online, Diablo 2, Plenetside, and other various instrumental stuff on shuffle.
Gameplay: Lineage 2 is a hardcore Korean MMO, let’s get that out of the way. Similar to Final Fantasy XI, it’s going to take you a while to reach a point where you can call yourself “high level.” At the same time that this may be daunting, it also makes the feat of leveling up all that more rewarding and a feat to flaunt. One is meant to play Lineage 2 for the long haul, providing years of entertainment, as opposed to weeks or months of quick and simple gratification like more casual MMOs provide.
Lineage 2 utilizes a unique click-to-move control style that adds an old-school feel that I think of as a throwback to Diablo 2, but realized in full 3D. A player will love or hate this movement method, but there is also a clunky WASD movement option, but I would still recommend just getting used to the click-to-move. Once you get used to it, it frees up your left hand for hotkeys and chatting.
I can’t go too much into the real beef of the gameplay of Lineage 2 because the majority of the gameplay content opens up the higher you get, more so around lvl 62+.
Conclusion: I have been sucked in and addicted to Lineage 2 for the past two weeks, and I can’t think of a simpler way to convey whether or not I am enjoying the game than just saying that. That’s really the best thing a player can say about an MMO. If I barely make time to blog daily, a MMO must really be doing it’s job well.
I’ve encountered an overall friendly community both on my server and on the message boards, despite the inevitable snark and negativity towards NCsoft on the message boards, but really that’s par for the course in an MMO community. I dare you to name a single game where there arent’ angsty players venting their disgust for the developers on the official message boards.
I’ve fallen in love with the way the in-game player driven economy works, it’s like a meta-game in itself just trying to work the market and make adena (L2 currency). Some bitter long-time players may tell you the market is all corrupt with ebayers and exploits, but I haven’t been victimized by any of the corruption yet, so I really don’t mind. If some exploiter is selling a +16 D-Grade weapon for 200 million adena, how does that really effect me? I don’t care what he does with that or if he sells it, I’ll be over there having fun.
So as I progress in Lineage 2, I’ll continue to make update posts about my progression and my characters and treat you all with any exciting screenshots or tales from an in-game happening when the time comes.
Enjoy the screenshots and if you haven’t given Lineage 2 a try recently, try to get a hand on a free trial code!
|Lineage 2 Screens|
…the reality of the level, item, and gold (gil) grind is setting in on my FFXI experience.
As I near 12 on my Thief in FFXI, I’m at the point where you are expected to start forming parties to level and camping a spot to grind out kills and experience. The time-consumption that FFXI requires of you every sitting is starting to shine through the cracks. My friend Zack is admitting his long-haul doubts with the game as well, after camping/grinding with a party for two hours tonight in game. The new-car smell is fading.
Tonight I’ll be playing City of Heroes (trial) or World of Warcraft to cleanse the pallet and help myself not get too burnt out in one game. That’s the beauty of MMOs, always another you can play on any given night.
Our LAN wrapped up when we both pretty much passed out around 5 in the morning. Pretty early collapse for a LAN, but your body knows when its tired, despite a Red Bull and half a Monster (energy drink).
Before I get into the actual game experience, I feel obliged to share the hellish quest we had to endure, just to come home with one boxed copy of FFXI Vana’Diel Collection 2008. We were planning on just playing a 14-day trial, until I was greeted with a 9-hour patch upon logging in yesterday morning while waiting for Zack to arrive. Already being pretty excited to play and having some Gamestop store credit, we headed out to the closest Gamestop to check for the box. Of course, they were out.
Now keep in mind, we could have both just easily gone home after this quick defeat and used Direct2Drive, but reminiscent of a similar LAN in which a friend and I scoured the town for what seemed to be the last two copies of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, I was on a mission to land us both a boxed copy of FFXI. The whole point was to avoid a giant download time, so a digital copy wouldn’t help much. Game boxes will always reign supreme anyways, screw digital-distribution and the future of pc gaming.
