Final Fantasy XIV – A long term relationship

Writing about this game is surprisingly difficult. It’s an MMO – yes. It is seemingly one of the most played MMOs right now and – with the World of Warcraft exodus of players to the world of Eorzea – in the spotlight of many theme park MMO players.

Obviously, MMOs are by definition games which cannot really be „completed“, so this genre seems a rather good fit for someone who calls himself an Incompletionist. I started playing the game in 2014, after being turned off by WoW: Mists of Pandaria and disappointed by Star Wars: Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, and Tera.

In 2014, I was not seeing myself as a ‘progress player’ anymore and due to family and kids I had no time left for raiding schedules, preparations, DKP, and the like. Also, I have not played FFXIV straight on since then. There have been longer breaks in between when I did not subscribe at all and even left for longer periods of time.

When writing about a game like Final Fantasy XIV, I wonder what should make the topic of this post after all? The difference to other MMOs? A walkthrough on the story? Another strength and weakness list? Difficult. With clocking more than 2000 hours until today, it could still be interesting to talk a bit about what – made – me play so long. Which aspects of FFXIV – game and domain related – made me come back and re-continue my journey over time?

So, let’s see.

Story and agency

For me, story is important. I need to know why I am doing what I am doing and how my actions are embedded in a believable world with characters who are persistent and evolve around me. The story aspect of FFXIV is always mentioned as one of the strengths of the game, because a well told and believable story is often seen as a conundrum in MMOs.

Final Fantasy XIV’s story is worth reading and taking time.

From the MMOs I mentioned above, only Guild Wars 2 is following a comparable story approach to FFXIV, told through its Living Story seasons. Star Wars Old Republic is also story-driven, with very interesting class and universal stories. Blade & Soul also has a quite narrative story, which is buried under meaningless side-quests over time. Other MMOs, like WoW or Tera, let you feel like a random dude and you participate in large story arcs that tell the story around you, which turns your agency in it to zero. Coupled with a horrendous quest design, providing 30 word quest descriptions that task you to collect 40 boar tongues does not make questing any fun at all.

In FFXIV the story is told in a very detailed and lengthy manner. Even side quests have a lot to tell you and are mini stories in their own regard, some better, some worse across expansions.

But what the game is doing exceptionally well is placing me in the center circle of events by calling me the Warrior of Light, no matter which job/class I am (see below). This means you are a well-known personality in Eorzea. People know you, recognize you, and call for your help for specific reasons. In the main story questline you are even the motive for why people cause trouble. Often, quest givers even excuse themselves for asking you to do something for them, or quest texts refer to your Warrior of Light status tongue-in-cheek when solving more mundane quests. This allows me to experience agency in a world where tens of thousands of other players are doing the same tasks as myself, and still make me feel that I am the real Warrior of Light.


Honestly I am not sure, why this is not more often mentioned and strengthened as a quality when people talk about MMOs or games in general. The soundtrack in FFXIV is exceptional on so many levels without becoming boring or repetitive, that I have a hard time thinking on other MMOs who can keep up to this quality.

From the bard’s job quest and through out the whole game: worth listening.

Masayoshi Soken is the composer of almost all tracks since Realm Reborn and through every expansion you can hear and listen how he became better and better. Some tracks are so good, I still want to listen to them outside of the game during work or watch videos of The Primals, the official FFXIV band; all members are Square Enix people by the way.

In Trials (8 players) and Raids (24 players) the score often shifts from boss phases into a more heavy-rock’ish tune, which provides an awesome texture and complements to the intensity of the battle.

For reference I have highlighted some of my favorites down below:

Job System

Obviously, when you grow older, time seems to become more of a thing. This results in evaluating time spent to outcome in a quite interesting manner, as I start to engage in gaming activities when I have the feeling that the time spent is worthy of a proposed outcome. Or quit, when I think the game is disregarding or stealing my available time (well, not as often as I should…).

Leveling up my Paladin through the story job quests.

MMOs have a bad reputation in that regard, as many systems have been then implemented to keep people playing the game, even when they have finished the end-game content. A very common MMO game design aspect here is most prominently known as twinking; when you level a second character class and you have to replay the entire game and story again. World of Warcraft, SWTOR, Tera, Guild Wars 2, etc. they all follow this foul paradigm of fake replayability.

In my opinion, this has always been an utter waste of time and a massive disregard for the time of players. Also, this prohibits experimenting with classes and punishes you, when you started with a class that you end up not liking in endgame.

Final Fantasy XIV is providing here a system for changing your ‚classes‘ called jobs, on the fly. So I started with a Paladin as my main class in 2014, changed to a Dark Knight on Heavensward, and added a Dancer in Shadowbringers. And all my progress is still there – it is still the same character with all experiences, drops, achievements, items, and retainers as before. I cannot believe, that such time-respecting systems have not made it into more games in 2021.

Because instead of adding more game time through leveling alts/twinking, FFXIV provides so much content around the Main Story, that there is no reason to start a completely new character at all. Every minute I spend in FFXIV is therefor contributing to the growth or development of my character. There is simply no ‚wasted‘ time unless I decide to waste time on purpose.

Additionally, this system helps contribute to the agency aspect mentioned before. I have job quests and storylines that introduce me to the mindset of each new job, as well as the feeling of “learning something new”; not only as a player, but also as my in-game character.

My Guild

In short – I love my guild. Not only because they are super nice people but because they care and maintain the guild for us members, who cannot continuously play and only log in from month to month or year to year. We are only seven members in our guild and only three of them still play regularly (in another more active guild), but they keep the old guild active through their alt-characters for us, whenever we return.

And when we do, all come together to say hello, cheer, hug, and celebrate the coming back together. It’s always feels like returning home.

These guys are the best.

FFXIV Community

Compared to other MMO communities other players in FFXIV are distinctively nice and supporting. I can remember only three bad experiences with players behaving toxic in dungeons or raids. And when this happened, it felt so off and awful, simply because it is so rarely happening.

Glamour (Fashion) is the true endgame.

All the other times, players will wait when you disconnect, help you with tactics, forgive mistakes and support you, when you need help in your job role. And I too love to explain tactics to new players, be easy on mistakes and further support this community as best as I can.

Giving back is something very rewarding and whenever I help people out, it is really appreciated. This is a very strong aspect of returning to the game, because I know, that even when I forgot the strategies on some boss, people won’t be toxic, but help and support. I have already collected more than 2000 commendation points, and always give out commendations to other players.

And that is just awesome.

Nier – Raid

Although the New-Raid is within the new batch of content in Shadowbringers, I have to say that this is one of the best collaborations with two game worlds I cherish. Yoko Taro and Naoki Yoshida are so different in their understanding of how to design a game for players, but the fusion here is exceptionally remarkable.

Final Fantasy XIV’s Nier Collaboration is just awesome.

The placement and setting in the story of FFXIV is for sure a bit staged, but the story around the raid is a great experience. All three raids are awesome in terms of strategy and visuals; especially, when you also have played Nier Automata.

And – of course – the music is again fantastic. If you have not yet listened to the great soundtrack of Nier Automata, you should definitely start here.

It remains difficult, to highlight all the aspects of why I like to play FFXIV so much and always keep returning to the game. And of course, there are many more aspects to be mentioned, like the exceptional care for detail in graphics and environments, even in side quests or places hardly anyone will ever visit. Or the great flow of combat in max-level jobs. Or how distinctively different all jobs play and are balanced out. Or what an awesome crafting system they have cooked up. Or the token system to purchase end-game armor that eliminates random loot from bosses in dungeons, so I can advance my gear for raids.

There is so much well done, that it is difficult to think what I do not like in FFXIV. Sure, the game still has tons of grind to keep players locked; it is an MMO after all. But I experience grind only as awful when it’s boring and done for artificially stretching out my progress in a game. But when grind is embedded in a meaningful world and story, time-respecting mechanics, and activities, that are still fun to do after hundreds of repetitions, I even enjoy playing the starter dungeons for the 347th time.

What I also feel in every second of playing the game is the passion, enthusiasm, and love of the developers that goes into the many details within texts, graphics, music, and a lot of humor and fun (Hildibrand’s Questline!)

Something that is too rarely appreciated and felt in games these days.

The Incompletionist

Perfected: Outriders. When less is more and in the end not enough.

That I played Outriders at all was a pure coincidence. An intuitive decision, against my dread of Loot-shooters like Boderlands and Destiny 2. But my friend Alex convinced me to play the demo and the experience was indeed convincingly awesome enough to buy the game at full price.

That I played Outriders at all was a pure coincidence. An intuitive decision, against my dread of Loot-shooters like Borderlands and Destiny 2. But my friend Alex convinced me to play the demo and the experience was indeed convincingly awesome enough to buy the game at full price on release day 1.

