Monday, March 19, 2018

Monster Hunter: World Further Thoughts (MM36)

Infinite Replayability
I'm clearly obsessed with MH: World and started a new playthrough focusing on the lance. Since every single video showed how destructive and lethal the Charge Blade's Guard Points (GP) are, I really want to get down GP, but failed miserably except in the controlled training room setting, which never quite translates in real hunts. Who doesn't want to be able to GP which lead to stunning AND damaging him at the same time, as well as even charging phials?

So, fed up with not getting down GPs, I've decided to dabble with the lance. My thinking was that if I pursue a Guard Lance playstyle, I'll spend more time guarding (and at times evading when the situation calls for it), as opposed to dodging. By focusing on timing guards using the Lance, this will help me transition smoothly into CB's guard points.

Indeed, I was using the defensive part of Charge Blade like the Switch Axe (SA). Since the SA doesn't have a shield, the defensive maneuvers consist of dodging. The rationale of the CB, having a powerful shield component, is to use the shield to guard, but even then it doesn't have the destructive power of GP's parry and riposte type system. But still, the shield is there to block so it's reasonable to just guard as a CB wielder.

However, to really master CB, you need to get down GPs, but again, you don't need to even use CB's shield at all to get through the game. In fact, a lot of the time, I whiff on the most powerful attack (Super-Amped Elemental Discharge), and yet I was able to beat all missions (except the very last) with unoptimized armor (Fashion Hunter).

But, MH: World is the type of game where you really want to get better and master your weapon of choice, even though not necessary, which is one of the reasons why this game is a masterpice.

At any rate, this is a roundabout way of saying that MH:World has Infinite Replayability. For one thing, anyone can always get better at their weapon of choice, but once you get bored, you can go to another weapon, and the game really feels like a totally different one!

Improvements: Character Creation, Weapon/Armor Design, and Tutorials

The major improvement is inclusion of more monsters, which I covered in last Monday Musing's post, but here are some additional enhancements that I'd like to see:

Character Creation
If you want to switch to a different weapon, there's NO need to start all over again like I did. Initially for my main CB character, Niki after my orange tabby, when I decided to try out the lance, I wore the starting leather set and wield the starting lance, fighting low-rank Jagras and then Kulu-Yaku, the first two major monsters in the game, so I can work my way up by learning the basics like you do at the start of the game. I had to leave behind my trusty Palico Ninja, since a level 30 kitty is quite OP in low-rank.

However, in the end, I decided to switch roles so my main character is Ninja (ironic since the hunter is fearless, and Ninja's scared of her own shadow) and my trusty Palico, Niki so I can make an orange tabby. But in order to make these various changes, I had to make a whole new file.

I was upset that this game is following the bad MMO tradition of charging you real money just to change your character's appearance. They gave us a one-time free voucher, but you can only change your character, but not names, and you certainly can't change your Palico. If you make a mistake with this free voucher and want to change yet again, you have to purchase, with REAL money (not in-game dollars), more vouchers.

So a huge improvement would be the ability to change your character and Palico's appearances and genders, as well as their names. I really don't see the issue of being able to change them anytime you want, as this is purely cosmetic and doesn't affect gameplay.

At this point, I'm upset in the sense that Capcom is going down this route as it appears like a cash grab. However, I'm really not upset about starting a new character, as it's fun to relive the story and start from scratch as a newbie Lance user, that is for me. That's the key point, it's not a problem for me, but it's certainly not fair to others who really want to change names and appearances, but don't want to start all over again.

Weapon and Armor Design
I'm hoping the next MH will have more weapon variety, as well as changing designs as you upgrade. The past Monster Hunters, there were multiple weapons of the same element, but in World, there may be 1 or 2 of each element. Further, in past series, whenever you upgrade a mere 3 times, the weapon drastically changes in appearance, getting larger, more intricate and more "bad-ass".

However, in World, the low-rank weapon upgrade goes through at least 6 upgrades, the name of weapon even changing, but still looks exactly the same as the starting weapon, which is a bit of a let-down.

Some of the ultimate weapons look amazing, such as the CB's Nergigante final weapon but others look underwhelming such as CB's Diablos and Kadachi final weapons, so hopefully they'll improve the design.

From memory, I believe the armor only changes in appearance when you go from low rank to high rank in past MHs, which I hope will be the case in the next game. To motivate the player, I wonder if all the low rank armor look good, but the high rank markedly improved?

