Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 10 2014 - Divergence film review

Just finished Divergence. My notes in chronological order: 
Movie starts off exactly like the bad narration of Superman Man of steel.
Already setting differences between "intelligent" group vs. sort of others, and creating
the protagonist with the "non intelligent grunts". A typical "Bad B movie" concept since black and
white films...

Film is sort of hunger gamesish, where the young take a "test" in their social circles. This will tell who get's cut out
of their village and into a social fitting. So far it is based on "Courage, Confidence" and other personality factors. OF course,
they put a little political spin on it like some kid is all "So you give our food to the poor? I hear you keep it for your selves".

Also, they do the hunger games "in the future but wearing peasant clothing" sort of deal.

The test involves drinking a shot of hallucinogenic drug. Where she plays with a dog. Then "fails the test" when she walks up. The "test" does not
"work" on her and she has to "trust herself". Giving it time to 'splain since we are only 15 min in.

"You have to think of the family but you also have to thing for yourself." says her brother. Her parents warn her to take care of herself because one "faction" is
putting the pressure on theirs. Since the Tris, the main character, did not get a test result, she does not know what faction to join in the graduation ceremony (where you
cut your hand and let the blood drop in a voting bowl). So she chooses at random, the most physical one (versus intelligence, etc..). They all run and train hop and take suicide jumps as
initiation etc. She seems decently adapted for it... As she arrives at her faction she takes the lead by "going first" in the imitation suicide jump (mystery hole with safety net at bottom).
I was thinking, ok, a society that separates physical people vs smart people??
Then the leader comes out: "I usually work in Intelligence but I a here to work with you". Ummm. So he is brains and brawn?? Another 1950's B film error.
SO many questions as the group of initiates settle in this new "faction". Why do they know all the customs at certain times but are "mystified" at others. Why are they learning faction propaganda
that is based on "Stand up for each other. Respect it. DO us proud"... Did they not already train all their school days for this? They already entered with the costume? IS there a school for it???
IS it really just "you are of age so you take the social test"? I could almost get into this film and have an emotion called "suspense" if they explained that they are all NEW, (like me the protagonist), but since
they did not you do not know to feel "afraid" during the tests for just the girl, or the group as a whole...IT is odd. So I am guessing and just "accepting" by filling the holes with the power of imagination.

They start training in arms and are told new recruits will be cut systematically and be faction less. Faction less people in this world live like poor. No food, social status, etc. They are seen crowded in shadows,
begging, etc.. But It is odd because even this faction she is in is not really luxurious. They live in a factory. And what about her test results?? IS there no administration in the future? Is this the future or just a different planet?
If this is the future...It is a hell of allot easiest to get into college (if this is college). Just run with the kids into the door XD

So during one of the factory training scenes, Tris has a hand to hand combat fight. We have to be nervous for her because loser gets cut. She loses the fight. They have rank board to see who is slacking. Tris is in the last rank
and she could drop out next physical test.

While discussing the "we could lose any moment. Let's get tatoos". XD I guess this IS aimed at college kid audience?

Next scenes 40 min in, training. "Your weak. You have no muscle" says trainer as he touches her. Uh oh. Possible love interest? The noobie failure Trus ans the hard core intelligence trainer?

The entire system is pretty bad. They take these 18 looking ish students and then train them hard core in strength tests. Like one girl just gets punched out. And to discipline her the trainer throws her off a bridge and she has to hang on for her life
until she is rescued. So you just have to "learn" muscle through abuse? This is the opposite of training. Also, if this is the LIFE of the future. Wouldn't it be smarter if they are inducted at birth? What is the purpose of waiting? Just to get weak unprepared students? IF they are "chosen" through
drinking hallucinogens?? Nothing is making sense other than they needed a premise for a bad script.

Allot of typical "old film" lingo: "Think he would let you off without a scratch?" Seriously waiting for "Golly, That would be swell". Not that is bad, but it feels like some one is following film 101. I blame the writers strike for the brain drain of today's forgettable films. Because honestly,
50 min. in, I already forgot what the start is about or why I should care.

So some leader admi. Chick walks in and says "congratulations, on your test". "You know my test results?" "OF course". So apparently her results were forged by the test person who helped her escape. Then she over hears "Divergers are being hunted"...Then cut scene to a battle scene. Again, unfair matches,
some guy beats Tris down and she has no marks on her... She is then disqualified from the team. I never understood the rank order. Just other guys assuming the rules. The entire candidature seemed independent and self leaders. To just bow down before the new leaders guys seemed odd and I Think what is killing this film is JUST that point.
These guys could easily over take the two "drill sergeants". Did they anticipate the military hierarchy? Are the other factions like that? Was the movie just created for our "they are all brainwashed into rank and order society, no explanation needed".???
The film kind of flops with these logical holes. Even turning brain off won't work, there are allot of plot holes and voids. Just there becuase it is "something.".
Exactly 1 HOUR in the film and NOTHING has developed. You have no sense they training has paid off. They are abused, not trained, to start with, nothing progressing there, and now 1 hour in, the only thing developing is the potential love interest. I am not sure how, but Tris gets back on the team after being banished by seeking onto the next training mission.

The training mission consists of fake SWAT tactics. Cheesy scenes like guy catches girl off guard: "Tell me if this hurts", then he looks around to see Tris behind him "You tell me" she says and shoots him. MOVIE classic error 101 again, why look around? Who tipped you off? Cheese scene for that "oompf". Trish and her team win of course.And she takes this zip line
victory ride back to base. Where she almost dies because she did not pull the brake at the end. And we see in special effects how the brake heats up when she pulls the chord....Was that necessary? Why did we get detailed shot of that? Did the audience not believe the stop was a hard one to pull off if we did not see the little animated brakes heat up? Things like this distract,
and fill the "holes" in this film. The next scene Tris passes, just barely based on that nights victory.