Or maybe this was just a desperate decision, in a situation when there is just so much work and other obligations to care for, and no time for gaming without a bad conscience at all. Maybe I just craved to have at least sometimes one of those relaxing co-op experiences at night, to let my mind drift somewhere else, escape to an alien world, when everything else is closing in at night.

And so I did – to my own surprise – 100% complete a game, I did not want to play at all. But how come and maybe even more to the point: The hell, why? And why Outriders?

Let‘s start at the beginning and the beginning is, as so many beginnings are … a tutorial with your good ol’ trusty action-hero intro-narrative: „Good morning unfrozen one and welcome to planet Enoch. This is your new world, these are the interesting people you would want to talk to. This is the guy, who will fuck up everything early on and these are the guys who will die early on. This is the signal, that is a strange signal, and look! This is an anomalous storm that is an anomaly. This is when you will be back in your cryo-pod almost dead until some other guys wake you up some decades later.“

„Good morning welcome (again) to Enoch! This is how the new world has gone to shit and these are the people that pulled the flush – here is mankind doing what mankind can do best – killing each other.“

“Mkay, and what about me?” – “Well, how about you find your way around by starting with the killing too.”

But wait. There is more to tell, and it is worth telling. The game pronounces itself free from any Games-as-a-Service mechanics, cash shops, and an endless grind for progress bars across seasons (Spoiler: Yes, but no – it just redefines the context of ‚endless‘). Honestly, this really makes the game a better place to be, because you know there will be a point in time, where you will reach the end of the story. So offering less is indeed providing more of a game experience here. Also, I can freely change the looks from my character as well as my truck from the start and any time later in the game. That I have to mention such a thing at all, is actually ridiculous.

The world of Enoch is often hell, but often also heavenly beautiful. Yes, in-game graphics here.

The main reason for me to stick with the game and also complete it was mainly the good delivered story. And your milage may vary here, on what a good delivered story really is. Being the child from the 80ies and 90ies that I am, the story itself was plain and uninspired and very linear, which was also fine. Remarkably, the density of awesome cool-action-hero-lines-delivered-per-minute was at such a high and enjoyable level – I really found that amazing and funny. Not often, that I spontanously giggle or laugh when playing a game anyway…

So, we start our journey and become stronger by killing and looting. There is no other option. We travel through several biomes and we discover all the freak people, which includes ourselves now called Altered, that make the world the garbage place it has become. The story is delivered through a lot of fully voiced and fancy cutscenes and many many codex entries. Since Dragon Age: Origins I have not experienced many games, who integrated codex entries as a natural and interesting base knowledge- or storyline. From the ones I remember right now and have played: Anthem and Cyberpunk 2077 were terribly uninspired, Mass Effect ok‘ish and Assassin‘s Creed Origins painfully uninteresting and useless.

But Outriders manages to capture interest and also extends entries, when you have more information. Sometimes it is a bit too much to read, but this information almost always helps to close knowledge gaps and provide a richer saturation of what is going on and why people behave like they behave or have become what they have become. This is by far not the best way of story-telling, but well enough delivered to keep me reading and the settings and their pacing were dense enough to look for more.

All dialogues are voiced and voice acting is not always the best, but sticking to my B-action movie anchor from before, fine enough; these movies back then hardly had good actors anyway. The main characters‘ male and female voice was best delivered through the image of a very vocal, and definately not silent, tough-as-titanium protagonist. When she had to shout, curse, and was stressed out, it was pure gold. I really loved Mylène Dinh-Robic voice acting reaching top-tier in scenes, when shit hit the fan and she was just so incredibly pissed and angry about all of it. The more relaxed the situation, the less convincing her voice acting has been though.

Cutscenes are all made with in-game graphics and often are great to watch.

So while killing, cursing and delivering edgy lines in edgy and bloody situations, the story picks up and continously invites you, including all side quests, to proceed and move further and further. Two times we thought we were almost done, but the story continued. Later in the story, the maps become more standardized though, with opponent-types also repeating themselves. The action remains convincing enough and you too often feel like an unstoppable god, as long as you keep up with your gear; alternatively moderating the world tier would be an option, which we did not do.

We moved further up the escalation and story line with our troupe of misfits in a truck with free customization options to follow traces of what this signal and the anomaly is. Like in Apokalypse Now, we move further and further into the deepest and darkest recesses of mankind and explore, what we humans are capable of. Beside the action, there is quite something to be told in those codex entries and seen in the final areas of the game; if you care to stop and read, listen, and look around. If not, you can also just kill everything until the credits roll, and meet us back in the camp, where we can start the endgame of Outriders, which is called – Expeditions.

Freaky freaks.

When I read Expeditions, I expect progress. When I interpret the meaning of the word Expedition, I interpret progress. As we reached expedition level 15, there was no progress anymore. Not in any direction. And this turns an, until then, quite enjoyable grind for power completely upside down. When we ran expeditions in gold times, you have a 25% chance of receiving a legendary item. No problem, when nothing drops once, or twice, but the third time in a row this is destroying any motivation to move on. What drops out of the pod is also completely random, which makes loot targeting (like via a loot-table) impossible, and there are quite a lot of legendaries to choose from. So we ran and ran expeditions, got nothing at all, sometimes one, rarely two, and almost never three legendaries. Unfortunately, the legendaries alone are just not viable enough for running a build or a sort-of-a-build. Tier 3 Mods are just so powerful compared to lower tiers, that it makes no sense to stick with violetts – you need those legendaries.

This is when it happenend and everything collapsed. We tried for several weeks, all in all around 25 hours playing expeditions, and always gave it another shot, but all with the same frustrating outcome: Trashing the loot we got. Time after time. In addition, I have also chosen the probably most gear dependent class of all, the Devestator, who in combination has substantial problems with burst damage; an early viable built is a bleed built, so stuff takes time. The lack of usable items just became more and more dramatic, and even by changing to other build archetypes, the situation did not improve much: Damage in Devestator builds mainly scales-up and is unleashed when you have those crucial Tier 3 mods on your weapon or your armor. And yes, these mods are found on legendaries. This turned into a waste of time.

I stopped playing. Alex stopped playing. We both moved on and we did not complete Eye of the Storm (the final challange), which is a pity. We really enjoyed playing Outriders though and we were really engaged in the world and story building, so this decision is a reluctant one. In the end, we completed the achievments though, which was a satisfying finale at that.

Time played: 72h | 100% completed.

Outriders is an awesome power fantasy, with an engaging story and freaky characters in an interesting world. The meta-game allows for a lot of builds, but to be viable in endgame legendaries are too important for overall progression into the final challenge.

Let’s see what new content is coming up, and maybe there will be changes later or some redesign of loot works what will be coming up.

But for now Enoch is 100% completely at peace. And my mind with it.

The Incompletionist

Interim Report Fall – Part 2

And so here it is – my second part of my report on what I have played this summer. Once more I have to report on quite a number of stalled / incompleted games.

And here it is – the second part of my report on what I have played since this summer. Once more I have to acknowledge to quite a number of stalled / paused / incompleted games.

  • Black Desert – stalled
  • Sword Art Online – Re: Hollow Fragment – stalled (and a bit creeped out)
  • Pillars of Eternity – paused
  • Cyberpunk 2077 – paused
  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – still playing.

Black Desert (stalled)

Well, meet the Guardian.

Black Desert Online (BDO) is a Korean sandbox MMO with probably the most beautiful game world and most impactful action combat system I know so far. And it’s a life simulator, that you can play 24/7 with AFK activities like fishing, farming, cooking and what not (called life skilling).

I have played already a quite substantial amount of hours several years ago, then being purely fascinated by the stunning visuals and fighting styles, and triggered by BDOs’ many many progress bars. This game wants your time, this game demands your time and attention 24/7, and it gets your time. Just playing casually is maybe a nice-try-resolution at the beginning, but the longer you play, the more time you will invest into it. Every minute you are not training your horse, your stamina, your whatever XP-bar, is a lost minute.

After watching TheLazyPeons return to BDO video on YouTube, I recognized, that they have changed a lot in the grind and overall feel of the game. “Well, why not give it a try again!”, I thought. “Why not try that drug again? Just for a bit!” is what I really said.
So there are ‘Seasons’ now and ‘fast-level catch-up servers’. And to be fair, they have reduced the level-grind and sped up several core level mechanics. Even the story progression, that I completely lost track of in my first time I played, was more straightened out and consistent (but still not a good story). I also re-rolled on the new Guardian class and was again blown away by the combat.

After several hours the true core gameplay-loop started to shine through once more and luckily I was realizing that early on; my motivation to play was quelled and I uninstalled the game as fast as I possibly could.