Fashion Disparity between male and female armor sets
They also need to rethink Fashion Hunter, as some of the armor for women look horrendous. Here, for the Brigade Armor, he looks like a dashing swashbuckler, and yet she looks like one of the hub attendants, which is very uninspiring. Further almost all the helmets look bad. Yes there's a "hide helmet" feature which should be included, but at the same time, why not make more flattering helmets?

I was able to beat the game and all the missions (except the last) using Fashion Hunter, so my armor was not optimized. I'm seeing if I can keep this up for the very last test when you reach HR Level 100 (I'm in the 80s).

However, it's annoying not having optimized armor just because of fashion issues, so I'm hoping that this game or the next will include a feature where you can equip the armor you're using, but then set different pieces of armor for appearance, as in Xenoblade Chronicles X and from what I hear, a lot of MMOs do this as well.

Lastly, I'm hoping the next Monster Hunter will have better tutorials. My friends who are newcomers didn't even realize that you're supposed to cook steaks as a primary way of recouping stamina, which is so basic, and in fact, I believe that was the first thing we did in Monster Hunter 3U, which was a title that Capcom specifically wanted to appeal to newcomers.

Further, the training room is lacking. When I was practicing lance, there's a list of combos on your screen, but, I didn't see the inputs for the running move where you can chase after monsters, which has been a classic feature of all lances. Further combinations of this running move were shown but only when you figure out how to run. Those who never lanced, how are we supposed to figure this out on our own? In the end, we resort to Youtube to get down all the moves and special attacks, but that really kills immersion and off-putting to potential new players, to say the least. 

I'm not sure how difficult this is to code, but perhaps have a trainer. It can be even better if there's a trainer for each weapon, but at the very least, a melee and ranged trainer. Each trainer will go through all the basic and advanced moves, as well as special attacks. He or she would say, press triangle for basic attack, which you then follow and once you get that move down, the trainer will then show you the most important 3-move combinations, and so on.

What other changes would you like to see in this and future Monster Hunters?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monster Hunter: World Hopes and Prediction (MM35)

Although the very first Monster Hunter I played was Monster Hunter 3U for the Wii U, the very first one I experienced was Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on the PS Vita, which I promptly died to Tigrex when he showed up out of nowhere. As a result, I thought the game was too hard and quit. Aside from Tigrex popping out of the blue, the other striking memory of this short-lived experience was how you must drink hot drinks to go through this cold area, which I neglected to do, stamina bar draining throughout this first inauspicious run.

Indeed, hot drinks are such a staple item, almost as necessary as well-done steaks that upon completing my solo Fashion Hunter "challenge" run maining the Charge Blade, I noticed how there's absolutely no cold zones, and as a result, no hot drinks! The trope of a lot of RPGs is to feature volcanic and snowy areas. World has the volcanic Elder Recess area where you can finally make cold drinks. So yeah, there are cold drinks, but where are the hot drinks?

That being said, World is a complete and finished game with a solid, fleshed out story and lore, so I'm hoping that Capcom will come out with a DLC of a snowy area, to feature our beloved classic monsters. No hunter would be upset if it's paid content, as I'd gladly pay for a completely new section of the map (the left hand side of the general world map looks conspicuously open) featuring a cold, snowy region and our trusty hot drinks.

In this new cold region DLC, I'm hoping for our favorite monsters such as snow-variants of Arzuros, Nargacuga, Zinogre, and my personal favorite Yian Kut-Ku, and include snowy mammals such as Barioth and Lagombi. I know Khezu was not well-liked, however, the uniqueness of the monster would be a hopeful addition and add variety to World. I recall vividly my friend remarking, with total revulsion, how disgusting he is in this ecology cutscene from Monster Hunter Freedom Unite:

I'm also happy to hear that it's not just me, but in Japan, Yian Kut-Ku is one of the top 5 favorite monsters and there's even a stuffed animal of him! So how can World not include this staple? And how can you not have Hot Drinks? So I predict as well as hope for a snowy map.

Indeed, I would have to say that World is the best Monster Hunter and is better than all its predecessors in every aspect I can think of, except for not having as many and as diverse monsters. I wished the game were as goofy and zany as past series with the "So Tasty" after cooking a well-done steak, and the utter chaos of Palico chefs, but that's subjective:

Although it's rather tiring to have yet another quest of a Rathalos/Rathian variant, and indeed, in World it got old to fight yet another reskin of not just Rathalos, but Monoblos/Diablos and so forth. Yet, the past Monster Hunters had all kinds and types of monsters including crustaceans, insects, snakes, you name it.

