Friday, March 29, 2013

Phantasy Star Online 2 Review

For those that don't know, Phantasy Star Online 2 (PSO2) is a free to play massively multiplayer online action role playing game that is by SEGA. There is an English version of the game to be released later this year but I will be reviewing the Japanese version of the game, which is still playable for English players, but some things will be excluded in my review and I'll explain why below.

I'd like to mention a few things before I begin this review. I have not played any previous online Phantasy Star game but I have played Phantasy Star Universe on the PS2 and on offline only. The reason I am saying this is because I am going to be reviewing this game as "someone new to the series" and giving an honest opinion on how the game will be for those who are interested and new to this series as well. I have been playing PSO2 since last year and I feel I have reached a point where I can sit down and write a review. I will have the review split into multiple sections for easy access.

Character customization 8/10 - Unlimited possibilities yet lack of style.

With games becoming more and more popular and rising in player count, this subject becomes pretty important for many people. It is always good to have some unique characteristics that makes your character stand out from each other and PSO2 does a pretty good job at giving you that.

PSO2 has possibly the best character customization available on a free to play mmorpg. You have all the basic selection for faces and body types as well as the advanced edits for those who want to put extra time into making their character unique. There is a full color palette which allows for nearly any color available and you can also apply make up or other sorts of additions to your character. You can give your character a maximum of up to 3 accessories which include hats, eye wear, and etc. PSO2 allows you to create your character to be yours only, and the possibility of finding others the same are quite low. The pros of PSO2's character customization is that you can visit an npc to customize your character for free as many times as you want, so you can change your style whenever you feel like it. Now the downside to PSO2's character customization is that some options will be a "cash only" type thing that requires you to purchase a ticket from the cash shop so if you want to constantly change your characters facial structure or body type then you have to pay cash to do so. Not all hairstyles and accessories are free so you have to unlock them by either AC scratch, FUN scratch, or buying them off other players.

I do have to mention that costumes and clothes are a sort of disappointment, mostly because you don't really have that complete character customization where you can wear this armor, with these boots, and these gloves. PSO2 doesn't have that kind of customization available in game unless you are a CAST but instead it provides you with a full costumes that covers everything. There are units which are armor pieces that can be switched but they function more as add-on's to your costume and will rarely come into account of character appeal. Some have no problem with the full costumes themselves but for those who are picky, one little questionable detail can throw off the entire costume. PSO2 also caters more to female characters since the costume ratio on newly monthly scratches (gachapon) are usually 1 male costume to about 3-4 female costumes, so male characters have it pretty harsh thus having a more female populated community played by both male and female gender.

Gameplay 8/10 - The highlight of this game.

PSO2 has an action rpg style game play where all combat is real time and controlled by you. You can choose to play in a third person mode where you can lock on targets manually or automatically. You can alternately choose to play in a first person mode where there is no lock on and everything requires precision aim. There is not much to complain about PSO2's game play since the combat is fun and can require some skill to play. There are currently 6 different classes (Force, Techer, Hunter, Fighter, Ranger, Gunner) which are all equally enjoyable and can cater to many different play styles. You can change your character's class anytime in the lobby in the case you want to try something different and in an end game situation, you could master all classes. I heard they plan to add in more classes later but currently only the 6 is available. Playing certain classes will specialize in certain weapons and only those weapons will work with the classes unless they are all class weapons. You will have to maintain weapons for all classes you plan to play so if you want high damage for all your classes then you have to work on hunting gears for those classes as well. Some classes will be weaker or overlooked then others but with skill updates and such, there is no knowing which class will out class another in terms of dps, and etc.

Game Content 5/10 - Beyond repetitive with no endgame. 

I am excluding the storyline quests in this review solely because those missions are single player. These quests are in some way the same as the online missions but in no way affect the online game play.

My biggest complaint with PSO2 is the fact that there is very little content, and by that I mean things to do. PSO2 excels in pretty much all aspects aside this which is a really huge disappointment since it is quite an impressive game. The game offers a variety of instance based missions, some involving having to beat a boss, complete an objective, or other sorts of tasks. Depending on the mission completed, it will result in a different amount of exp and meseta (game gold). Each map usually consists of 2 to 3 areas, with the 3rd area being the boss. Now the problem isn't that the game is entirely instance based, it's mainly the fact that the game will put you through a repetitive loop along with repetitive maps. Although the maps are random generated, all of the missions are split into 7 different maps, with a few extra maps that can be played through special conditions. Each of those maps have 3 difficulties (normal, hard, very hard), where each have level requirements and consist of stronger versions of the same enemies from the previous difficulties. You play the maps according by level and eventually go through all the maps on the normal difficulty. Now by the time you have cleared through all the instances on normal, you will be a high enough level to play the hard difficulty of the starting map and thus it repeats until you pretty much reach the very last map on very hard. Now some of you have no problem with that kind of progression but it's not just the repetitive maps but how repetitive the leveling process works overall. 