We’re off to a Wal-Mart (ugh) and then Target that are on the way back by the house. Both a big negative for FFXI, but I was impressed with a little MMO-shelf type deal Wal-Mart had going on, a handful of MMO on the same shelf, even if it was lacking FFXI. Not giving up, we switch cars so I’m not wasting his gas on my quest for a tangible game box, we head all the way across town to the mall area where we find our first taste of success in a slightly weathered, open-box, form of the Vana’Diel 2008 Collection at the Gamestop in the mall. Opened, because Gamestop is apparently nazi about their pc game security, and would risk compromising a customer’s account key, just to cut down on theft. Lame.
Having already shotgunned the first copy we find, Zack still needs one and we’re off to the plethora of stores all within 2 miles of each other; Target, Circuit City, CompUSA, and Best Buy. Long story short, they’re all no-shows. Best Buy thought it was witty and had every retail copy of FFXI except the 2008 Vana’Diel collection and Circuit City apparently doesn’t get memos and had collector’s editions of both Tabula Rasa and Hellgate London along with gems like a $49.99 Archlord and Fury. GG Circuit City, you lose.
So we’re done. We’ve failed and are forced to come home half-handed (it makes sense, trust me). On to plan b: both install from my dvd, Zack buys a key on Direct2Drive. The catch, we still had a three-to-five hour patch. A three hour driving expedition has barely saved us 1 hour of patching. We’re pretty disappointed at this point, but just adapt the LAN to these changes and play some Xbox 360 and Warcraft 3 while patching.
Six paragraphs down, WTB actual FFXI impressions – amirite? Okay.
Presentation: From the mandatory PlayOnline Viewer to the console-designed control scheme of the in-game menus and navigation, FFXI may strike you as archaic in it’s presentation, but after 10 hours I consider it all part of the charm. The PlayOnline viewer is like no other login system. It sets you up with your own PlayOnline email address, you have to purchase “content IDs” instead of the regular subscription model most MMOs offer, and my favorite, the wonderfully-cliche Final Fantasy diddy playing in the background while you’re navigating the FFXI menus in the PlayOnline viewer. The menus in-game menu navigation can be cumbersome at first, but switching to a 99% keyboard playstyle like I have (and like it expects you to, with it’s default control scheme) you accept the arrow key and numpad centric setup and adapt. One of the key features of the presentation for me is the music, which I’ll get to later.
Graphics: Let’s get it out of the way, this game is coming on 7-years-old, so one shouldn’t expect Aion or Age of Conan level DirectX 10 graphics. That said, with the proper tweaking (16x AA, AF, 1920×1200 resolution) the game appears to have aged very well. It looks almost on par with Warhammer, which I’m not sure is a shot at Warhammer’s graphics or praise of FFXI’s, but either way they’re admirable graphics and worthy of being classified with the current-gen of MMOs. I would have some supplemental screenshots, but my screenshot hotkey failed me and wasn’t taking screenshots when I was attempting to capture them! But rest assured, what I have seen of Vana’Diel is beautiful. As someone who was adament that FFXI was one of the worst looking MMOs when I attempted to play it years ago, I am shocked that the graphics were not even of concern after the first few minutes in game. I had forgotten about them and let myself get lost in the game-world. Your mileage may vary, as a lot of it is just genius art design on Square-Enix’s part, but I was impressed, after having low expectations.
Sound: It’s a Final Fantasy game, need I say more? The sound effects are perfect and the music is subtle yet lingers with you as you randomly notice and admire it. My favorites being the classic combat music that queues up when you enter combat, and level up medley that excites me every time I hear it. I’m never sure what I’m more excited about, the leveling up, or the awesome diddy that plays with the “level up” spell effect.
Gameplay: Imagine a Final Fantasy that has to sacrifice a little bit of the turn-based combat, in order for it to work in an online game, but keeps all the other facets of a good jrpg and Final Fantasy. The grind, the summons, the focus on group and parties, the wariness you feel when venturing out of the city. I feel like FFXI is more like a JRPG than an MMO, which is refreshing to me. The combat is hard to describe; itt’s not twitchy, it’s not WoW combat, and you won’t be spamming fireball or sinister strike. The combat is more strategic in nature, with less emphasis on a plethora of spammable abilities and more on a staple of job abilities and weapon skills that you earn by leveling up your job and your weapon skills respectively. The combat has more depth than a deepdish pizza, but I don’t have the wherewithal or experience to really explain it in the fashion it deserves. I’m only lvl 9 and one day in so I’ve obviously only barely scratched the surface of the game.