Time played: approx. 9-10h.

Sword Art Online – Re: Hollow Fragment (stalled)

Let’s talk and talk and talk and talk. Cutscenes can be pretty long once in a while.

First things first: I am a Kirito. This means I am a fan of the anime Sword Art Online; Kirito being the main protagonist. And no, within the anime community, this is not a nice attribute to attach to someone.

The overall story is based on a Japanese light-novel about 10.000 people being locked in a VR-MMORPG, accessed via a device called NerveGear, designed and build by a Akihiko Kayaba. In order to ‘finish’ the game, all players would have to defeat the final boss on the final stage (level 100, and guess who that could be?) of a Tower-based dungeon. If you die in the game, your body in the real world will also die; the NerveGear helmet will simply fry your brain.

The game was originally released on the PS-Vita in 2014 and ported to PC in 2018; so graphics are rather dated, and the interface is a shabby mess, although close to the anime. The games’ story is set in a parallel timeline to the novel/anime, introducing the main cast and some new characters (girls) alongside. There is kind of an Open World to explore, but basically it is about grinding and becoming stronger, as well as about grinding to unlock the 100 additional characters in the game. You do that to form a raid group and proceed to the final tower level stages.

What really turned me off, was the built in dating sim to unlock all those girls (and some boys). Kirito has of course a girlfriend (Asuna), but can meet and flirt with all the other girls (and bro-talk with the boys) in the game. There is of course a sort of romance-progress bar for certain characters. So while you play, you take a partner with you. The girls will suddendly start a conversation and you can quickly press a button and start a mini-game with a time-gated selection of answers to “say the correct/expected answers”. If you do that often enough and choose wisely, hearts will appear, everybody will adore you, and later you can even ‘lie down’ with some girls in your inn together in the bed and … TALK. Of course.

Okay, what actually turned me off is not that you can / should / have to do that, but that you have to do that with so many characters. And even that would have been okay, but the activity itself is just plain dumb and boring. Or probably I am just too old and life has sucked all romantic feelings out of my dry, realist and soulless body. Oh, that tragic disconnect from the young generations full of love and butterflies.

Stalled for good and creeped out by pure romantic sociableness.

Time played: 3h | Achievements: 1%.

Pillars of Eternity (paused)

Welcome to Gilded Vale – a bright future awaits!

What went wrong here I do not know. This game should pull all my riggers and play a symphony of pure epic cRPG’ness.

It never really came to be and I am still wondering why and what and when I will re-enter the game. Maybe there is a right time for every game, like for me playing AC:Origins a second time and go for total completion.

Then, why not just give it more time.

Time played: 6h

Cyberpunk 2077 (paused)

The Photo-mode in the game is just great. Vroom vroooom!

Oh, how I have waited for this. How I silently hoped, that this will be a great game.

I did not read any reports for almost two years. No trailers, no reveals, no information (besides the delayed releases) at all. The setting seemed perfect, because I love William Gibsons Neuromancer and the Blade Runner movies. I love CD Project RED for their storytelling and care for details. I wanted this so much.

When it was finally out I jacked right in and holy crap, until the end of Act I this was probably one of the best story-driven and immersive experiences I have ever played. Purely. Awesome.

I had almost no bugs at all, despite some flying cigarettes and mobile phones, so I could really enjoy the story and how well my character was placed within the game world through the first-person view.

But when the world then opens up, all the little and larger compromises started to show; and that more time would have done the game a lot more good. The AI from traffic and opponents is straight dumb, driving with keyboard is not cool, the open world is crowded and empty, you cannot upgrade or change your safe-house, the police is spawning behind you (always) and honestly – overall there is not much to do.

BUT when you do(!) side quests and of course the main story quests, the game truly shines and is just plain awesome again.

So while I savor this feelings of awesomeness deep within, I will give Cyberpunk 2077 more time and some patches to stabilize and become more of the game it should have been.

Wake me up, when you are ready, Samurai.

Time played: 18h | Achievements: 3%.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (playing)

The Ancient Greek world is so beautiful.

‘Diocles… sounds Greek. Well, maybe one day I should travel to Greece… .’

Wait, hold that thought! In my review of Assassin’s Creed: Origins I already hinted a little peak into the vast Ancient Greek game world. Well, when this little peak became a mindless stare, you know you are hooked.

In a short review, AC: Odyssey is truly that – an Odyssey. This game is way larger than Origins and has even more stuff to do in the game world. I play as Kassandra this time and I have to say I really got used and to love her blunt and charming character, slicing, hacking and bashing my way through Greece and its islands.

So far I have followed a similar path as in Origins, but this time they have not included an achievement for total map completion (Praise the gods!). So after again completing every question mark and killing every poor captain I could spot, I finally switched gears and aim now to proceed more in the story. I just completed Episode 5 and I already hit level 48, so I guess I am a tiny bit ahead. Not a big deal, as I play on hard difficulty and all the world is leveling with me anyway.

The main story is quite ok so far, and as with Origins, when the story is becoming dense, it’s always becomes quite good and entertaining. Unfortunately I have yet to find a good side-story quest. There have hardly been any worthy of note; I cannot remember even one at all right now.

I will definitely write on my journey through Greece at a later stage, so please look forward to it.

Time played: 64h | Achievements: 27%.

Interim Report: Fall – Part 1

After the glory that has been Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Star Wars: Fallen Order I thought that finally a momentum started building up. After enjoying and completing both games, I would now(!) be ready and on fire – a Streak-of-Completion with my next selected games, and my Pile of Shame would finally start melting like snow on a first spring day.

After the glory that has been Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Star Wars: Fallen Order I thought that finally a momentum started building up. After enjoying and completing both games, I would now(!) be ready and on fire – a Streak-of-Completion with my next selected games, and my Pile of Shame would finally start melting like snow on a first spring day.

Spoiler: Nope. Did not happen. Actually, it even got worse.

My meandering between games this summer / autumn was terrible. The worst ever. I started games and lost all interest in the middle of them. I swore I would complete this game, but I did not even made it on three hours in, or more than 15 minutes. One reason I did not post more these last months, was out of shame on my limited process. Shame, as in Pile of Shame, that is.

So, the moment of truth is now: Here is what I have played and stalled for – Part 1.

  • World of Warcraft Pandaria – stalled
  • X-Morph Defense – paused
  • I am Setsuna – stalled
  • Anthem – paused
  • Bastion – stalled
  • Ys: Origins – completed 1st play-through, paused

World of Warcraft – Mists of Pandaria (stalled)

They never convinced me… these Pandas. Never did.

Yes, you read that right. I stopped WoW after Blizzcon 2011, when the expansion was announced. After a mediocre, but still ok’ish Catalclysm expansion, I simply could not take this dramatic turn to Pandas, their comic-like presentation, all on beer, food and laid backness, embedded in a overflowing and intense Cliché-Chinese setting (on towards a new market). Too close to Kung-Fu Panda; and I really like the movie!

It did not sit well with the overall, at this time, brooding and dark atmosphere of WoW-Catalcysm. Also the reduction of skill-trees and the continuing trend to a more casual game was very disappointing. So my brother and I quit our subscriptions on that very night.

When a colleague from work was all hyped for the new Shadowlands expansion, he turned me around and I – in my already deep struggle of not knowing what I should play – agreed on subscribing again, transferring my character to his server, and even change alliance. I thought, I go all in here; that Euros would equal out towards more motivation to play. First I wanted to start with my trusty Druid, but rerolled on a Demon Hunter. Druid was so boring to play, and Demon Hunter provided at least some mobility and fun. So much for money spent and motivation to play.

To make things even more a ‘challenge’ I insisted on starting where I left – in Pandaria, and play on the Main Story Questline through all Expansions. I have trouble connecting with a game, when I have story-holes or simply jump ahead. And boy, that was probably a mistake. Questing and story was bland and horrible experience: C’mon Boy! – Fetch this! Fetch that! Shake the tree over there for fruits, cuz I’m a lazy fat Panda! Catch ‘dem squirrels!

Arriving from Final Fantasy XIV, as an all recognized Warrior of Light & Darkness, I simply could not bear (*heh*) this useless and shameful quest grind anymore.

Yes, I stalled. And nope, no return to WoW for me. I left for good this time.

Time played: approx. 18-20h.

X-Morph Defense (paused)

Our mother core landing in a caste in Britain.

This game was requested by my kids, when we looked for something new to play. It’s about being the commander of an alien invasion on Earth, where you try to defend your alien core from these pesky Earthling attacks.

Attacks happen on predefined paths, so X-Morph follows a Tower-Defense style of gameplay, where you build turrets along the way, to neutralize enemies approaching your core ship. You are flying around with your drone and upgrade towers and help shooting everything down.