Again, no one would see this as a cash-grab DLC, because the main-game is complete and polished, just as no one saw Horizon: Zero Dawn DLC, The Frozen Wilds as a cash-grab. In fact, fans were demanding new HZD content, which Guerilla Games delivered. Indeed, their forum became even more positive and loving after this release, if that's even possible.

Lastly, I wish we can chose past theme songs from past Monster Hunters, as I must say, the music was a bit repetitive in Astera. This is my favorite Monster Hunter song which I hope they'd let us chose among many others:

What are your thoughts? Would you be open to buying a DLC of a new cold, snowy region featuring classic monsters? Would you like to be able to chose past Monster Hunter theme songs for Astera? 

The How of Happiness review.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Monster Hunter: World Charge Blade Advice (MM34)

Since the Charge Blade (CB) was first introduced in Monster Hunter 4, I wanted to main the weapon because it was considered overpowered along with the new Insect Glaive.

The other appealing aspect of CB is related to my playstyle. I'm the type of person who always wants a build that can "do everything" such as in Dark Souls where I level up all the important stats to 50 (soft cap), and then I work on getting 80s down the road. So I'd like to use a weapon that can do everything.

Although the first weapon I mained, the hammer, is extremely fun, and so satisfying when you slide down a gentle hill and you spin like this, not to mention knocking out monsters. The problem is that you can't cut off tails, and sometimes that's the only way to get certain materials for your upgrades.

So you need to resort to another weapon that can cut off tails. I used the Switch Axe as it felt the best to me. Note: ALL the weapons are excellent at cutting off tails that are not named Hammer or Hunting Horn.

However, the issue with even the Switch Axe is that I needed to face Diablos and worse Black Diablos, and often, when they go underground, it's often hard to roll out of the way. I thought, it would be helpful if I can just shield myself instead. Further, I'm a turtler, and always have my shield up in the Dark Souls series, often prizing defense over attack power.

Enter the Charge Blade. It can do all these things, plus it's very powerful. It can knock out monsters, cut tails, and shield you from attacks. Therefore, I felt that once and for all, I should really try to understand the CB.

But, you may ask, what about the Sword and Shield (SnS)? Indeed, the SnS could be even more powerful than the CB due to consistent damage, cut parts, and you can use your shield not just to guard, but also to knock out monsters.

The SnS also excels in applying status effects very quickly (along with the Dual Blades), all the while abusing health/attack boosting items, since you don't have to sheathe your weapon! You can imagine, whaling on the monster, then taking a quick break to throw down a life powder to help your teammates, and then resume attacking the monster.

However, to me, the CB feels better than the SnS because I like the heaviness of it, I quite like the mechanical aspects of transform and fidgeting with the phials, and it has better range than the SnS. Most importantly, to me, CB was more fun than the SnS. 

I'm going to write down the MOST basic concept of Charge Blade, but NOT the moves, because when the CB was introduced, no matter how many times I read tutorials, it didn't make sense and made my eyes cross.

For instance, does this make sense to you: If you want to gauge the distance between you and the monster to pull off a Super Amped Elemental Discharge (SAED or super) more consistently and most efficiently, then making sure your shield is charged with ideally full phials, triangle to hit, circle and push the analog stick away from the monster to create the necessary distance, then you can do your triangle + Circle x 2 combo to unleash the SAED.

When you read the combination instructions of any weapon, it makes no sense, which is why I was struggling with understanding the CB when it first came out. Further, I don't believe I found out about Gaijin Hunter back then, otherwise, I would've watched his tutorials, and probably would've used the CB when it first came out.

Charge Blade is both a sword & shield and an axe. It transforms between those two forms.

This is very much like Bloodborne's trick weapons. Because of these two modes, CB is very versatile. You can cut off tails in both modes, use shield to block, and KO monsters with the axe if your axe has impact phials.

Conceptually, the way the CB works is that every time you hit monsters with your sword, you produce energy and store them into phials. You can put these phials of energy into your shield, which will make your shield stronger, so it will block better.

Further, the head of your axe is actually your shield, so by powering up your shield with these phials of energy, you can be sure that all this energy will make your axe attacks stronger.

You can also spend these phials of energy into special, powerful attacks.

Indeed, the complexity of CB lies in the manipulation of these phials of energy, and what to do with them. The videos will show you all the moves of both forms, and how to manipulate your phials. So, with that being said:

Go to Step Two. 

Additional information here (NOT necessary to read):


Now that you know the basic concept, and if you like the idea that the CB can do everything, go to the training room and watch the following videos instead of reading tutorials. A picture is worth a thousand words! Also, practice your moves in the training room along with the videos.