The most ideal way to level is by forming a 12 person (max) room and running a loop in the same area of the map for hours on end, farming off of codes (quests that range from killing a number of something, protecting something for a set time,avoiding, etc) and re-spawns since more people means more codes and spawns. It becomes an extremely repetitive game and eventually you get bored of playing those certain maps since many other missions or instances share that same map and procedure. Certain maps also give more exp than the others so a lot of players will be forced onto the newer maps and disregard the older ones. SEGA tried to fix this issue by adding what is called Advance Quests (AQ). These consist of the same 6 original maps but on a higher difficulty than very hard and requiring token like items in for admission. Every time you clear an AQ they improve the level of the mission and make the same enemies a lot stronger, giving more exp, and better items. To some people this idea sounds amazing but to me, that just sounds like a cheap way to revive the old maps. In the end, the mission is still the same.

There are emergency quests that appear at random times which allows players to join together acting similar to an event, but there is nothing unique about the quests other than an additional map that can only be played when active. Although these quests are nice in terms of fast leveling, they do become repetitive as well and usually lack rares that motivate people to play them.

Aside from game play, the enemies themselves become incredibly repetitive. There is very little to no changes to the enemies or bosses as you progress. Most mmo's would have recolors or remodels but in PSO2, there is very little of that. There is really no AI improvement or additional skills which is also a disappointment. Each map has different enemies with a few remodels, so don't expect much until a new map is released.

There is no end game content such a PvP, guild battles or any of those extras. PSO2 consists of very little competition, where most of it is determined by interrupt rankings which involve killing a set number of something in a set amount of time or doing other time based competition. Although these can be considered achievements, there is very little importance due to hackers being able to take the glory. Yes, there are hackers that will ruin the game but you're going to have to deal with them. There is little to no possibility of skill comparison in PSO2 with lack of such content, so the most ideal way of comparing characters is mainly by stats, equipment, and affixes. For competitive players expecting competitive content, don't expect much from PSO2.

I thought he was kidding at first, until I stayed in the room lol.

Some will argue with me on this topic and I can agree with some of them since SEGA does release new content frequently. The only thing I can say though is that most of the new content added monthly are new costumes and very rarely anything game play related. Most game content updates are released in 3 month intervals, so many players are motivated to take hiatus till new content releases. The major complaint is that SEGA raises the level cap without giving new game content which forces players to replay the same maps to level up. Since there is really no end game, you are forced to wait and play the same content until new content is released.

Premium vs. Free to Play 6/10 - Just why SEGA?

Now this is a pretty important section for those who are interested in starting almost any mmorpg. The big question is how big are the cash shop advantages? Well to start, I'd like to mention that PSO2 is a "FREE 2 PLAY" game but there are various disadvantages for being a F2P player, and these are huge disadvantages. The first most important one being that free players do not have the ability to "trade" freely with others. PSO2 has done what no mmorpg has ever done and made the basic function of TRADING, not FREE. Only premium users can trade with other premium users. Yes, a premium user cannot trade with a free user despite having premium, the other user has to have premium as well...

Aside from that, Premium users' won't have a huge benefit other than a few extra perks and being able to maintain a shop. Having a shop is PSO2 is the most efficient way of making meseta, since the only other efficient way is a repetitive 1 hour and 30 minute long process consisting of repeating Time Attacks that will net you a small amount daily, that is if you do them daily. Selling enemy loot directly to the NPC stores will net you very little to no meseta so players are forced to play Time Attacks or maintain player shops for faster and less tedious means of meseta. Having premium will give you access to other basic extras such as more bank space, your own room, and more FUN points but you're still playing the same game as a free player. Free players can maintain a shop but they have to get lucky and scratch it from FUN Scratch and the shop pass only last 3 days. If you play enough, you can gain excubes to trade in for FUN tickets to try for shop passes, making yourself feel like a premium player in a way ahahaha (beyond tedious process). Another disadvantage for F2P players is that you cannot buy or sell 10* weapons. Overall there is not much of a difference other than a premium player having it much easier to making meseta.