Rather a fun game for in-betweens, but not really motivating in terms for completing it. Stages become simply more and more challenging and you will move across continents, so the surrounding changes once in a while.

Time played: 2h | Achievements: 7%.

I am Setsuna (stalled)

Let’s face it – gating is not cool, right?

The first game by Tokyo RPG Factory and quite a success in reviews and overall reception. Especially the soundtrack was mentioned often with praise, being mainly delivered on a piano; and I can only agree to that.

The game itself is true to classic 16bit JRPGs, but with a more modern engine, and really gets those nostalgic vibes going (so to speak). As with all JRPGS mechanics are constantly introduced, but it remains often unclear on how the meta in the end works out (or how it should work out). The game tries to explain a lot with Tutorials, although most of the time I felt the mechanics were under-explained or obscured by the game.

The story itself evolves around Setsuna, who is presenting herself as an offer to calm the late uprising in monster attacks throughout the continent. You, as the main protagonist were actually tasked to kill her, but then change your mind to protect her along her pilgrimage, which feels very close to Final Fantasy X’s Yuna storyline.

The game became very grindy later on, which would not be a big deal, but it forces you to re-do one cave over and over and over again to level-up your characters. Why you have to do that? Because there is a mid-boss gating you unless you reach a certain level to half-way get a chance on dispatching him. I did not hurry or stress-run through the game at all, did side-quests and also often looked for combat while roaming around, but I was still dramatically under-leveled when I reached this boss. After running the cave around 20 times, I still lacked some levels and was then quitting and postponing the game for good. As a side-effect I now have so much money and items, that I break the economy of the game and can buy everything I like. Which is of course nice, but somehow also a bit stupid.

I think I will finish the game at a later stage, because I really want to know how Setsuna’s pilgrimage will end.

Time played: 12.7h | Achievements: 30%.

Anthem (paused)

Flying with my Colossus really is an amazing feeling.

Yes, I bought Anthem on a sale for a one digit amount of Euros. The games’ lore, art style and mechanics have interested me from the first time I heard about them. When Anthem crash-landed and shattered at the ground of reality, I found the story around its’ development and BioWares’ incapability of delivering a good game in their latest releases intriguing.

So when I started playing, my hopes were not too high, but the game has convinced me otherwise. The story really is well delivered and the voice-actors do a fantastic job on bringing their characters alive (at least the main cast). The history and background story is atmospheric and well done, but the mystical bullshit-bingo sometimes way too much. Facial expressions are also fine and the overall feeling for the world feels really immersive.

When you move outside your hub, the flaws in design and engine show pretty fast. A rather stale world with mediocre shooter mechanics, and an awkward loot and equipment progression system. And as mentioned so often already: Flying is really something.

When I saw progress on Anthem 2.0 is under way, I paused and will wait for the update being deployed maybe next year. Really looking forward on how they will revamp the game; and BioWare always gets a second chance from me.

Time played: 5h | Achievements: 4%.

Bastion (stalled)

I made it this far … literally face down.

With all the hype about their latest game Hades, Supergiant Games seems like a pillar for creative and innovative game design. Bastion delivers a narrator-focused isometric adventure experience, which received a lot of praise and very good ratings on Steam.

But there is something that does not connect between the game and myself, from the moment I started. And this disconnection is so strong, that I did not even hold a single hour of playing the game; even though I am very interested in the overall-premise of the game!

Maybe I wait until the time is right. Whenever that will be.

Time played: 15min (yeah, yeah … I know).

Ys Origin (completed, paused)

The story is well delivered, and surprisingly interesting.

A game I started playing in 2015, as it was always reviewed as fast, fun and challenging. I stalled due to life-related reasons, but this one always nagged about somewhere in my back, so I finally gave in and restarted the whole journey.

And yes, I did not regret this decision. The game is really fun, controls are intuitive and snappy, bosses and challenges are exactly that and the story is also quite interesting.
AND you can replay the game with another character, which is always something I really enjoy, especially since Nier Automata. You also experience the story from a different point of view in Ys Origins and learn more about what is going on and why characters did what they did. In my second run I am now at tower level 14 when I stopped.

I really like to continue and go back to Ys Origins again. When even grinding is fun and feels really good, a lot has been done well.

Time played: 20.2h | Achievements: 15%.

Completed: Star Wars – Fallen Order: Return of the Trivial.

And so it is done. I completed Star Wars – Fallen Order. To my own surprise, even one day later, a very satisfying feeling lingers all within me. “Actually it was really good!” – or so I think. But wait … no … not all was good. Darkness looms within me. Anger. Disappointment.

And so it is done. I completed Star Wars – Fallen Order. To my own surprise, even one day later, a very satisfying feeling lingers all within me. “Actually it was really good!” – or so I think. But wait … no … not all was good. Darkness looms within me. Anger. Disappointment.

Or maybe I am just too happy to finally complete a game after meandering around for two months. In a quick retrospect, the journey through the game world has been the true reward here, and the whole game experience was just awesome. Well, until it ended.

But let’s start the long tour though, without too many spoilers. Or even better: Let’s start in a decade, far far away …

I have always been a big fan of Star Wars since I have watched – totally unprepared – Episode IV with my brother and a friend on an unremarkable Sunday afternoon on VHS. I was around 12 – I think – and this movie has changed my perspective on what is ‘cool’ dramatically. Since then, I have been always eager to go and watch every new movies and got disappointed seven times in a row in the decades to come; well, with one exception.

Since the latest trilogy and origin stories it became rather obvious that Disney has no clue on how to find and set stories or invent characters within the Skywalker timeline, that create a feeling of meaningfulness. Solo was boring and VII-IX a catastrophe, with only Rogue One remaining a shining beacon. The Mandalorian has good vibes and angles, but has still to show, where all this is going. The season final was – again – a complete nonsense.

With Star Wars computer games I never really warmed up as much, as they have been mainly “side or fan-fictional stories” that were rather awkward for my taste. It felt that George Lucas just sold the license to whoever credibly wanted to do something with it. Besides Lucasfilm’s classics X-Wing, Tie-Fighter and X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter, I have only played Dark Forces, Knights of the Old Republic 2 (both not completed) and Star Wars – Old Republic. With the disaster that has been the release of Battlefront 2 (I don’t like shooters), no notable story-driven game has been released to the world that is Star Wars.

And then Star Wars – Fallen Order was here, with a new character – Cal Kestis – and a more dark and gritty setting between Episode III and IV than Rebels. A Jedi in the hiding, being revealed and chased by Inquisitors, banding with a crew of losers, unclear how and why they showed up at the exact perfect moment during his flight, who then follow another lonesome looser Jedi Sage paperchase circling around an ancient alien race called Zeffo through the galaxy. All to save some unknown younglings, who are soon to be killed by the Empires’ ruthless Inquisitors, who in turn are actually pretty cool.

The Second Sister – A cool antagonist and stylish Inquisitor

At first I struggled with the premise and wondered about more or less everything that was story related. But the longer I played, the more I opened up to the characters and the world around me. The backstories of Cere Junda and Greez Dritus are believable in regards to Star Wars side characters and have some nice and soft twists and turns. Also the voice-cast helps tremendously here and is very convincing and supporting the characters with an extra edge. The cutscenes are almost always very good, including the transitions from game to cutscene and back, contributing to a very dense, believable atmosphere and immersion delivered through plain awesome graphics.

What really kept me going though was the focus on the main story, dialogues and the world and less collecting crap, trash and completing meaningless chores for some lazy bystander. Sure, you collect database entries and story-supporting Echos, but mostly all of them can be found while following the main path; or when you are backtracked later and revisit the planet. I did not mind the backtracking too much, as you can anyway choose if you want to follow the path from before or just follow straight your current story quest. It is basically just cosmetics you collect anyway. And I did collect … boy, did I collect.

Bogano – My most visited planet

Fighting is great, switching on your lightsaber is awesome, animations are smooth and you can see that they put a lot of details into Cal Kestis’ animations. Jumping, swinging, running along walls, double jump – you really start feeling like a Jedi sooner or later. Also, the combat difficulty is rather challenging: I started out on Jedi Master (one above normal) but reverted back to Jedi Knight (normal), as I put more emphasis on exploration, than on fighting. Both would have been too straining on my time currently, so I choose the ‘easier’ path. The fights were enjoyable on this level, nothing too difficult with a bit of concentration and timing; and still, fights do still feel really epic.

I spent 32 hours and had no feeling of boredom or “why do I have to do this”. The main reason here is simply the reduction of open world uselessness that is so popular right now in current game design. I mean, even swimming and diving stuff up was enjoyable! I even thought about a 100% completion somewhen in the middle of everything, but refrained from these extra hours I would have to spend.

