Friday, July 24, 2020

August, I'll See You Soon

August is shaping up to be an interesting month in MMORPGland. In addition to the regularly-scheduled returning holidays and festivals like Tinkerfest and Festival of the Four Winds, here's what I have pencilled into my diary so far:

Guild Wars 2

Dropping on 28 July, we have the next episode of the Icebrood Saga, Jormag Rising.

The current iteration of the Living Story, as we don't call it any more, has been markedly more enjoyable than many of its predecessors, so I'm quite looking forward to this one. That said, neither of the two trailers nor the checklist of features really does a lot for me. At first glance there doesn't seem to be much in there, although Wooden Potatoes somehow manages to get half an hour of speculation out of two minutes of video. There's a surprise.


Next up is Wonderverse, debuting 30 July. I'm considerably more interested in this than the usual DCUO update. It's a very solid game that knows just how to service its substantial audience but for a casual drop-in like me, interest in each episode tends to revolve around what freebies I can score and whether there are any easy-to-get housing items I can use to bling up my lair.

The pre-publicity for Wonderverse suggests something rather different. It's reported to be "large-scale...with level-agnostic event versions of content available to all players for a limited time" but most intriguingly it promises to introduce a brand-new "massive open-world" zone to the game.

Open-world play in DCUO is a lot of fun but I can't say I've seen much of it since the (extensive) starting zones. There might already be lots of open world zones for all I know - certainly every time I play one of the episodes there's a smallish area open to all-comers - but I can't remember any being touted as a feature before, so I'm guessing this one is something different to the norm.

Final Fantasy XIV

Moving into August proper, the 11th sees the arrival of FFXIV's exotically and evocatively named "Patch 5.3". Sometimes I think whoever decided to call the company "Square" must have been having a quiet chuckle to themselves.

Oh, all right, it does have a name: Refelctions in Crystal. Spoils the joke a bit. Here's the really horrible promo video, featuring a vile, squalling rock soundtrack and clips from what look to me like an entirely different game. If that's what it's like at the top end these days I'm really glad I stopped when it was still a fantasy MMORPG.

Still, you can never judge an update by its number, that's what I say. I wouldn't usually spend even a passing moment considering the contents of a patch for a game I hardly ever play but this one's a very different proposition from the usual run.

It does, of course, have all the regular tweaks and treats the game's large and committed audience expects but it has something far more interesting for the uncomitted: a massive upgrade to the endless free trial.

FFXIV already had a very enjoyable play-for-free option. I've posted about it a few times. It's allowed me to enjoy the parts of the game I find appealing without having to bother with all the rest of the grindy, boxy, paternalistic trappings that make it so unappealing as a full-time MMORPG choice.

Under the existing trial you can only go to level 35. Since that's almost exactly the point at which the game begins to feel heavy and sluggish for me, I didn't really have a problem with that but it's always nice to have a higher ceiling, even if you never reach it.

Patch 5.3 sees the free trial extended. Bizarrely, the best summary of the changes I can find is at the NME. The short version is that, when the patch lands, anyone will be able to play the full, original game plus the first expansion, Heavensward for free. The new free trial level cap will rise to sixty and three new classes and a new race will open up.

There's a little more to it than that, too. As part of a wider overhaul of the game, the original core narrative of A Realm Revisited (aka "the base game") is being streamlined. There's a reported reduction in content of thirteen percent, which might sound like a nerf but is probably a buff, because that's one storyline that could sure stand to lose some dead weight.

"Experience and gear rewards for ARR main scenario quests have also been increased, so new players won’t have to do side quests to reach level 50", as the AOTF report, linked in the last paragraph, explains. Flying is also being enabled in the game's original zones and flying mounts will be available to free players as part of the new content to which they gain access under the raised level cap.

That all sounds pretty good. I've always had mixed feelings about FFXIV. There's a lot to like but nothing like enough to make a monthly subscription seem like a good idea. As a F2P title, though, I can see a lot of merit in giving it another run. I might even persuade Mrs. Bhagpuss to take a second look. She liked most things about it other than the forced grouping and I suspect that can fairly readily be avoided in the lower levels, these days.


This one I only heard about this morning. It came as a total surprise.

For the week beginning 10 August we'll all be able to check out the in-development superhero MMORPG as it goes into "open beta". I won't quibble over the nomenclature. Call it what you will,  it's a showcase arranged to co-incide with a virtual convention, PlayNYC,  that'll allow anyone who might be interested to check how the game's coming along.

And I am interested. Of the three supposed successors to the sunsetted City of Heroes, Valiance was always the one I liked the look of the most. They've run open tech demos and pre-alphas before and I've played them and written about the experience.

There wasn't all that much to see back then but what there was I rather liked. It'll be very interesting to see how things have developed.

All of those should put some much-needed spice into my somewhat stodgy schedule over the coming few weeks and give me a few pegs to hang posts on.

There was one other potential new addition to the roster I was hoping to get a post or three out of and that was the irritatingly monickered "V4", the latest cross-platform effort from Nexon. Unfortunately, when I tried to download it yesterday the Nexon launcher, which I already had installed, resolutely refused to co-operate.

I could have fiddled around, re-installed the launcher, probably got it running somehow, but the reports from those who had managed to get it going were... less than encouraging. So I've shelved the idea for now. Reportedly, it does look absolutely gorgeous, so it might be worth the effort for the eye candy but as a playable entertainment it doesn't look it's going to have legs.

With or without V4, though, August's looking like it could be hot!.

Yeah, okay, okay... Maybe pleasantly warm.


  1. I thought, hm, I haven't played FF XIV in years... I found it a bit dull at the higher levels. Which, mind you, was when the cap was 50,so I've never seen any expansion. So I thought, I might have a quick look, potter around a bit on my pink furred cat guy... I mean he had some personality... and, if I like it, maybe resubscribe for a bit.

    Alas, I learned that the game is traditional in many respects, not least in its meaning of "trial" : can't use a lapsed account to try out the game again. Need a new account for it. Well then... I guess not.

    1. I already made a new account to play the free trial when it began. I dropped my old account without a second thought. I hadn't played it for years and I was more than happy to level up again.

      I'm guessing that the current free account I have will upgrade to the new version although it's possible it might now count as an existing account, I guess. If so, I'd be quite content to make a third account and just start again.

      I do note that the WoW free trial used to work this way but they changed it after a few years so you can now log into your characters on lapsed, once-subbed account - always providing they're no higher then level 20! I'm not sure that's any better.

      The thing that does seem odd about the FFXIV trial rules is that it strongly deters uncommitted players from becoming committed. If you play for free to 60 and decide to carry on you have to subscribe but if you sub you then have to keep subbing or lose access to your characters. If you just stick with the trial, though, you can play forever for free. When the cap was 35 and there was no sign of it changing, that might not have been a partiuclarly strong deterrent to converting from F2P to subbed but now we've seen the cap raised I'd be far more likely put the game aside when I hit the cap and just wait until they extended the trial again in a few years' time.

  2. Yes, I do remember trials that used to work like that in other games. Your point about discouragement is spot on, though. I seriously though about giving it another whirl, maybe even subscribing as my "side MMO". But now that I realise I won't be able to use my old character, even though it's well within the new limits, it will take a bit more to convince me.


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