It has not happened to much yet, but I have a have a feeling they are going to soon fight an epic battle where they will pull off ninja fly around super man moves, based on the idea they "passed a training"..but that would be stupid as they had no real training!
AS she is packing her belongs after graduation and moving to stage 2 of training. Her mom is hiding in the station and says "look how strong you are" and touches her arm. How did she get strong??? she did nothing but get a TATOO! She did no exercise, got beat down, and ran...Confused. Did I miss something?

Her mom explains she cant tell any one her test results are divergent because divergence are hunted. And explains some people are born not prepared for social brain test culture. But so far the brain tests don't really do anything except a one time vision quest. At least 71 min. in that is the case. Of course as a while this entire premise is just used because they need to show
one simple trait: "Strength and courage through a non conformer". BUt this message is LOST and FAILED because she WANTS to conform. So she is only failing her brain test...so by conforming to a cause and wanting in, but biologically non conforming to a test sends a conflicting image. She does past her second test brain test with the best result. Creepily that is like the subliminal message you want
obama care, and you should take the medical implant to scan your info on if you want in. And how you fight and wish you had it. So far there is no true "rebel against the system". It is just abuse. Wanting the system.

80 min. in gets even more stupid. Twilight stupid. They ask her questions: and she just shakes her head and does the vague look "I dunno". Response. During a brain test she taps on a glass to break out. "How did you get out of the glass"? asks the instructor. "I dunno" she says...YOU TAPPED ON IT! Why not respond normal?

This little fact also shows they know what the tests are that are being injected. Apparently if you do not suffer in them you are a divergent and you are hunted. So if I come conclusions 80min in a 131 min film, divergence are weak, social outcasts and no power, but if they are powerful enough to not be brain tested normally than what sort of control do the successful ones have? They seem to be as equally
sane as some one that failed the test. USe the little words they add like: "Faction before blood", and this film attempts to put patriotism with chemical submissiveness and military training and...too much. Pick one. TWO at most and let the themes you want naturally be developed! The films a little too lost in itself and not wanting to step out of the 101 movie rules. Which makes you feel like you have seen
it all before. And rally...85 min now, you have...Gonna need a plot twist.

SO she gets ambushed as people get suspicious of her test results. And her lover boy faction leader saves her. Not a twist, but a very foreseeable plot line since they were flirting it up.

They explain a little now of the "dark plot" if you will. One faction leader admin chick, says "Do you like your faction? I am glad. Do you miss your family? yes? Oh well you know, Faction over blood". Tris replies: "You do not believe in human nature?" "Human nature is a weakness I want to erdaicate that to create a sustainable society. You want to help me yes?"
But how???!! Not one scene has shown that any divergence people are killed, hunted, or under threat.

How can she sentimental, much less the audience, to "divergers" if she is raised in a society where being in a social faction or death is normal? Do we just "feel bad" for divergence people because they are "outsiders?" what if outsiders are actually indeed bad for the social system? Because as of now, they just are non brain scan passers. See I would be more emotional
about the plot if they showed that passing the test actually enslaved or brainwashed people. In fact, if she was in a dram land fighting brain washing demons while trying to fight her outside social demons, THAT WOULD BE AN AWESOME FILM. Instead we get..."DO A CLOSE UP OF the rip sting brakes getting hot from the fall"...What...

Soon the love interest wants to hook up Tris and him to the same brain test to see how she functions. He apparently learns and is ok that she is a test failure after another test failure commits suicide. He wants to "prevent more deaths". Whattt? Ok, so here we go...

Just an excuse to show that her lover had a overbearing father that beat him into shape. Again, no explanation as to what these tests are, how they actually segregate others from others...and now that I am thinking about it, why did the test administrator at the start of the film permit Tris to pass knowing she failed? The error could cost her her life...oh yeah... no movie is she ended it there. You would think they would have police just outside to kill
the failures...

So then she teams up now with love interest that reveals the faction is stocking up on computer equipment and liquid to make people more susceptible to suggestive thoughts...wait...A vial of liquid? Were the mind entering computers and "see your hallucinations on the screen" not enough??? also this her big test day where the entire faction leaders get to watch her test on screen...So why not do this on the first test? What changes now? None of her training is ever used in the damn dreams.
Do the other factions do this? Especially the more "intellectual" ones? Do they have dreams of Number Munchers 3D? Whatttttt....


So to show she can break the dream without cheating. She does simple things. Like when in a glass barrier, she taps on it and it breaks. She learned she has to be more "subtle" so she stuffs the pipe pumping in water with her jacket...ta da! Out smarted! She passes the big test when told to shoot her friend to be in when she had an illusion of not being an illusion. She pulled the trigger and is in the real world.

So the next day, they are in line and get a neck shot of a motion tracker before really being accepted in the faction. Then that night, everyone gets up like zombies and packs into a train. We now learn the entire test was to give up your brain to be controlled by the military. Her and her BF have to act "brain washed" and march with the zombies as they grab guns and get packed into a train and sent to some urban district and sent to massacre the innocent "divergent humans" or humans that can't be enslaved.
She wants to find her parents. So she breaks off her troops to find em. Now, at this point "OHH IT ALL MAKES SENSE" kicks in. But does it really? Was this brain washing a result of the brain tests? or the Tracking device. The tracking device was a "new procedure" so obviously that was the factor. So in her attempt to find parents she is discovered because boyfriend had an ego trip when a superior faced them. They are taken directly to the evil admin. office where, typically, we pose questions and get answers: "Why are you killing these innocent people"?
And she explains "to clean human nature and restore peace". What? There was a war? there is a war? faction war? there was never a faction war shown. In fact, it is chosen at college level so it works together what? what? just excuses to fight what?