I would start with Rurikhan as on overview, as the World Charge Blade has a new feature where you can charge the sword, so Gaijin Hunter's 4U video wouldn't include how to charge sword.

Video One: Rurikhan's Monster Hunter: World Charge Blade Tips

I would then practice those moves until you feel you get the basic ideas down, including even the concept of the Guard Points. I found that Rurikhan did a superb job showing you how to pull off GPs, and indeed it's very tricky.

Once you know how to do all the attacks, combos, and guard points, to refine your approach, Gaijin Hunter's fantastic video is really helpful as he literally explains each single attack. Again, since this is based on Monster Hunter 4U, there was no charging of sword back then, and there's some minor differences that you''ll notice, but you won't be confused as you have already digested Rurikhan's video. I have a feeling he'll come out with a World Charge Blade tutorial, in which case, it'll be a must-view.

Video Two: Gaijin Hunter's MH4U: Ultimate Charge Blade Tutorial

If you really have all these basics down after watching these two videos, it's time to go on real hunts! Once you get the hang of the CB, I would then watch Arekkz Gaming's superb CB tutorial. I recommend watching his videos last because Arekkz talks so fast, that when I first watched his video, his instructions went over my head, so I had to find other CB tutorials.

However, after familiarizing myself with the CB in the training room and having real world experience, I still had to rewind a lot, but at least I understood what he was saying. Indeed, it was worth going through multiple times to get down all the nuances of the CB.

His second video shows a small correction (which you will know right away from Rurikhan's video and practicing CB), and how to gauge the distance for your Super Amped Elemental Discharge.

Video Three: Arekkz Gaming's Charge Blade Tutorial

Video Four: Arekkz Gaming's Advanced Charge Blade Tutorial

Finally, Arekkz Gaming's video on how to be a better monster hunter is very compelling. Even someone like Arekkz ,who mastered the series and all weapons, said that you should slow down and not over commit if you notice yourself getting carted frequently, as you have 50 minutes! So you must avoid the fetish of fast kill times.

I was heartened to hear a professional say that, because in MH circles, there's always the unfortunate thinking that "you suck" if you can't kill monsters fast, when the reality is to enjoy the game and avoid being carted (albeit in expeditions it doesn't matter if you're carted).

As Arekkz says, it's better to live another day then over commit, so be patient and take things slow. I noticed that when I slowed down and attacked when there's a clear, safe opening, yes I might take 30 to 40 mins but it's more refreshing then being carted twice and barely completing the mission. Further, fighting the same monster over and over again using a more thoughtful approach, depending upon the monster, my time often gets shaved down to 20 mins or shorter with practice.

I also like how he didn't cherry pick one of his many flawless hunts, so there was a point where his hunt went south, advised not to be flustered, but to get yourself back under control and then resume.

Lastly, I would advise capturing the monster rather than killing since you get more rewards through capture. However, if you want the challenge of killing the monster, Arekkz gives excellent advice on how to deal with that scenario.

Video Five: Arekkz Gaming's How To Be A Better Hunter

TL/DR: I feel that if you understand the basic concept of Charge Blade of being both sword & shield and an axe, and that you manipulate phials of energy for powerful attacks, watch the videos, go over your moves in training room and on real hunts, that you'll become a proficient CB practitioner. I hope you'll consider using the CB, as it's a truly satisfying and elegant weapon!

What weapons are you maining and/or recommend? What are your thoughts on the Charge Blade?

The How of Happiness review.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Monster Hunter: World Tips and Advice (MM33)

Now that I have beaten the game, World is definitely my favorite Monster Hunter and I wanted to give general advice on how to fully appreciate this masterpiece.

You don't need specific advice to enjoy and beat the game, because there are no missable trophies and you simply can't make mistakes in this game. You may feel you might have wasted materials, but you can always farm more, and the game gives you so many chances of getting even the most rare items, that if oops, I used up Rathalos Ruby on the wrong equipment (I actually got one finally as a drop!), you can actually buy one now!

That being said, I agree you shouldn't willy-nilly upgrade rare equipment (common equipment is fine because it's easy to get these mats) because the farming is real, so in these situations, do look up on the internet what the strongest armors, skills and weapons are for your weapon type as you upgrade.

First Advice
The most important advice is to try all the weapons in the training room, even ones that you think you won't like. You do that by going to your room on the first floor (Trading Yard), to the right of the elevator lift and talk to the cat housekeeper, then chose Training Room.