Star Wars and story? – I know, right?

Still, a dark spot remains. Like this one tree on Dagobah, a place of frustration, exhaustion and failure. Because, with all this greatness I am still angry with the game after it ended, or better: how the game concluded. I will not spoiler here, but it makes me questions the whole point of the game, the characters and the whole storyline. There are endings to games and there are endings. The first could be god-tier endings like in Nier:Automata and there could be endings like in Star Wars – Fallen Order. Honestly, it made me re-evaluate everything after the final scene with a capital letter “Oh, RLY?” and until now this still bothers me.

I assume that the reason for this choice of an end to such a well balanced game links back into the core problem of everything within the Skywalker timeline right now: In the end it’s all meaningless.

And this is so terribly undeserved.

If you want to be a Jedi – play this game.
If you want to experience a souls-like fighting experience – play this game on Jedi Grand Master.
If you want an immersive atmosphere and planets – play this game.
If you want game character banter with some chuckles – play this game.
If you want to experience epic fights and true Star Wars action scenes – play this game!
If you want a true Star Wars story – play this game, cause like in all other movies called Star Wars, the end sucks.

The Incompletionist

Interim 2020: Sorting my Pile of Shame.

Besides the recent longer posts, there are also other games I played in between; some of these I did complete, but more I did not. So for this Interim Report on the first half of 2020, I would like to briefly mention and reflect on my experiences in:

  • Tower of Time (completed)
  • Assassin’s Creed (stalled)
  • Warhammer 40k – Mechanicus (incompleted)
  • Elex (incompleted)
  • Quantum Break (completed)

Tower of Time (completed)

Tower of Time – Graphics and levels are really beautiful

This games is a mixture of a bit of Baldur’s Gate, Divinity Original Sin, and… well anything Infinity Engine’ish.

Story-wise the game is set in a dying world with a plague ravaging inhabitants and several races quarreling and struggling. A tower is discovered, but upside down stuck in the ground, and while you as the main character sit on its’ crystal throne, you send and follow your characters down to the bottom (which is the top) of the tower. And as the throne empoweres you tremendously, you are also capable to sway the mood of decisions in the party.

The game itself is beautiful and has some stunning scenery, characters are believable but behave sometimes erratic / unpredictable according to the choice mechanics in the game. Fights are on a good / challenging difficulty level with an interrupt / slow-down function to adjust your actions and movements during battle.

What really dragged me though was the more classic “tower level” design, which felt a bit like in Eye of the Beholder: You know there are twelve levels, so you slowly move forward to the end, level by level. So of course, every level has its own biome and specialities – some cooler, some colder. Strangely the tower levels become tremendously huge, the more you proceed downwards (which is upwards). It’s a magic tower – I get it! – but sometime it felt more like dragging everything out for more playtime.

The game overall is actually too long and becomes rather repetitive, but leaves a good taste after the final credits rolled. I sometimes really had to motivate myself to proceed further though …

Time played: 43h | Achievements: 56%

Assassin’s Creed

Looking for the fun part in just another Assassin’s Creed game

Well, after my first tilt with Assassin’s Creed Origins I thought a smaller AC game would do the trick and started at the beginning of everything.

I was so wrong.

As soon as the game hinted me to collect 100(!) rags (or flags?) per region, my motivation dwindled and quickly stopped. Why would you ask something like that from anybody? And yes, I get it – I don’t have to do it – but they are glowing everywhere and they need to be picked up and … …

I quickly uninstalled the game and my hopes for ever completing an AC game … ever! Nevertheless my return to AC:Origins was tremendously enjoyful and so I will probably also return to this one and do a very quick run through, just for the story.

No flags for this Assassin.

Time played: 5h

Warhammer 40k – Mechanicus

My screenshots are so unremarkable – please take a look at this wallpaper instead

This one came from my random selection process and I was actually really hyped to play it – something turn-based, something strategic, something… different!

But oh! … was that different.

There are some realms of lore I simply find no footing in. One is the Elder Scrolls and the other is Warhammer. This is not because both are boring or uninteresting, no – the opposite! They are just so lore-heavy, that I have the feeling I would never ever understand what the heck is going on and be able to follow the flow of history and relevance of events and characters.

So I tried to watch some videos (thanks Vitali!) but it just became more and more complicated. I could not even grasp the necessary vocabulary to understand what these people are talking about.

So I started and played some hours; the combat was quite ok, the progression too, but the overall feel, relevance or impact of what was happening here was completely lost to me. So I remained very disconnected to whatever I did there and never found an angle for moving forward. Also this constant bubbling tech-mumbo-jumbo became really annoying, so I quit.

Sorry Inquisitors, you will have to win this one without me.

Time played: 8h | Achievements: 17%


Being bossed around and being an asshole in Elex

My first step into one of Pirania Bytes’ games and I thought I was prepared through reading and listening to reviews and impressions, but I was not.

You are some dude on a planet, which obviously seems to be a very harsh world, because round about everybody I ever met behaved like an asshole. And I mean everybody, including me, the main character. Strong words everywhere, strong choices as a reply, a quite unfamiliar progression of finding out what the heck you should actually do right now, a quirky UI that keeps you unnecessarily busy and a very strange overall storytelling, including side-quests. I understand, that this game focuses on a more open-worldish-emergent-story-telling approach, but it is just not my take of fun to get beaten up by everybody and everything in this game and by try & error find the right direction to move forward. I recognize the effort for exploration though, but I was more running away from everything than actually exploring.

I later read, that they tried to write the dialogues like they are delivered in a classic table-RPG session. Meaning amateurs trying to be tough, or play a character-type you are not familiar with or gamemasters trying to impose various social actors. And yes, everything made so much sense afterwards, and the voice actors (especially in German) really tried to pull this of like amateurs. Well, I hope they were. With many smiles I remembered from my own table-RPGs, how we played it out and voiced our characters.

All the above is then combined with very clunky movement and combat mechanics, which I never became really used to or comfortable with. Positioning towards the opponent was so difficult (or random?) that I often missed my target by some meters and was then attacked into my back and died – again.

I am definately too soft for a game by Pirania Byte. Elex just chewed me up and spit me out, nothing to gain for me here. Let’s move on.

Time played: 11h | Achievements: 12%

Quantum Break

Quantum Breaks’ cinematics and cutscenes are great.

After finishing Assassin’s Creed: Origins I wanted to play something with a tight story and not another 80+ hour game. So I found Quantum Break in my library and went straight in without much preparation.

The game has very nice graphics and is structured into episodes with real live acting in between (around 15-20 minutes). So you meet quite some known actors in a real and digital version and this was a very refreshing and needed change of pace after 100 hours running through Egypts’ dunes.

The story itself was quite good, not great, not average. Sometimes engaging, and more often running around picking up trash other people left around. At least the ‘trash’ was contributing a lot for delivering the story and it makes a lot of sense to read all this and watch all the videos and diary entries. Acting is really good and you can see that they are all professionals.

Gameplay mechanics are quite average though. The movement is clunky, jumping feels like 2008 and levels are very linear; at least this I did not mind much. What I did not like were the combat mechanics as these were very difiicult to control and target, so I turned off some auto-aiming in the settings to not become too annoyed. The skills are quite cool and when you manage to connect a flow, it feels really impactful and powerful.

Final bossfight was a catastrophe and I was terribly annoyed by the mechanics. I mean … how? why? I felt like a chicken running around all the time.

Overall quite nice game and a good recovery from AC:Origins’ rather sandy story progression.

Time played: 14h | Achievements: 78%

Perfected: Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Confronting Demons.

And so, I completed Assassin’s Creed: Origins. My first Assassin’s Creed game and also the game that brought me at the brink of a long depression on playing video games 18 months ago. The game, no … UbiSoft’s open world formula … had drained me then, grinded me through, and spit me out … exhausted. I lost all will to play anything for almost two months. Remarkable, as no other game has achieved that before.

He smiled. Exhausted, but relieved. It has been a long journey. Traveling to nearby villages around Siwa has always been his duty as a Medjay, but this journey was far longer than he had anticipated it. A journey because of revenge. Of loss. Of justice. And for love. Bayek stared into the fire – the night was closing in.

And so, I completed Assassin’s Creed: Origins. My first Assassin’s Creed game and also the game that brought me at the brink of a long depression on playing video games 18 months ago. The game, no … UbiSoft’s open world formula … had drained me then, grinded me through, and spit me out … exhausted. I lost all will to play anything for almost two months. Remarkable, as no other game has achieved that before.

So while I sit here, typing, I wonder. What was different in the second take? Why did I restart the game again, investing another 90 hours into a game that literally broke me?