She gets taken out to get executed by 4 guys... her mom saves her.

Mom and daughter team then fight to survive. Time to find father even though mom just said "he is ok". What?

Mom gets a new air hole as she is shot through and dies. Guess being in a B spring film is killer ehehehe.

So now Tis runs around. Oh we area ll equally as lost as her. So, what is important? her BF? finding dad? exposing the faction? stopping the faction? finding out what is brain draining the people? What is going on? Oh well, she has a gun and is off to save dad, all that matters last 20 min of a film I guess..

She has a master plan to gather her dad and rest of survivors of the attack, well apparently just her dad and her bro... to attack "the fortress". XD

Now she tries to get into "Im tough revenge" mode, and her character was all" DURHHH" Twilight chick mode. It feels strange now and she plays it bad.

Her dad clears a room of guards blocking the "brain control room". And dies in the process. XD

Just a brother left now. She is in the brain room. Repeat. She is in the brain room.

Oh gosh, her BF is strapped to a chair, and the evil chick comes in explaining his brain is washed and is on her side now. She does the typical villan "LEt me explain all muahahah". And she says he is chemically controlled and walks out and some dude starts typing a kayboard and commands the BF to attack her.

She turns the gun on her self and gives it to BF because his weakness was that he can not be controlled to kill an innocent in his brain tests, so he snaps out of it, and the project fails, so evil chick starts pressing more random buttons as guards get beat down. Yes...FIlm 101...

Evil girl tries to program all soldiers to kill all innocents on the field before Tris and BF beat her down. She refuses and says willing to die. Tris finds a "suggestion" fluid gun so randomly on the floor, and uses in on evil chick: "I am not dumb, I am divergent". And evil chick starts crying and panicking because
her PC is broke. She tries to do a final attack, and gets pucnhed out. Then BF and Tris run, and just leave Evil lady on the floor. Yes, Divergent does actually mean DUMB despite what she just so wittily said. Why leave the bad guy alive??? she killed closer friends for her cuase than this evil chick, there is no reason to leave her alive! Stupid. Squeal time?

And then the end she leaves on teh train in peace and talks about a world with no faction. BF says "I know exactly who you are". "Are you sure about that?" "yeah". Then she does a little speech about not having a faction, but having each other and not knowing where to go but, like a faction they will take a chance and just jump..WHAT??????????????

So yeah,
That is the entire movie. It was not TOO bad, and I saw worse this year. And in general I like the music and concept was engaged just enough by it. But there are so many hiccups and plot holes and questions that it sort of ruins the over all experience for me.
I would say watch it. Why not. No one actor really stands out. No one anything is memorable, but I was just talking about with some one how hunger games 2 should have been about her life in the "rich land" and get befriended and then betrayed and fight her way out, instead of that stupid battle royal ending. If this film was called
Hunger Games 2 and about how to abduct people into hunger games while the chick was learning things on the rich society, that would have been cool; This film had the concept of how to realize that, but since it is to late...you get pooddiddles. But not that bad. I sort of recommend it, viewer be advised, no depth. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 3 2014 - XAOC Online review levels 15-20

Hello everyone and welcome to the next installment of the X.A.O.C. evolving review. Those not familiar with this kind of review: I take a game, try to get as far as end game as possible (or burn out) and change the score each tier level. Last time I did a review of levels 1 - 15 experience and gave X.A.O.C. online a 3/5. The new player experience was very standard fare. So standard I did not understand a single word of Japanese but was able to navigate through the entire game without problem by guessing what all the standard buttons, gifts, and menu's do. 
I have matured a bit. Level 20 now and some more map explored. So that leaves the question, will this game get a better score? become worse? or stay the same? Read on to find out!



Here are my notes in chronological order:

Voice acting cut out in my dungeon run. - Last I left off in the game was at level 15 and I had just discovered my first "dungeon" experience. This operate very interestingly. The are more of an instanced story based mission as opposed to a cave in the side of a mountain with a boss in it. The dungeon was brought to me by talking to an NPC next to a mystical statue who teleports me to "another conscious" a sort of instanced in place gathering place for "dungeon groups". I say "in place" because we are in the SAME place, before accepting his teleport and watching the loading screen. However, once loaded two things are different, the color of the sky is a little darker, and there is now a creepy little girl demon/god NPC.
This instanced area is not "private" as I will see a few other players zone in and out. Once you talk to the child thing, she offers a list of "episode dungeons". You can enter or create a LFG in the LFG tool she offers. Or you can go it alone solo. Again, I learned all this without understanding a single word of Japanese and just logically taking in the presentation and pressing buttons. Once I selected the first "dungeon" from the graphical list, I was taken to an introduction story then placed in the map. So as you can see, this game sticks to it's very story powered progression. Sadly, as I mention in my first review, this leaves me sad since I do not speak the language. On the other hand, as I mentioned again, just by watching, I think I know what is going on and that leaves me wondering: "Ok, if just looking at this and getting a general idea, I can almost bet you the story, once translated, is probably NOT all that interesting but typical bad guy vs good guy". But I regress, because some times the story takes odd turns and strange bosses end up being your friends etc...