As with all Monster Hunter games, there are weapon tier lists, which I would completely ignore, as every single weapon is absolutely viable. The temptation is to use the S-tier weapons, which are considered the dual blades and long sword from one list, but why?

I can understand wanting the most powerful weapon if this is PvP, but this is a single-player and COOP game. If you don't find these weapons fun, what's the point of playing the game?

If you love more than 1 weapon, definitely use ALL the weapons that you're interested in, or even vaguely interested in and find interesting. The concern I see floating around the internet is that it will be a lot of grinding to make more than one line of weapons.

However, at the very beginning, you're given ALL the weapons (Ore Tree) so you can try them all out, and even un-upgraded, they're all viable for quite a few story missions. Therefore, just use the starting weapons for the first few story missions. At least up to the third upgrade, it doesn't take much grinding to get enough materials to upgrade all the ones you like along the ore tree path, as these materials are common.

Now, as you go higher, some of the materials are hard to get, and will require a lot of farming, but you can take your time upgrading your secondary weapons. It's not like you MUST get the maxed out Nergigante (Ore Tree) and Diablos (Bone Tree) line immediately of all your weapon types. Work on upgrading your main one first, and then your other ones later.

Further, a lot of the weapons along the ore tree are considered the strongest up through the Nergigante line, so it's not going to be a waste of materials, since you're investing in a very strong weapon line. Furthermore, if you need materials, you can "roll-back" the upgrade and get materials back, up to a certain point. The smithy gives you a warning when you can't roll-back so pay attention before you commit.

In conclusion, you can use ALL of your interested and favorite base starting weapons at least on the low-rank, easier monsters, maining and upgrading your favorite, and then come back and upgrade the others down the road.

So, even as you find just one weapon that "clicks" I would still experiment with other ones as you move up the ranks. For instance, I loved the hammer out of all the ones I tried, but I needed a severing weapon to cut off tails since blunt weapons such as the hammer and hunting horn can't do that. I tried out the long sword and the Switch Axe, and settled on the Switch Axe due to how it feels. Both are equally great at cutting off tails.

However, since Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I've always wanted to try out the Charge Blade (CB) and Insect Glaive (IG) because I fell into the trap of wanting to main the S-tier weapons, which were considered CB and IG for that edition. I simply didn't understand the CB, and I really can't aim at specific parts of monsters with the IG. Therefore, when I used the IG, I wasn't effective because you really need to get at least the red essence to increase your attack power.

After finishing the game maining Hammer and secondary Switch Axe, I decided that once and for all, I really want to understand the CB and when I stuck with it, I fell in love with this weapon. I find Gaijin Hunter's tutorials the best. He hasn't yet done a tutorial of the CB for World, but I watched his ultimate MH4U CB tutorial, which has almost similar move-sets as World and he goes through every single move precisely. He explains each step clearly and slowly so you can follow what's going on, and you can try these moves in the training room while watching his tutorials.

Now that I have some mild success with CB, I'm going to revisit IG, the lances, the hunting horn (another weapon that I always wanted to master) and the ranged weapons!

So I strongly agree that if you love a lot of the weapons, try them all out! You get the base forms of all of them so at least you can use them on the low rank, easy monsters, and slowly upgrade them from there, rolling back mats if you feel you need them.

On the flip side, do NOT main the weapons that you don't like even if they're S-tier weapons! So if you don't like the dual blades and long sword, don't use them!

Second Advice
The second advice as with all great games is to truly savor the game. I was taken aback when one of my PSN gaming buddies was struggling against Anjanath and was about to quit. He wrote that he didn't understand the game so of course, being an evangelist, I gave him basic advice and he agreed to stick with it, and give it a second chance as this is his first ever Monster Hunter game. The key here is this is his first ever Monster Hunter so we don't expect him to be a pro like Arekkz Gaming or Gaijin Hunter, which is a ridiculous expectation.

A few days pass by, and he wrote me and was in the HR50's! I was floored because this was someone who was about to quit but he achieved way more than me at that time!

I'm sorry, if you get to that rank, you have to be good at the game because there are monsters that are walls, such as Anjanath, Diablos and Nergigante, that you can't just level up and tank through. For each point in the game, you can max out your weapons, armors, and charms/gems only so far, as you have to open up upgrades through story missions, so you're blocked from raising your attack and defense power. But as you practice and recognize attack patterns, despite having the same stats, you can defeat them.

However, after he told me that he beat the game and was very highly ranked, he then said he sucked at the game despite this being his first Monster Hunter game. He mentioned that he must be awful since he's seen people take down monsters in well under 5 minutes, but it takes him 15 to 20 minutes to kill hard monsters. He said he was bad due to "slow kills" despite the fact that he was maining the long sword, the light bowgun and now the insect glaive. So he has mastered ranged and melee weapons!