Bayek shifted, moving his aching legs from under his body closer to the fire. It was cold. He felt a chill approaching, creeping up his spine. Just a cold night? No. He stared into the fire, and as so often in the past weeks the flames answered. Faces, screaming – all the people he had killed, when he laid a bloody path through all of Egypt. He was the bringer of doom, and of justice. A shadow in the night. He killed. He killed them all. And he felt nothing, nothing at all.

The game invites you to kill. Killing is your only option and means to act in the game and the solution to every problem. And so I killed soldiers when they passed riding by without provocation, I assassinated them aimlessly for no reason in the streets of Alexandria, I shot arrows across 60 meters in their heads. I used large crossbows to mow them down. I hammered them and bashed their heads to goo in the hot desert sand. I finished them off, by ramming my sword into their spine, when they were down on their knees.
I killed them in their sleep. I burned them in their sleep. I carried oil vases into their tents while they slept and burned them alive. I whistled for them, they came, and I killed them. Almost 5.000 kills in a game where I am the ‘good’ guy; that is more than half my villages’ inhabitants. And I am not even counting the fauna of Egypt, that has been reduced to leather and other materials I needed for crafting and updating my gear.

Looking for trash … uhm … treasure.

Because of all of this, the rhythm and story of the game feels strange. Bayek is on a path of revenge, but revenge is constantly pushed back for countless hours, while you do other useless crap. This crap is almost always about killing or sometimes searching for treasure. Well, the ‘searching’ part is actually done by Senu, my eagle. Anyhow, treasure is almost always found immediately.

This gameplay formula seems to be one of those drawbacks in all “open world” games. And still, I wonder what “open world” means here. My conception of an open world game is a completely different one. In Assassin’s Creed: Origins there is no emergent story telling at all. Sometimes you find a tomb through exploration, but too often you have to go back in the same tomb again, because of a sidequest you got from a village later. This feels just like bad pacing.

Naturally, all this crap activities are nicely represented by an expecting question mark on your map; and there are more than 400 question marks on the map, just sayin’. And as I am terribly prone to such completionist-tactics, I checked them all out. Not one, or two or some. Yes, all of them. I did all of the questionmarks, and forts and all the rest. I completed not only the game via the story and the two DLCs; nope – really all of it. All achievements – 100%. I should be proud – Or shouldn’t I?

The faces in the fire started to look more and more the same, the more often he saw them. ‘Strange’, he thought. ‘I never did look too close at the Roman or Ptolemean soldiers I killed. Or the bandits for that matter. Thinking back, they really all looked strangely the same somehow.’ He drank some water. ‘Whatever. They deserved it. The Hidden Ones will remain. And Khemu … we will see each other again. In the field of reeds…’

Thinking about the main story I was sometimes impressed and sometimes strangely detached. As described above the pacing is quite off, as are the cuts at the end of the in-game cinematics. But it got better at the end of the MSQ, when I also followed the story more closely, with the aim to – finally – finish it.

Curse of the Pharaos story and characters are really good.

The story of the DLCs is quite alright in the Hidden Ones, and really good in the Curse of the Pharaos. The production quality on the latter is exceptionally high, so I can only recommend to play this one.

Bayek’s voice actor Abubakar Salim is great. All the other voice actors are good too, but he clearly stands out. He put a lot of effort and emotions into Bayek and I always enjoyed the snarky remarks, his annoyance in the sidequests, the anger, when he confronted his sons’ – Khemus’ – killers. In the end he carried the game through and placed a believable character into an immersive and realistic ancient Egypt.

One of the stronger emotional scenes in the game.

Speaking of Egypt, the world of Assassin’s Creed: Origins is the main actor of this game and just amazing, The light, the mood, the atmosphere – so beautiful. I enjoyed walking around, riding through the desert alone, scaling the highest mountains, exploring the pyramids and boarding a small boat to cross the Nile under a setting sun. The details that found their way into the game are staggering and beautifully crafted. Nothing really feels to look the same. I have not experienced something in that detail ever before, and even now, some days after I uninstalled the game, I long for all those beautiful places in Egypt.

‘I wonder what Amunet is doing… Nah, she will be fine. She has always been fine.’ Bayek shifted again to remove the unease of their departure at the shore. His horse stirred somewhere in the back. Senu was not seen for some hours. All was quiet and all was at rest. He continued to stare into the fire. His muscles ached from everything he had to endure, his fingers hurt from all the walls and towers he had to climb.

The game offers you so much to do. So. Much. To. Do. You can race in the Hippodrome, you can fight in the arena, there will be ship battles and riddles in tombs and what not. It is all in the game, and nothing is really good. The Hippodrome is easy to win as soon as you know how it works, the arena is just fighting in a more enclosed space, the ship battles work in and follow the same pattern over and over. All of it is visually amazing, but lacks depth in gameplay.

I played on hard difficulty and hardly found any challenge. Sure, some bosses were more tricky than others, especially in the Curse of the Pharao DLC, but I more often struggled with the awkward button layout, than with a challenging encounter.

Entering the arena.

What annoyed me most were bosses that where just difficult because they were completely erratic and had no ‘mechanic’ at all. They just randomly pulled all their tricks without preparation or charge times. That is not what I understand as a challenging encounter. Code Vein was really great in this regard, as you would have to learn and understand and then execute perfectly. Nothing of this is expected from you in Origins.

When you are spotted while ‘on the job’ and more and more soldiers close in on your position, you are almost always overwhelmed and die a shameful death. Early in the game I sneaked into forts and tried to be stealthy. The longer I played the more aggressive my playstyle has become. Often I just charged into a soldiers’ camp with my horse, sword raised. I circled and killed them from my horse, shot them from my horse and trampled them down – with my horse. Oh, someone managed to call reinforcements? Yes, thank you! Let them come! I killed them too in the same manner. Only then would I get down from my horse and loot the camp.

The fire started to burn down and Bayek felt the exhaustion. ‘Rest, yes… some days rest in Memphis should be fine. And I wonder, what Diocles is doing.’ He closed his eyes again and listened in. ‘Diocles… sounds Greek. Well, maybe one day I should travel to Greece… .’

The exhaustion fades and I would have to lie, if I had not considered to motivate myself on starting the Odyssey that is the next game. But I am anxious of another burn-out. Scared of feeling the emptiness again and falling into another blank state of gaming. But I long for the shallow rhythm of another Assassin’s Creed game and I always liked the Greek mythology the most.

Well, maybe I really should explore Layla’s story more…

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is nothing for the faint hearted. It is a long game that drags you into a spiral of useless activities, which are beautiful to look at but not really challenging to do.

The first time I played, I quit the game full of rage and depression. My ‘mistake’ was to expect too much from the game. A good story? – Not in there. Challenging boss fights? – No, sir. A reason to explore those question marks? – None, but thank you for taking a look.

In my second attempt, I was just looking for a game to lift my tired mind somewhere else. A beautifully and realistically crafted ancient world. An atmospheric, lively, and immersive environment, that feels hand crafted in so many hidden spots and places. With this mindest, I looked for total completion, no matter if this is meaningful or not.

This is, where Origins shines, where it playes all its cards and deals you a complete set of total fullfillment. A great place to hide.

Farewell Egypt, I will miss you.

The Incompletionist

Completed: Code Vein – A good Game.

With – a bit of pride – I finally completed Code Vein in 43h (with 76% achievements). I am not saying I have – beaten – the game. Simply, because it was surprisingly easy to get through, and beside some choke points, with a lot of dirty cursing on my side, it was a quite pleasant ride. Mainly, because you are not alone on this journey and you can have a partner with you. Seemingly, this made a big difference.

With – a bit of pride – I finally completed Code Vein in 43h (with 76% achievements). I am not saying I have – beaten – the game. Simply, because it was surprisingly easy to get through, and beside some choke points, with a lot of dirty cursing on my side, it was a quite pleasant ride. Mainly, because you are not alone on this journey and you can have a partner with you. Seemingly, this made a big difference.

In addition, this has also been my first ‘Souls-like’ game. I never had the ‘guts’ to invest time in any Souls-game, because I was never sure if I can bring up the concentration and most of all the patience to try and try and try. As my main playtime in the day is almost entirely in the evening/night, this was not my imagination of how I would like to enjoy my free time after a full day of work.

As of writing this, I am not planning on exploring the end-level content or another New Game+. I am actually a bit tired of it and am not motivated to re-run the whole game again.


So in brief, what is Code Vein.