From what I gather: You are beings in a sort of middle world. Neither dead nor alive and you help those that die not be trapped in the middle land...I think. I say this because random ghost children and crying ghosts seem to be wondering. Demons appear and take away some people. And I pray for good spirits to part their way. There is allot of spiritual and religious themes in this game. I do not know how much actually reflect traditional Chinese religious, but made up or real, this game offers a very unique angle to mmorpgs. Temples to worship. Praying over dead enemies to get points as their souls leave, and other things like this tie in with the story of the game, and mob and NPC design. So...that is what I would hope to learn more of by fully understanding this game.

That said, I can see why this game could be delayed coming to US. To many sensitive people will cry "It is to mature". There are NPC's that have skewers in the mouth (a religious practice), strange sacrifices including dead hogs, and human corpses attached to odd demon animals...yeahhhh...
Back to the dungeons! So I said the story driven themes are great! But once inside, it is the smae lay out as that dungeon that is a cave in the side of a mountain...very linear and so far very predictable. One thing I did not like as I started doing more and more... the voice scripting cut out! This game was rewarded with "Japanese top singer does voice song for this game" and other top quality notes to get people in. And yeah, that was cool for the first few dungeons but later on it just STOPS! Sad.

Allot of cheap pantie shots - Oh gosh...I feel odd saying this: There is an elegent way to do pantie shots in games/ anime / manga...and then there is just a "do it because we can" way. This game sort of balances the fine line and often allot of cut scenes shamelessly just zip the camera right between the legs of our NPC friends. Very in your face: "they just doing that because they can" moments. In fact, sometimes I was dragged into the story and what was happening then suddenly, oh god, getting close, what? PANTIES!!! Woooo! LOL.

Dungeon experience typical. Again, allot of story intor and outtro. Nothing to exceptional. Very linear like the world map so far. The boss fights are not spectacular. Dodging does nothing and one my third dungeon, I learned I can just stand there and tank and dodge by glitching the damage by spamming a special move. -

Back to the dungeon (after that little panties raid break). Yeah, levels 15+ got me hanging out in the dungeons probably longer than most people would. I wanted to test each one and see what it was all about. One thing I noticed on these lower tier dungeons is that they are very linear with not allot of dynamic things to do. Sometimes a broken bridge to jump over...mini boss here n there. Kill all mobs to unlock next door. Things like that. Otherwise just hall way to hallway to next big room. This is a reflection of the world map so far...more on that later.



The boss fights are a bore. This is an open action combat game and it suffers like all open action games do: Bad hit boxes. I have never played a full open action combat game that get their hit boxes down. TERA was the closest to perfect, but had a few issues (thankfully mostly in the players favor)... For example, boss is about to swing! I dodge slide to the right out of range, and I still take damage! It works both ways, sometimes I swing my swords a mile away and the boss takes damage... The boss attacks are typical, "I am winding up for a big hit! Better DODGE!"... In this game the hot box + scale design is kind of off in boss fights. The monster is so big that 1 full slide can not really clear the way. And if I run it just drags out the fight...So I just stood there spamming potions and tanking. Some fights I actually took more damage dodging and running, then just standing there and avoiding the hit box by spamming a special move at the right time...To sum it up. Broken excuse for open action boss fight. Kind of a let down. The good part is, the bosses are cool looking. And again, they are apart of a bigger story told before and after the dungeon. This is where you are divided, the actual fight and interaction sucks, but the story is good so do I feel bad or good about this??? Also, all is soloable right now and I enjoyed that because NO PLAYERS are doing low level content on JP version.

Later on, I will have reahed the final episode boss fight for this noob part of the map, and after I beat the two bosses, the game bugs and the bosses just stand there...Alive but dead... and the game does not go anywhere.... I can whack at them for infinity and the quest will not progress. There is nothing int the room to do and I had to quit the client and relog to get back in. Was a huge let down.

Speaking of glitches, mobs that get pushed or run into walls is common and feels buggy. - I noticed this early in the PVE parts of the game. Allot of NPCS with their legs half buried. Mobs that walk in and out of edge of walls etc... but it really is noticeable in the dungeons. One dungeon for my levels was really annoying as there are these troll like mobs and one jumps and hops away in hopes you agro the next mob. As he does so, he can easily just hop right into the walls disappearing off map and target. Thakfully I personally have not been stuck any where but it is very frustrating to have your mobs go into the walls.

New kinds of dungeon? - I was questing when I came across an NPC beside the "cave in the side of mountain" looking swirly portal. Obviously she had quests to go in and I took it. Once inside, I noticed the mobs actually a little harder than the "episode dungeon" mobs yet this instance was very small, literally only one room size. Again, I could not read anything, but by the nature of what I was doing, I had to gather plants, kill X number of mobs and do other little things. It even had a rest area like the PVE stuff so I am assuming this is more like an instanved PvE dungeon thing, and again, all on the back of the story of this certain NPC. SO there you have it, 2 kinds of instanced challenging scenarios that are like Dungeons, this one did not have a boss though, so that is different, but the reward loot was good and farming these mobs can give you some nice EXP, although you do not need to farm so far. Levels 1 - 20 all exp comes from questing in large amounts, although, since combat consists of grouping up enemies and chopping em down... Sometimes I grind out a level or two in mob farming if I find a good spot.