Of course I wrote him back and said he was excellent at the game, and that in order to get to 3 mins and under, every swipe of your weapon has to hit the monster with absolutely no wasted movements, and fully optimized gear.

The point of this is that even a first-time Monster Hunter sees the fetish of needing to kill monsters as quickly as possible, so this goes to my second advice. Who cares, unless you're going to join Capcom's upcoming competition of fastest arena kills? Most hunts you get a full 50 minutes, so why not enjoy the environment, farming resources along the way, and take time killing the monster? With the gorgeous, living environment (except for the intentionally grotesque Rotten Vale), why not stop and smell the roses?

In fact, this is the problem I'm facing as a CB user, with this fastest kills culture of Monster Hunter. I also feel this pressure to kill monsters as quickly as possible even SOLO, so I fixate on this ultimate move, and keep missing as a result due to its long animation, because I don't wait for the most opportune moment. Further, with this need to kill monsters as fast as possible, I try to charge my shield and sword immediately, even if the charging doesn't attack the monster at the same time. To be technically good at CB, you have to time your moves precisely, but with the pressure of destroying monsters quickly, I'm developing bad habits.

In fact, I feel the panic of charging the shield and sword as quickly as possible, that I would sometimes forget the initial R2+Circle (RT+B) to put the energy into the phials first. For instance, I would collect up to the red phials, but then straight out charging the shield and wonder, why the shield didn't charge? Well, that's because in my rush to kill the monsters fast, I didn't put the energy into the phials first, before charging, missing basic steps!

So I'm going to follow my own advice and slow down, and perform the movements at the best times, even more necessary in COOP play as you don't want to trip your hunting buddies!

Furthermore, as you get better and better at using your weapons and knowing the monster attack patterns, you're going to kill the monsters faster.

TL/DR: Experiment and enjoy all weapons that you find interesting, and don't worry about killing monsters fast! 

The How of Happiness review.

Monday, February 19, 2018

My Favorite Types of Games (MM32)

My feline video game buddy, Niki, passed away on Thursday, February 8. I haven't gotten around to writing about her but I will do so when I start feeling better. I miss her terribly.

Since she's always sitting next to me while playing video games (I would say Niki is a true gamer!), I've been thinking about what kinds of games we've played together, and why these games appealed to us since we write reviews of games from time to time (Niki is my fictional guest writer N.C., Esq). I wrote this piece about what you should look for in video game critics, and the one criterion is whether you have the same taste as the critic, so I think my readers should know what games I tend to like. 

Looking through my top 10 games, I tend to like games that have extensive leveling up system where you can min/max stats. I find it refreshing when I'm struggling at the beginning of the game, due to low levels, weak armor and weapons, and then becoming overpowered. This explains why RPGs tend to be my favorite genre because of the challenge of leveling up and continual improvement.

This is not to say that other genres don't feature improvement and mastery, far from it. FPS and Platformer games are extremely challenging, and you can improve steadily through practice, such as being able to kill enemies faster, using less resources (i.e. making only headshots). Since I'm a relatively new gamer, I appreciate being able to level up my character so I can face a difficult part of the game and succeed. If I keep failing, I can always improve my levels, weapons and/or armors to win. Whereas with shooters and platformers, you simply fail if you can't shoot your way out or make that jump. You can't just level up your character and grind your way through, you either have to make those shots or jumps, or fail.

Gameplay also is very crucial so a lot of games that I love have complex and deep combat mechanics. Even though the Dark Souls series doesn't have the complex button sequences of action-adventure games such as Bayonetta and God Of War, you have to be good at understanding the attack patterns, knowing when to dodge and attack, you can't just button mash.

What elevates an RPG above the rest is the level design, because even though you may have really incredible combat mechanics, if you have a level design where you're just going straight from point A to point B, it gets very boring. I love games that have an overworld that's like a puzzle such as the Souls series, and dungeons with puzzles such as Legend of Zelda and Wild Arms 3. I was so impressed with Wild Arms 3 because of the strategy needed in it's turn-based mechanics, but also because of the dungeons having sophisticated level design where you have to use various gadgets and manipulate the environment to get around, much like Zelda pre-Breath of the Wild.