Simply put, I’m having a blast in FFXI and it’s hooking me pretty damn well. It feels like no other MMORPG out there, with it’s mix of jrpg influences, Final Fantasy classic-touches, and semi-turn-based, strategic combat. This isn’t your little brothers MMO of actionbar spamming and twitchy combat. The old-school JRPG influences are abundant, and it truly is a Final Fantasy MMO. Final Fantasy XI has a certain charm to it’s obscurity, difficulty, and learning curve that reminds me of why I loved Star Wars Galaxies. It’s as if I know it would be a tough sell to convince an average person or casual MMO-player to play it, acknowledging that it’s not for everyone, but feeling as if it has clicked with me and get it.
More impressions are likely to come, the more time I have to play it. I’m not sure if I’ll post a “review” because I personally feel like MMORPGs are not reviewable games, but more suited for adaptable impressions. A MMORPG is never a completed product, therefore, there is no finished product for you to review. Not to mention the debatable semantics involved a reviewer trying to declare himself experienced enough in said game to be worthy of writing a wholly review of the entire product. That’s just not entirely possible.
I’ve tried and tried to give this game a fighting chance, but it just leaves me with strained eyes and a migraine.
EVE online is overloaded with text, attributes, tutorials (needs more spoken tutorials), and more text – so much so that I forget I’m playing a game, not a spreadsheet with a graphical interface. I can see the appeal in EVE, just like I can see the appeal in Starcraft for the hardcore, but It’s just not what appeals to me. I’ve also had a general disinterest in space-sim games all my life, so I’m sure that doesn’t help.
Sorry EVE Online trial, I barely knew you.
Got some time tonight to give LOTRO a few hours of my attention. It has gained some points in my book, and I’m not as down on it as I was after last night’s session.
I got my Warden to lvl 8 tonight and realized I get distracted by how beautiful the landscapes look in DX10 graphics, so much so that it distracts me from the small font/ui that bothered me so much initially. I probably played for 2 hours at least, and I’ll say i thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m trying my darnedest to get to 10 without dying, so I can get the title of “Jameseo the Undefeated.”(!)
On a side note, I got a 21-day EVE Online trial loaded up. I’m debating if I should open it up or not, for fear that it will suck me out LOTRO and cancel any momentum that LOTRO had gained on keeping my attention.
So I finally got some downtime tonight after the girlfriend passed out from sheer exhaustion (we’ve been out since 8am) and I had some time to sit down with LOTRO.
I made my little hobbit Warden Jameseo so I could see what this new tank/healer hybrid was all about. Wardens are unique in that they have this gambit system, which is similar to the rogue’s combo-points in World of Warcraft, except it allows for a little more flexibility. Instead of just building up 5 combo-points from any general attack that builds CP, the gambit system builds up two gambits, which then allows you to unleash your main gambit attack, which depends on whichever 2 gambits you had queued up in the two gambit slots, varying from direct-damage attacks, defensive attacks, and dot attacks from what I’ve read in-game. I probably did a poorer job describing it than Turbine has illustrating it in-game, but it’s seems pretty unique so far. Never really seen something like it in MMORPG class.
As far as how the game runs and looks, it’s quite good. I’m running it in DX10 mode with pretty much everything on High or Very High and I haven’t noticed very much slowdown yet. It will hiccup in a few spots when turning the camera or running to a new area, but it’s nothing compared to Warhammer’s obnoxious unreliable inconsistent performance. My main gripe with the game so far, and what could be a deal breaker for me, someone who truly believes that the devil is in the details, is the UI and how tiny and borderline illegible the font is in my native 1920×1200 resolution. I’ve never been one to need my lenses to use the computer, and I’d prefer not to start. Even as I type this I can read it just fine and it’s just simple black on white 12-point font. Having to constantly squint to read quest dialogue after quest dialogue is a real bummer for me, especially now that I’m trying to appreciate the writing in MMORPGs.
As of right now, it’s a toss up. I find myself wanting to log into Guild Wars as I play LOTRO, or even give some more trials a try (EVE online?), but I’ll definitely give it more time – these are simply just first impression ramblings from a tired man.
Merry Christmas and good night!