SP or magic points are created by dividing health by another factor I believe. One of the most bizzare and often gimped
magic systems. - This is where know what the text says comes into play. Sadly, I can not read all the technical text. I use an OCR program to recognize words and that helps me in general, but it can take time and sometimes I am still lost. Basically, I started off with obvious HP bar, an SP bar that is "energy" for things like charged moves, running, and sliding. Normal. I killed so effectively that is all I cared about levels 1-15, but now as I push on into the 20's, I have allot more spells as I purchase spells and move along the skill tree. They are now eating my "mana". How this mana is regenerated is a mystery to me. To make matters worse, there is no recharge rate really, so you basically have to rely on potions, and meals, and other consumable goods. Regeneration works odd. Sometimes it just will not kic in durring a fight. SOmetimes it does... Sometimes it takes a few minutes. Some times it does not... There is no "sit" function so I am not sure what is the best way to regen. Just yesterday I accidently held down "E" button and I seemed to have been doing this weird charge thing and I swore I saw my mana go up. So, next review, I will verify all these systems a little more. But all in all... I am not a fan of the amount of consumables there are (making you HAVE to get into a profession to make more or cash shop the OP ones). It is not a problem now, but I can see the abuse mechanics in place. 

That said, I also got into upgrading a little bit. It reminds me of Dragons Nest a bit. You can modify some things on the fly by opening the tool kit, placing item, adding the items and watching the stats go up. It can fail and give you that same Dragon Nest sound of "clunk" metal failing. Thankfully, I did not lose my item (like in DN). There are NPC vendors that have other options as well. All and all I was lost! This is where I HAVE to know what is being said because just looking and pressing buttons might not work here. This is mostly due to the tools. They are not workbenches or other things to identify easily, they are these weird looking metallic alien object things you put your armor in and good luck! I learned one gives + stats to items...but there are at least 4 other machines to tweak your armor in...I tell you what. I will collect trash loot and spend my cash in the system to see what they do and update in an article on how all these things work! 

That said, I did scratch the surface of jobs. The crafting etc. exists, and I cam across it by accident by an NPC. By the way, you probably will not even notice this in the first few major towns. It was not until later in the town that gives level 15 and 19 quests (sorry, no idea the name of the town, but it is the 4th town you will discover on the map to the north...Assuming we all start in the same place...which we probably do not, but I am sure this is probably the same for all races....later town will have crafting available if not right away). It seemed straight forward but typically gets pricy.

Economy is starting to take it's sting on me. Buying skills is getting expensive. I fluctuate between 4 and 7 gold every 2 levels of questing and dungeon run. Then I drop down to near nothing after skill purchase and upgrades! I could not afford to buy all crafting skills (1 gold each) as I only had 4 gold when I met this NPC. Pay attention to gold levels. You do not need to know Japanese to speak money. The prices are very clear. All of this, the crafting, slotting, modifying, etc. Seems very acceptable and rich enough for the F2Per. However, it is very obvious the little menu to "add guaranteed success" item to the process. Every aspect, no matter what you are doing seems to have this. Leaving this game a very nickle and dime to success. I would love to see the success rates. I can guarantee they are more than likely abused. The big question is, is this only effecting end game pvp? pve? Dungeons? Or nothing all but just fluff damage to make things "easier"?

Cash shops gifts as I level are great! I have so much inventory space! - They are generous! Every level and log in day gives rewards. Either potions, foods, and most importantly, STORAGE SPACE! I have so much space so far it is great! On the other hand, you do get items at a fast rate so it gets packed QUICKLY! But never fear, space and bank sotrage space so far is never a problem! 

Mounts are a nice touch! I had a cool pig mount that expired recently, but then got a nice wold mount. I hope it is permanent mount!


The game has huge fluff factor. The illusion od speed using the camera angles etc..IS not at all that impressive on the mini map. Leaving mounts and tpical mmorpg boosts the best option to go for. I am divided on how I feel about that. This game really is betting on you staying and enjoying it through looks, not necessarily gameplay. But then again, the game play is just engaging enough to keep interest. IT has allot of elements of other games. The linear hallways and run back and forth techniques are nothing new. However the environment and the story are very interesting. Again, since I understand nothing, it could be a very UNINSTERESTING story.- This sort of wraps up my level 20 experience. I like what I am doing and seeing, but there is this very theme park shallow water ride. Where everything above the boat is an illusion to make you think the boat is in a giant ocean. When the fact is, the boat is in 2 feet of water on a rail... The speed of combat fast and you can cut through mobs like butter. But it is not really speeding up the leveling or combat any faster than any other mmorpg I am playing. That said I just now equipped 3 different weapons, and can switch on the go and build in new skills, so will this combat evolve to epic levels later on? These are the little hooks that keep me going.

The illusion of speed is sneaky. You can run, and it creates this blurry effect, and yeah it looks fast, but if you look at the mini map, you are not really covering to much land to quickly. The mounts are by far the fastest way to travel. After mounts and running, the walk speed is HORRIBLE! Sometimes I park and go AFK just to wait for SP to get back up so I can run the next length of the map instead of walk it. It is just to torcherous now. At first I did not notice, but once spoiled, I NEED a mount...oh god, and if the mounts are temporary...and perms in the cash shop?? nooooo!!! The F2P hook!  But I regress, I need to find out if there is a mount vendor and if my wolf gift is perm. But yeah, I have seen enough hentai errrr F2P to know where this is going...screwed! 


I have also explored bathing, cooking tea, and pets... let me back up. Bathing consists of finding hot tubs located around the map. They are unique and offer a cool little "side game" to the game...until the point it almost becomes necessary. They give a fun social aspect (if I was not forever alone) and of course...Boosts! Resting in one will give SP boosts and other boosts. Buying little items from the hot tob vendor boosts your stats as well. I was given a cash shop item that gave me boosts if I used a certain towel while bating. Again, a menu opens up and slots everywhere to accommodate my hot tub experience...
Cooking tea! On the go anywhere on the map you can stop, and click on a tea pot. There are several kinds of tea pots of all kinds of quality and looks. You start a fire and sit down to enjoy brewing tea. You pick and collect tea leaves around the map. Combine tea leaves with other stuff. Torch the pot, measure the temperature, measure the cool down, time the pour, mix, drink, test, your cups are rated and you get rewards and achievements for making fine tea...and of course...food items to eat that create buffs. What does this mean? More cash items, more in game gold to spend on things and lots more menus to slot things to accommodate my tea cooking experience...