In addition to level design, variety of enemies and different attack patterns are a must. Even though Tales of Berseria has a wide variety of monsters, the way they attack didn't affect gameplay as much. You have to dodge from time to time, but the gameplay revolved around building up combinations. I found that building up combinations was addictive and fun, especially the rush of power and feel of Velvet's Consuming Claw. Albeit, the bosses in Berseria all have very different attack patterns. So Berseria was the one game where attack patterns aren't so important, but nevertheless the game is one of my favorites.

I think story and character development are also crucial. The game doesn't have to be a Thomas Mann-level of masterpiece, but at least have some story and psychology into the character. Tales of Berseria is one of my favorite games because of the story and focus on characters, to the point where you're interested in what's going on with every single party member, and you seek out their story lines in form of quests.

Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the few platform games that I love because of the story and characters. Ori's platforming is pinpoint precise and fun due to its challenging nature, but such is the case with so many other platformers. Why I love it and not care about all the other great platformers is the presentation, story and characters in Ori that are lacking in Mario and the Rayman series.

Here's a list of my favorite games in alphabetical order: Chrono Trigger, Eternal Sonata, Final Fantasy VII, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Kingdom Hearts series, Persona franchise, Monster Hunter franchise, SoulsBorne series (duh!), Tales of Berseria, and Wild Arms 3.

Games rounding the top 10 in alphabetical order are: Fortnite, Gravity Rush series, Ori and the Blind Forest, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.

TL/DR: My favorite games tend to be ones that have a great story and characters, deep gameplay mechanics (such as Dark Souls and the Monster Hunter series), strong leveling system where you can build your characters, weapons and armor, and complex, puzzle-like level designs.

What features do your favorite games have?

The How of Happiness review.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fortnite Progress as a Ninja and Tips (MM31)

Dragon Scorch is Derpy but can kill 50 husks in 1 swipe
I'm almost at Twine, which is the last area of the game, as a Dragon Ninja, having finished all the Canny Missions except for the Storm Shield Defense and the launch mission to Twine. I have also done a couple of missions in very early Twine (level 76), and Ninjas, contrary to what's written on the internet, are viable through early Twine.

I wondered if I was only able to accomplish this because I have a great group of friends on delinquentMuse's Discord (this is her Twitch site) who carried me through. Note: when she is streaming live, type !Discord in chat and you'll get her Discord link. She has a Fortnite room where we get together to assemble parties, offer advice and support.

Indeed, all the missions I have done with them, I can easily be away from the keyboard and win. In fact, there were quite a few missions where my friends completed the objective as I went around the map to find various objects (i.e., fire trucks, gnomes, televisions) for daily rewards. Because of this, the best advice I can give anyone starting out in Fortnite is finding a group of helpful friends. But of course, to keep your friends, don't mooch unless you have an understanding that you're there to find your or their daily rewards, or you're there just to farm, through the in-game text chat.

I got lucky as I already had a team before playing Fortnite because of delinquentMuse, but for those who don't, the good news is that all classes are more than viable in the starting area of Stonewood so you can work with any group. Further, Stonewood is pretty active so it's unlikely you'll end up by yourself.

So, whatever class you play, if you meet anyone in-game who's been helpful and friendly, at the end of the mission, you can invite the person to be your friend. I would recommend doing that aggressively.

Then, as you get to harder levels, you can invite your friends through "Party Finder" in the options section where you tweak your settings. Since some may be in a mission, or a bug may prevent you from joining one of your friends, if you have enough of a large list, at least one of your friends might join.

That being said, can I truly say Ninja is viable for me if I can still win missions even if I contribute absolutely nothing on Muse's team? I'm not sure. Therefore, I decided to play quite a few level 70 missions with strangers when my friends weren't around. The biggest test was a level 70 "Deliver the Bomb" mission and only one stranger was on my team, a soldier. I think he was the Halloween variant of Urban Assault, Skull Jonesy, and was only mid 30's. He actually commented that he may be too low a level as he got into the mission using the "Plays with Others" mission, where there's a quick game option allowing you to enter any mission, regardless of level. As a level 30, you will get 1hko in a level 70 mission very easily.

This was an issue because thus far, it was my friends who knew how to build and put down perfectly placed trap halls, and I reinforced, placed traps (since it's obvious where to put them when my friends make the frame of the trap hall), brought materials.

Further, with only one person on the team, your stats aren't boosted as much compared to when you have a full team. Because of this, I decided to be very aggressive about traps, and put down two trap halls, almost missing the South side until my team-mate mentioned a storm there, and was surprised that he only died once because of the traps. At the same time, he was very skilled.

I was covering the North side, which had the well-placed traps and was quite pleased that all the husks went through the hall and I just dragon slashed the remaining almost dead ones that were making their way through. The mission was going very well.