You are a memory-lost Vampire sort of Revenant who is in a city-area encapsulated with Red Mist that makes it impossible to escape. The city has been ravaged after a battle against the Queen and these Vampires have been created from humans via a parasite to fight the Queen (and the Lost, Revenants who succumb to frenzy) as they now conveniently always ‘resurrect’ and do not die, at the cost of their memories. You soon meet Louis, who looks like an Anime interpretation of Louis right out of Interview with a the Vampire, and his harem of she-vampires and his best bro Yakumo. Later you add even more she-vampires and another bro and move forward in the story and across biomes & places, arriving some-when at the final battle wondering how you got there, what the heck is actually going on here and why it’s already over.

Still interested? Well, this sums up a crazy story of a lot of JRPGs, but as every connoisseur knows what they are in for when it comes to the story-telling (Huh?), tropes (there is an Onzen(!) in the main hub) and framing in this genre – this is great. And well me … enjoyed the ride a lot. Out of many reasons mentioned above and below.

Spoiler: The combat mechanics only play a minor part in it.


The story as outlined above and the connected game mechanics are terribly confusing at first. There are Blood Codes (classes), Blood Veils (shrouds to wear that look like rugs), Vestiges (spiked things containing Blood Codes), and Gifts (skills) embedded in the overall background story, that were awfully hard to grasp and understand. Also there is the Queen (who?) and Silva (important guy you never meet) and Blood Beads (for everybody to survive) and Mistles (to resurrect and save) that are all relevant to understand the setting and overall framing of the story. This took me quite a while to separate and grasp what is what and what this all is about and the heck these people are talking about…!

The moment you learned the vocabulary and better understand the who is who and what is what, the more the game opens up to you and the better you can enjoy the variety, how the game delivers its’ story. And there is one really awesome part of unlocking new Blood Codes and this is done by restoring Vestiges (and? did you check above?).

This unlock is done via a very cool remote dream-like scene, in which you relive the lost memories of their owners. You can walk around in a gloomy, often destroyed, corridor drifting in darkness mid-air and observing the scenes played out for you. You can never really see the characters in detail, they all look like figures burned to ash, similar to mummies from Pompey. And as in memories; you know what has happened, but cannot remember the exact details.

Exploring the memories was one of the highlights for me.

For me, this was the best part of the game, because the developers took a lot of effort to deliver the emotions, drama, violence, decisions and anxiety of all protagonists. I always play JRPGs with Japanese voice on and here the voice actors were doing an awesome job. It makes you to want to know more about this characters’ story line and it always concludes and leaves you with unanswered questions in your head. To get more information, you have to talk with the others about what is going on, and only then, slowly, the full story becomes more and more complete.

The cut-scenes are also mostly great and rarely cringy, me as the silent hero standing around gloomily; clearly sayin’: “Let others do the talkin’. I am here for the looks. And the fightin’ afterwards!” But there is action, there is drama, there is love and there is atonement. Great.

Cut-scenes full of love and cheesy quotes. Perfect.

So why do you complain about the story then?
Well, as so often in JRPGs, the path is awesome, the goal is disappointing. There is some story kind of twist around three quarters in, but I felt rather ok’ish with that and it did not play out well in the end. There were many promises made at the beginning, that did culminate well towards the final boss fight and ending. I expected disappointment out of experience with other Japanese games, but I was still… quite disappointed in the end. Mainly because of the great story details in the memories and the cut-scenes.

The combat

There is not much to say about combat other than that it just works. You will need some time to adjust and learn the tricks, dodges and damage windows of bosses, but it just works. There is some quirkiness once in a while when it becomes hectic, I cannot place my finger on, but overall it’s all fine. Again, this is my first souls-like game – so I am happy and will not complain.

Heading towards this areas’ endboss.

What is also great are the different weapons and animations. I mainly played with the Two-handed Sword (for life!) and a halberd later for more damage and speed, and both play distinctively different, but somehow same’ish. Fine for me. Also, admittedly, I did not care much for the stats at all. Dexterity D+? Strength B+? I had no clue what this is for and I never had any nerve to learn more about it. I made my way to Fextralifes’ Wiki, searched for some builds and said: “Great. Thank you very much!


What I really enjoyed in Code Vein was, that there was hardly any extra-crap to collect. There is some exploring to be done (but not too much), some hidden stuff to be found (but not too much), some boxes to open (but not too many), some extra dungeons to be cleared (but not too difficult) and some gear to be exchanged from the NPCs with materials that drop anyway. What a pleasant relief! What an experience, when developers are not wasting my time and artificially extend my playtime for nothing.

I still did some extras here and there and checked for some achievements to be done while I am around. But there was nothing that made me collect hundreds of flags or whatever garbage someone left behind and me coming along and treating it as treasure. What. A. Relief.

This was also one of the reasons I did not tire out too much during playing Code Vein. The areas are large and complex, but again: not too much. Each area can easily be done in around 1 – 2.5 hours, depending on how much you want to explore and listen to others talk. Great packaging and pacing, and this helped me a lot to smoothly complete the game.

I do. I really do have… very sharp eyes.

I am done with the game for some days now, but already my thoughts were circling around doing some more stuff here and there and maybe even do a New Game+. I uninstalled the game though, so I am not really sure if I will go back anytime soon. But, I guess, this is anyway already the perfect post-game experience.

Code Vein is doing so much right and leaves not much to complain about, if you know what you are up to. Even until completion, it leaves this lingering taste of: Yes I would yearn to play some more again, but I know this ‘more’ is probably too much.

Like Vampire Louis, who enjoyed a nice drink of blood, after reading a poem to his victim.


The Incompletionist

My Pile of Games – March 2020

The first post on surveying my pile of games can be found here. I will try to track changes – e.g. additions, completions, stalls, delays – and also update play times to keep my process a bit more transparent.

I also try to track playtimes a bit on various titles.

Update – 30.03.2020
  • Completed Code Vein (43h, 76%) – 29.03.2020
  • Stalled Division 2 – 03.03.2020
  • Stalled Monster Hunter World – Iceborne28.02.2020

Update – 07.03.2020

  • Started Code Vein (2,5h, 4%) – 03.03.2020
  • Started Division 2 – 18.02.2020
  • Started Monster Hunter World – Iceborne07.02.2020
  • Completed Darksiders: Warmastered Edition27.01.2020
  • Completed Middle-Earth: Shadow of War28.12.2019
  • Incompleted Destiny 210.12.2019


As I own an account there since 2004, the most relevant (and trackable) platform is of course Steam; so I pulled up some data from to get a first overview:

  • Worth (w/o sales): 4.711€ | 4.002€
  • Games owned: 279 | 252
  • Games played: 91 (32%) | 81 (32%)
  • Hours on record: 3.490,7h | 2.762,5h
  • Time to finish everything: 2.666h or 111 days, 2 hours, 34 minutes
    (before: 2.665h or 111 days, 1 hour, 40 minutes)
    (courtesy of

Noteworthy new games added:

  • Crosscode
  • Frostpunk
  • Okami HD
  • Pathfinder: Kingmaker

Completed games from these 91 above mentioned are (hours of play and % unlocked achievements added) – new additions are marked bold:

  • Aliens: Colonial Marines (6h, 38%)
  • Battletech (61h, 37%)
  • Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons (4h, 100%)
  • Code Vein (43h, 76%)
  • Darksiders: Warmastered Edition (26h, 69%)
  • Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition (105h)
  • Final Fantasy XIII (62h, 40%)
  • Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition (124h, 71%)
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (8h, 92%)
  • Mass Effect (32h)
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (33h, 61%)
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of War (71h, 65%)
  • Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (54h, 49%)
  • NieR: Automata (44h, 57%)
  • Ori and the Blind Forest (16h, 80%)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (29h, 27%)
  • Shadowrun Returns (17h)
  • Tales from the Borderlands (8h, 100%)
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division (131h) – service game, but completed
  • Tomb Raider (20h, 48%)
  • Tyranny (54h, 44%)
  • Wolf among us (9h, 85%)

Active games that I still play and want to either finish or pursue:

  • ???

Stalled games I lost interest, but want to return to some day:

  • Aarklash Legacy (95min, 7%)
  • Bayonetta (50min, 4%)
  • Destiny 2 (95h, 69%) – just the Steam version
  • Divinity: Original Sin (50h, 31%)
  • Division 2
  • Elex (4h, 12%)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (1761,9h | 1381h)
  • Kingdoms of Amalur (3h, 2%)
  • Life is Strange (11h, 27%)
  • Monster Hunter World – Iceborne (192h, 48%)
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut (5h, 10%)
  • Tales of Berseria (14h, 8%)
  • Tower of Time (7h, 19%)

Really want to play games in the upcoming future:

  • Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
  • Edge of Eternity

Of course there are so much more games in this library that I want to play, and many that I will never play. There is quite an amount of gifted games in there, so not all these games have been bought.