Pets! I got a baby duck thing! I have no idea what all the features do as it is big mish mash of menus and epxlinations! I sort of got the hang of some features. I think it helps loot, possibly attack, it levels up using these point thingys, it can run and do dungeon runs returning with crafting items I THINK (like star trek duty officers)... I think that is what is happening. One thing is for sure! Feeding it! and more slots in menus to accommodate my pet experience...
Again, I have no idea at what lengths these are abused or Pay to win in the cash shop. Mostly because I can not read. But I will tell you for sure when my gaming experience becomes difficult because I do not have "+ 99" on an item. It could or could not arrive. Time will tell!

And now it is time for the conclusion and score of level 15 - 20 experience:
This is actually very hard to determine. I am loving my general experience based on the unique look of the game. The combat is nice and rewarding and wielding sexy weapons on my sexy body is a pleasure to look at and take screen shots of...but the combat itself is not fluid. It is rather rigid, clunky, and sometimes glitchy. 
The map is linear and I am progressing very linear and interior of dungeons are boring lay outs. That said, the game is beautiful to look at and each place is a thrill to explore. Good god it feels good to break the "forest - desert - plains" of all the mmorpgs. XAOC has cool urban areas, rich cultural themes, and plays big on the fantasy scheme as well through it's unique lore of demons and phantoms. The story is rich and there are more than enough cut scenes to keep your eyes peeled on. I can jump and glide, but feels odd when you are crammed down corridors and alley ways. Some times you figh ton roof tops, but when it is obvious. Trying to hop to out of range mountain tops is a no no, and running off getting lost will never happen. 

As I progress in stats and points, I also am feeling the cash squeeze in game gold. I have to play smart. Farming wields great wealth and is generally a fast experience. How this will actually play out later on is key. It can get worse, abused, or better and enriching or just keep us responsible shoppers. I am not a fan of all the mini menus to add little items and manage all the little consumable bottles, icons, foods, clicky items.
Crafting is opening up and there seems to be a little of something for everyone here. As of now, the game holds it's score of 3/5. A very decent standard MMORPG with it's weaknesses and strengths. It's strengths are seducing and appealing. It's weaknesses have me exceptionally worried for future levels. See you next review levels 20-25 (or 30 depending on the speed of leveling) where I will try and get more into PvP as well.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 2014 - XAOC REVIEW

Hello again my friends, random viewers, followers, and all other creatures! Welcome to my latest evolving review! Last time I checked out Japanese version of Phantasy Star Online 2 and it seems I can not escape Japan! This next review is straight out of Japan from the publisher USERJOY JAPAN. I present you X A O C, the mmorpg. I will give you my impressions here in the first 15 levels and rate the game based on this experience. Later, I will update the score as I progress in the game, with hopes to reach end game and offer a final over all score.
Without further wait, here is the review:

Small intro and installation guide: 
This will be the third "make it to end game" mmorpg, or evolving review I do, and this is my limit. I am currently running Phantasy Star and Ever Quest 2, which you can find by clicking on my profile. Adding this to the line up means I alternate weeks on playing each game to get a little farther. I found this game after I thought "I had a successfull install on PSO2 Japan, so what else are the Japanese playing that we are not, and am only blocked by the language barrier?" VoilĂ ! X A O C. Now, for all you in the know people out there, I have no idea if this is a manga, or a graphic novel, or an anime that currently exists and translated into a MMORPG, or if it was a project to launch both an anime and a MMORPG at the same time. So sorry if I make no reference to the anime/manga/etc.. This is a review based solely on one guy, logging in, and playing an mmorpg.

There are two playable versions:
Chinese (Taiwan): http://www.xaoc.tw/official/Japanese (parent publisher, I think they are first to get updates): http://xaoc.ujj.co.jp/
 
"How can we get in Nanbo?" - Here is an install guide, and believe me it is WAY easier than the PSO 2 guide I gave you. First of all, it is not in English, well it sort of is, some text is in English, but over all, unlike PSO2, you are installing and running the raw Jp version and not an English client. So here is the sign up page.
After you do all that, you are taken to a screen that has a CODE: box. If your google translate is turned off, it is basically asking you to go to your email you registered and verify the account by copy and pasting the code here. After that, you are IN! Easy! The hardest part is the CAPTCHA image. It took me over 10 tries to get it down. I suggest going here: http://www.lexilogos.com/keyboard/hiragana.htm
This will allow you to hunt down the images, type them in, then copy and paste them over to the game site. Good Luck!