However, as for my team mate, when I saw him go down (there's a menu status of your team mate's health) covering the South side (which had the less well thought out trap hall), I went over to revive him and we switched sides. He didn't die after that. As for the South side, only a few husks went around the trap hall, which were very easy to take care of as a Dragon level 74 Ninja. The mission was very successful.

Because the storm doesn't change direction in "Deliver the Bomb" missions, placing traps is more predictable. Even so, this goes to show you that building and trap placement can make your mission smooth even as a Ninja.

In Stonewood, the first part of the game, you don't need traps, but once you start in Plankerton, my biggest advice is to take the initiative (even though it costs a lot of resources and farming time) to build and place traps yourself so you can see what works and what doesn't. Or watch (and reinforce) a team mate if you notice that she really knows how to build to perfection and pick up tips that way. The good news is that Plankerton and even mid-Canny are very forgiving so you can experiment with traps. You will get tons of experience with all the Plankerton and Canny mission requirements so you'll become good at building and trap placement if you're pro-active.

Allegedly, in Twine, traps aren't effective per the internet, but this video shows that traps are actually quite effective. Jump to around 10 mins and 30 seconds for the game play. Although Rage Brothers swears a lot, he gives excellent advice. He's actually below level (level 90) for this level 94 mission.

I think the next tip as a Dragon Ninja is not that important, as my friend who mains Ninja was doing quite well as a level 50-ish in level 70 missions, but he has exceptional gaming skills.

But, to make it easier as a Ninja, here are the best ways to boost your stats. That post was specifically for the Dragon Ninja, but if you main another hero, the general advice of maximizing your main and supporting heroes as much as possible holds true. Then, you must focus on building up your survivors.

I was very aggressive with the FORT squad, so whenever I see the fun and easy "Build the Radar" missions that reward evolve materials or survivor experience, I milk them for all its worth, so I can build up my FORT squad stats, focusing on Tech, Offense and Resistance. Again, I use my "Jack of all Trades, Master of Everything" grind strategy where I'm extremely strong in all important stats, which was necessary for me as a relatively new gamer.

TL/DR: The two biggest tips are making helpful friends and learning how to build well.

If you made it to late-game Fortnite what other things did you find helpful?

The How of Happiness review.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Fortnite Reflects Reality (MM 30)

Everyone has grown up with the belief that if you work hard in life, you can succeed. This is
The Ever-Elusive MG Ramirez
such a nice and comforting idea, but unfortunately doesn't hold true. There are tons of people who work multiple jobs who can't get ahead because they're living paycheck to paycheck, just working to survive. So a lot of people can't "better" themselves as insensitive people argue, because how can you afford AND spend the time studying, attending College classes when you're working 80 hours/week and often have children to take care of? Whereas there are a lot of people who are simply born into wealth.

This is where Fortnite might be one of the most realistic games on the market. You can spend as much time and effort completing missions to earn your v-bucks (or even your hard earned cash--don't do it!) to buy pinatas called Llamas, which give out randomized loot. Llamas are the only way to get the best and most exciting items, which are the mythic heroes and mythic lead survivors. Through the RNG process, you can play this game for years straight and if you have bad enough luck, you may never get a mythic hero.

Now, if you're a millionaire, you may or may not get all the mythic heroes as well, but your chances multiply greatly as you can easily buy a million Llamas, and through RNG, one of them should eventually contain a mythic hero, though again, this is not guaranteed even for wealthy consumers, because what if you just have really bad luck? So upon opening your millionth llama, you get the same common defender that no one wants?

In other words, no matter what you try to do, how much you play the game, how much you spend, like life, you may not get what you want.

However, the issue here is that we play video games and seek entertainment to escape reality, so do we really need a video game that reflects negative aspects of life? I heard that getting the best items in Hearthstone is RNG, but the more you play, the more likely you get better items, which I think would make Fortnite a better game if they adopt this system, if they must continue with the loot-box. I often see people getting mythic heroes through sheer luck but they stop playing the game (see the auction list of those selling mythic heroes), whereas a lot of my friends continue to play months and months, and still don't get a mythic hero, despite being extremely dedicated.

Do you think I'm being too salty here by criticizing video games that strive to reflect the harsh realities of life, or do you think developers should take the "entertainment as escapism" route and make game-play elements more equitable?

The How of Happiness review.

Monster Hunter: World Further Thoughts (MM36)

Infinite Replayability I'm clearly obsessed with MH: World and started a new playthrough focusing on the lance. Since every single vi...