Good old Games (GoG)

My account on GoG was created 2014 and I use this account not only to collect some romanticized games from my teenage years, but also to support GoG & CD Project Red with their own games, like Witcher and Gwent. My activity with GoG games mainly falls into the ‘Really want to play’ category, but somehow I never take this leap of faith.

Briefly some stats on my library and what has been played so far.

  • Games owned: 38
  • Games played: 3
  • Hours on record: 246h

Completed games include the following:

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Game of the Year Edition (175h, 61%)
  • Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales (43h, 84%)

Active games that I currently play occasionally:

  • Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (28h, 54%)

Incompleted games:

  • Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (28h, 54%)

Really want to play games in the upcoming future:

  • Baldur’s Gate I & II
  • Battle Isle
  • Icewind Dale I & II
  • Neverwinter Nights I & II
  • Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition

Yes, I am a big Blizzard fan and I think their games always have (or more had) a very special attention to detail and an awesome gameplay loop. Their skills in delivering such experiences have dramatically waned of late, so I am not playing their games that much anymore.

Below an overview and an estimation of my playtimes. Maybe I will update this list, when I log into one of the games or subscribe later again.

  • Destiny 2 (approx. 100-160h)
  • Diablo 3 (approx. 1.200h)
  • Hearthstone (approx. 20h, mainly on iPad)
  • Heroes of the Storm (approx. 15-20h)
  • Overwatch (approx. 30-40h)
  • Starcraft 2 (approx. 120h, the only game I still play once in a while)
  • World of Warcraft (played from 2006 – 2010 as my main game; should be several thousand hours… holy sh**!)

Origin & Uplay

I hardly own games exclusively available on these two platforms. Still noteworthy are the following games:

  • Division 2
  • Dragon Age 2 (2h, still want to finish one day)
  • Dragon Age 3 (not started, want to play it, but so many people say I should not bother…)
  • Star Wars – The Old Republic (around 500-800h)

Completed: Middle-Earth: The Shadow (of an endless) War

This is another difficult one. Difficult, because I loved the first game (Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor) and I tried to love this one too. But, it simply did not work out for us this time. And I think this game explains in its overall experience, what is wrong with monetarization and ‘open-world’ish’ game design in general.

This is another difficult one. Difficult, because I loved the first game (Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor) and I tried to love this one too. But, it simply did not work out for us this time. And I think this game explains in its overall experience, what is wrong with monetarization and ‘open-world’ish’ game design in general.


I have played for 71h, with 65% achievements; I completed the main story and the Blade of Galadriel DLC; I started the Desolation of Mordor DLC, but stalled early after approx. 2h, because I was just too burned out from all of this.

Also, I played this game after the big update that removed the loot boxes and currency (deployed on July 17th, 2018), so I won’t comment at all on this. The mechanics are anyway still in the game and give a rough overview on how this should have played out.


The game itself has several Acts, that separate the game, also mechanic-wise. After the very story-driven introduction and the fall of Minas Ithil (Act 1), the game opens up and you are tasked with conquering different regions in Mordor (Act 2), in order to challenge the Dark Lord (Act 3). After the big confrontation, the game continues and follows a more jRPG’ish style of endgame, where you can grind further and increase your might and engage in various increasingly difficult challenges to ‘keep the region under control’ until Frodo comes along.

In retrospect I enjoyed Act 1 the most. There was good story progress, and the sense of dread and pressure, that will befall Minas Ithil, Tolkien afficionados (like me) know anyway that the city will fall and called Minas Morgul later, is interesting and Monolith really tried to fit a nice story into these events. But then comes Act 2 and … oh my… the game looses focus and most of all … all the fun that was Act 1 and even my good memories of the first game passed into a depressing reminiscent fog of ‘But… but… why?!‘.

So you capture these regions, you do your main story quest, side quest, and collect a lot of crap that needs to be found. More or less the same as Rise of the Tomb Raider did, and how they turned the game into an orientation less scavenger hunt.

So in the end my circle of grind went like this:

  • Track down Orcs on your map.
  • Ambush and turn these orc captains into your army.
  • Collect garbage.
  • Upgrade your weapons with stupid tasks.
  • Ambush and turn more orc captains into your army.
  • Oh! There is some shiny garbage, let’s collect this quickly!
  • Move to Online Vendettas and kill more orcs, and get this stupid currency to ‘buy’ more orcs.
  • Train your orcs.
  • Let them challenge the fortress captains to weaken the fortress.
  • Rinse & repeat the above 4-5 times, depending on the fortress.
  • Damn, there is still some garbage out there to collect.
  • Attack the fortress.
  • Do that again for the four other regions.
  • Oh hey look: a fifth region! What? Celebrimbor notes, this region is not necessary to capture? What does he know! (Yes I captured even the fifth one… not sure why I did that…)

I don’t know. I was so bored after completing the second region and when I went to the next, I almost quit the game. I really had to force myself through to the end of Act 2. I wanted to see the end of the story so.. so much, hence I endured – a lot!

Grinding at the walls of these fortresses.

Who in his or her sane mind, would rely so much on their gameplay to sustain this long boringly repeating grind – four times!!?? The reason why I liked the first game so much was its snappiness: two regions and a nicely told and very straightforward main & side stories with limited amounts of what to collect and upgrade for. Perfect: First game 33h, second 72h.

So what happened is, that I turned into a berserk and just killed everyone and everything along. I charged right into groups on my Graug, all weapons and skills blazing, hacked the orc captain down and turned him. Oh, they sounded the alarm? All right… let’s take it on! Then on to the next, and next and next. And still it took me so … so … so(!) much time!

But, when I reached the end of Act 2 and returned to Minas Mogul to start the grand finale, the game – finally – got better due to much more stay focus and guidance. Only to then again stall in a quick end boss battle (bit like in the first game) and strange finale of a story (which is not the end of course). Actually similar to myself, loosing my breath along the grind, the game lost its breath to the end and came up with this strangely unfinished – and not really Tolkien-lore fitting (surprise!) – end story twist. But that was neither expected by me nor dreaded. It was fine, for what it was. And, still a tiny bit of cool!

Cast of Characters

Like in the first, there is a set of characters following you along. Below a quick overview on the main & side story characters:

  • Talion is still a great main character. Good story and reasoning. And I love Troy Baker’s voice.
  • Idril comes across as strangely artificial and I felt very detached from her motivations and sorrow. Too much idealism for the world she was growing up in. This just did not fit.
  • Shelob is so much out of lore, that I really had trouble to actually accept her. Somehow a Yennefer’ish character with a strange and inconclusive agenda. Very poorly delivered with some fan-service along those … legs.
  • I never could connect to Baranor. Maybe also a reason, why I did not finish his DLC, because I could not care less about him. He is just there and most of his scenes are just annoying. Another idealist, which makes not much sense, considering his story background (explained in the DLC).
  • Elthariel is very well delivered, also out of lore, but for her I can get over it. The DLC featuring her is actually really awesome. And Laura Bailey is a great voice actress. I did not like her cape / hood which seemed difficult to place on the character model. It felt off most of the time. Also her alternate skins are just not good enough to select.
  • The Orcs are all awesome. The variety of them is really fun and they all have their mostly unique lines. The Fate system is pretty decent. Lots of chuckling done and lots of hateful emotions felt on my side.
  • Ratbag and Brûz are really funny too. I enjoyed all of their ‘screen time’.

Overall though, I did not care much about these characters, compared to the first game. In the first, all of them were actually really nicely placed and introduced. Even Gollum. Not much worked out in the second part with these characters. Not even Gollum. Shallow, no depth, too much misplaced idealism, and just not much convincing(!) reason for being there and doing things or doing stuff for them.

Elthariel and her story DLC showed the more powerful aspects of the game.

So, what remains is the feeling, that I just invested too much time into this. Neither the story finale nor the DLCs would convince me to actively recommend this game to anybody. The online sieges and vendettas are uninteresting and, as artifacts of the removed loot box mechanics, useless to do.

If they would just shortened Act 2 by one region, stayed a bit more to the main and side stories and removed half of the – often uninteresting – lore objects, Mordor would be a way better place to spend time. And honestly I am quite sad, that another game (after Rise of the Tomb Raider) was over-ambitiously ruined for the wrong reasons. If something is not fun, even high production values obviously won’t change that.

And the endgame grind to the top? One quick thought spent, I really thought: Yes let’s go! Then, another thought spent … ok, but what for!? I do not see much fun anymore in yet another round of fortress captures and orc-captain turning. I had plenty of them already; thank you very much.

A lot of wasted potential and a complete useless mid-game grind, ruined this game for me. Only with exceptional high-strains of – do not give up – I made it through, because I just wanted to see the finale.

And OK, I now have seen it.

I can confidently report, that even for a big fiery eye on a tower, there is nothing interesting to see. Move on. Please … just move on.

The Incompletionist