Character Creation:
Again, have Google translate turned on and check out the class and race / family selection here: http://www.xaoc.tw/official/game.html 
Now, once in game, you will find the selection of characters divided by family group or "gang" group if you will. There is a little photo to show your place of birth and a brief background story. Since I cannot read the langauge, I just looked at the photos, but you will notice the family names are in English. This is something that will be evident int he entire game/ Mix of English and Japanese. So you are slightly...very slightly, guided a bit. This also looks to be gender locked where you are picking "character's" of a specific story role. This also sort of locks the class by character role. For example, each character has about 4 out of 8 class choices. For example, Female X in Family X can be a healer, mage, druid, pole user. While female X in Family X can be warrior, rogue, hunter, fighter. While in another family, a male plays that role. So they change it up a bit and I was kind of stuck. I wanted to be a gun slinger that uses blades as a woman. But I only saw the first family male that had the gun slinger skills. Knowing that was not the case, I gave up finding the other female gun slinger, because I did not like the look of the other females in the other families, but I settled for a beautiful dual wielding katana swinging chick (Family Galasu, that also seemed to have a more "elf" nature like birthplace). 
Did I say beautiful? Yes! Because this game has beautiful character models! They are exceptionally 3D, and the color palette used for this game is GENIUS! I love the color choice! It makes for a very dark, deep, rich, yet colorful enough world that seems torn right out of a manga/anime! In general, most "anime" mmorpgs have the over bright color pallets, cutsie wootsie models, and just over all simplistic design. No matter what anime title I play, as a 30+ year old gamer, I always feel "pedo bear" in these games, like I broke into some 12 year old's dream land and I just can not take 99% of the anime games seriously. That said, there is always a little "anime touch" in most newer games. Blade and Soul, Phantasy Star, etc.. they have violent adult themes, and give that sort of "round face and eyes" look on a very 3D rendered body. And this is ok by me. I can handle adult looking anime style over child like avatars running around. 
 
That said, this game SHINES! It is very evident in the character creation that this game put allot of effort to stand out. And I do not know any game that looks like this! Character creation is a bit standard. No slider bars. Just simple buttons you press over and over to cycle through the styles. Check out the image below, the buttons are in English. It is as easy as that, just press the buttons and stop at the choice you like. There were only about 5 face choices, and 12 hair pieces. It is a little limited, but there was just enough to satisfy. And what they offer is very cool looking, so I was pleased with my choices. It is just a little let down there was not more to it. But for an "anime" game, there was more than enough.

Game play:
 This game starts off with cutscenes and animations and is very well presented. And before I continue any further, I have to say, this game is HEAVILY story driven. Which is sad, because to get the most out of it, we have to understand the language. Since I do not, I was just sitting there watching these cool cut scenes, and action scenes and making up my own story. However, the way the things were unfolding visually, I was pretty much filling in the holes with standard mmorpg lore, and it did not seem so "strange" after all. There was a woman in distress, a strong man to save her. A monster threatening the troops. My "support" to a general fighting off enemies. Some crazy tribe doing something. I was starting to think to myself, "if I can understand most of what is going on, and just by images, I can bet that this story probably is not as deep and of generic stock." So, do not feel bad if you cannot read it. It will play out VERY understandable. There are, of course, some details I was totaly lost on and would really like to know. There were momments: "Who is that priest with a dead pig hanging on his wall with followers that have skewers sticking out of their cheeks?" "Who is that little girl that has god like level offering me dungeon runs?" "Wtf is really going on now!" Hahaha! It has some very serious and dark moments, and I really wished I knew what was being said. But over all, I had the general theme down. "Me and my family and army in a town being attacked. Support the family and fight off bad guys in noob quests in the village". After all that was settled the tutorial was over, and the game started (with more cut scenes, opening credits, etc..). I then found myself in the open world starting village.
If this is your first mmorpg and you do not speak the game clients language, do not play this. If you are VERY familiar with mmorp UI, and how games work, play it! I say that because everything that I did not know, I just followed my MMORPG intuition to discover it. For example, I found out that death creates armor break down, and to repair it, I go to the shop (shown by bag icon) and there is a little hammer icon at the top to repair your armor. I navigated the option menus like a boss, and set my video settings, skills, stats, etc like a boss! IF you are not familiar with skill trees and opening and reading numbers on them, you will be lost. It took allot of button pressing and random results to figure things out. In fact, I accidentally missed the end of the starting story by accidentally hearthing out to the main village prematurely. I had noob gift items I could not read, so I looked at the little numbers: "100HP" was obviously an HP scroll. Other items I had NO IDEA, and just clicked them. I will learn some first player items are bag extensions. by level 5 I had unlocked ALL my inventory slots that were locked! Woohoo! I even increased my bank size and had other nice items! Again, sharp eye, mmorpg background and trial and error in the first 5 levels, and then you are off playing like a pro!
Movement, you have 2 choices. Classic mmorpg movement with mouse right click to hold and turn screen, or Camera targeting (TERA like) where you move by moving the mouse around and ALT pops up the mouse cursor. The game is very "ACTION" non target combat based. It would probably feel great with a controller. You hold SHIFT to charge, double jump, glide, run roll slash, and you have all kinds of attacks around the WASD movement. "G" slashes (same as left click) "R" does a power move, and if held, does a charge and big damage slash. "V" changes weapons. IF you played Phantasy Staro Online, you will see these Japanese games love to over load you with weapons. I have 4 weapon loud outs. Daggers, katanas, dual swords, and large sword. You get them all in the start tutorial, but once in the actual game you only start off with your main class set, so I had only dual swords. But V or pressing on the icon, will change out my weapon loads when I need them. There are a few other movement options but one things I found was that the game was super mooth and I enjoyed the movement and combat.
  The UI is VERY simple. Character menu with equipment slots and stats to look at. Skills, there are no skill trees, but a skill list, and you buy skills with gold to learn. And that is about it. Not to deep, so more emphasis on your combat and story then digging through menu's. I am not sure if there is crafting. I saw no menu's and the only gathering item seemed to be tea leaves. The only other activity outside of questing was making tea (from tea leaves that drop from mobs) and hanging out in the bath houses. Both are pretty damn cool and graphically pleasing.
As serious and dark tone this game may have, the "anime" side is not very far off. The eccentric NPC's we meet, the little story animations, etc.. One such point was my temporary mount. A little pig with seat, box, little items and scrolls hanging all over. This game goes all out in details, and there can be found humorist touches! I love the richness in this. 
All is not fireworks and sensation though. Once in the open world starting out in the game, you will experience very stale quest lay out. The world is rich and nice to run around in, but the first 15 quests only test your ability to jump (have to jump on a ledge to get an item), and to fight. I have seen the intro to Blade and Soul, and you are tested to leap off giant ledges, gliding your way down to success. In this game, we have glide, but no level design compliments this. It is very "point A to point B" on flat land, with a few stairs and ledges. Nothing really pushing me to explore and feel out my character. This could change later on. One thing about Japanese games is they like to build you up...and up...and up, then when you are gleaming with weapons, new looks, and abilities, they let you loose in the content filled maps. So, perhaps the map and enemy diversification will be unlocked as soon a s I push out of this starter village. But as for now, I was kind of sad I did not have "glide from this place to that" as I do a story thing. Or use my beam running skills to hop from roof to roof. 

The quests start off one by one. I got stuck on one level 3 quest because I did not understand what to do. Soon, I got it down, and pushed off. Another quest I did not understand, either. There is no auto quest or map ping of where to go. But instead, if you have the quest "followed" and listed on the right hand side, there is a little arrow with the distance. And if you line up your arrow in the mini map with the arrow of the quest, you will head in the general direction of where the quest is supposed to be done. Once I got to a new place I was not sure what to do. I just saw 0/3...the rest in japanese. So, I started farming the mobs. After 1 hour of farming...Still "0/3"...Then I tried using a OCR program, that translates text if I hover the mouse over words. I then got an idea of what to do. I press "Q" over dead enemies and a little prayer meter appears, once prayed over, a little soul balls enters you...And I completed the quest and learned a new game feature...but I have no idea what the spirit ball actually gives me...eheheh! The Japanese translation in English: "A confrontation gambeling gang to success enter in nirvana or after death". So I though I was supposed to die to collect 3 of something. I killed myself (upon death you can respawn at death temple, or return to corpse as a floating lantern). I floated back, found nothing, and just respawned...I was lost...then I saw "Q" ...so yeah...I think the Chinese version might be more easier to translate using OCR programs. But that is just one little hang up. The rest of the quest were very smooth and I am having fun. Again, VERY story driven. 
One thing I like, every armor and weapon piece has it's own graphical look. At level 15 I have a new weapon set, shirt, and arms piece. Very cool looking and I imagine will only get better.

Combat
This games combat is pretty solid. Action non targeting combat. It can have a but of a "floaty" feel. Not as bad as Guild Wars 2, but not as good as TERA. Somewhere in between. First mobs so far die easy, and mini bosses I find drop fairly fast. One thing I did not like was that the dodge system is basically useless so far. Dodging was not at all effective, and just standing there attacking saves time. Well...I actually do like this in mob fighitng, but not boss fights. For example, TERA tires me out, when I have to DODGE every single enemy to avoid a stun or negative effect. Sometimes I did not want EVERY fight to be "epic". I mean, come on, dodging "rat" when you need 10 of them gets tiring and burns fingers out fast. But TERA has awesome boss BAM and boss encounters where dodging gives life to combat. XAOC sort of balances this. So far, just attacking is fine...but I know my Japanese games now thanks to PSO2, and I can rpedict later on, things will get hard, boss battles will be epic, and life will depend on the dodge...we will see in the next reviews.
  You have an energy bar that drains when running, or using charged attacks. it refill's generally fast, it is just there to stop abuse of power moves. Your HP refils slower, and only when you run out of battle. One of my first skills is heal. That helped to get things moving faster. Again, all and all, most enemies did not really pose that much danger. And it is fun slapping a group of 5 and just cutting them all down.
Until I start getting more weapons attached to my body, I just have standard attacks so far. My next review I hope to have at least some new skills, and weapons to show off. 
Graphics and Sound: 
This game had screenshot issues. It would save sometimes, not all the time I pressed the button. I also had a hard time saving the screens I Took in game. This game is beautiful and I suggest looking at some videos online. MY screenshots are not justice. But at least you see what this game is offering! A very rich and unique looking world.
The sounds were fine. Allot of voice scripting, battle cries and shouts, and cute little sounds as I stood next to the pet shop vendor, ehehe! My only complaint is the general music would sometimes clash with the completion music. There is this sort of tune that plays after accepting a quest or turning something in or completing something...that would play a little to long and bleed onto the general music plain. It was bad enough for me to stop and ask myself "wtf is that noise? Is the music broke?" 
  The loading files, game files, and several in game files are all in English. This pisses me off because I know this can easily be an English game and greedy contracts negotiations are the only thing keeping the global version being released! Grrrr. 
Conclusion:
I had fun! The game is rich in looks, has rewarding combat, smooth UI, easy to pick up and go systems. I feel like I have this game down despite that fact I know not a single word that is written. I enjoy the adult themes, including blood, sacrifices, and other strange cultural references.
 On the other hand, I also have a feeling the story might not be THAT deep. The over all presentation could have been a little better. Starting off in a tutorial that did nothing but show off it's graphics and help noobs move was nice, but once in the real game world, the first 15 levels consisted of talking, killing X, escorting, gathering items, and other very very typical mmorpg elements. I would have prefered somethign JUST a little more dynamic, like I have seen in Blade and Soul. Something to get my glide out, something other than point A and B with mobs all over. But that could all change, and I already hit a very interesting part of the game (first dungeon invitation). So we will see! As of now, I give this game a 3/5. Beautiful standard game play with a few perks. 
  Check me out next review levels 16-30. Will the game raise in score? Fall? Or remain the same? See you there!