Overall Enjoyment 6/10 - Going downhill, full speed, with no breaks.

This game was great from the start and It was highly addictive after getting into to, but soon enough my fun was slowly being lost mainly by the fact that the game entered a repetitive loop with a long wait on new game content. The community is great and playing with friends is fun but that still couldn't change the fact that you were playing the exact same thing over and over again. Now some would be wondering why you would be willing to play an overly repetitive game, and the answer is that the game pretty much forces you too. With many rare weapons only being obtainable through hunting, you would spend your days replaying missions and killing the same enemies for hours on end until you found what you wanted. Rares weapons became a form of trophies and eventually those trophies would be replaced with new trophies that would come out in the later updates. It had gotten tedious and as someone who is a competitive player and wants the best, the best weapons were nearly impossible to achieve only through getting an insanely lucky roll when killing a boss that only appears through an event and can't be farmed. The process of reaching to the top was what driven me to play the long amounts of time without complaining much but eventually reaching a point where I felt content was when I started to lose interest. I had gotten bored of hunting weapons that were no longer relevant to me and waiting for new weapons that were relevant would be released in the next 3 months. I had no complaints for the weapon grinding or affixing in PSO2 despite the RNG being really harsh, it made it difficult to maximize a weapon but something to feel a sense of achievement when succeeded.

I am very close to quitting, if not already have. My reason for that is that I am slowly losing interest with the repetitive game play and lack of content. I am a free player who previously bought premium but I feel that PSO2 is not worth having a monthly subscription since there are months on end where you sit at level cap and just wait for something new. I don't consider my lack of interest due to not playing enough or making good use of my time, I just feel the game gets very boring after a certain point and it becomes a just log on for the updates type thing. I do not consider this game to be difficult at all, and it is quite simple to achieve high end gear and rare weapons with dedication and just learning the game. This is coming from a free player who achieved up to 300m in meseta, and wastes a lot of his time at Dudu randomly affixing 4 slot weapons and units for shits and giggles.To end my review, I'd like to say that this game still has a lot of content waiting to be released and shouldn't be overlooked just yet but I am reviewing this game as is now. It may be repetitive now but PSO2 might change to be a lot more enjoyable when it is updated with more content in the future.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Artbooks Galore: Kozaki Yusuke, Miwa Shirow, Redjuice, Nidy 2D

I havn't been getting any figurines lately but within the past few months, I did get myself a few artbooks which I decided I should do a short review on and as to why I like these artists. I won't be posting the contents inside the artbooks since the internet already has most of them scattered around but basic information will be available. I will be reviewing them from left to right as shown in the image above and hopefully this review will be of use to some people.

Kozaki Yusuke's Fire Emblem Awakening Material Knights of Iris


This is the most recent art book I've picked up and likely my favorite as it contains everything Fire Emblem Awakening. Although this 300 page art book isn't fully Kozaki Yusuke's, this book contains about 60% of his art works, a little under 10% being fan art from other various artists, and the rest being the scenario archives (all in game chat scenarios). This book is mostly in Japanese, some English but mainly names and certain titles. For those who are wondering if this book will be getting an english release, there are no signs of it being localized and a very good chance it won't be. Costing about $60 US, this book will contain official artwork of the Fire Emblem Awakening characters, concept sketches of the character and weapon designs, event and story board illustrations, and the character profiles as well as additional illustrations. As to why I like this artist, It's really simple to say since Kozaki Yusuke's character designs are absolutely beautiful. Not only the detail on the face and body, but also the clothing design and the weapons. As a cosplayer who has a really hard time picking out characters that interest me, I can definetely say that Kozaki Yusuke makes it really easy to be impressed by nearly any character he can come up with.

Miwa Shirow's m3w-ver.10+CE

This art book I had to go through complicated 3rd party services to get since it was exclusive at comiket83. This book only contains 46 pages but with half the book containing really detailed colored work and the other half being in black and white. Costing about $25, this book mostly contains art work from the series DOGS: Bullets & Carnage which is a manga written by Miwa Shirow himself. I really like Miwa Shirow's artwork mostly for his DOGS works, since the character designs and style give off a really badass feel. More to say I like the hair and faces drawn by Miwa but It also impresses me how he portrays his characters and gives them unique poses and expressions which really make the characters stand out.

Redjuice's Neutral

For those who don't know, I am a huge fan of Supercell as well as a really big fan of Redjuice. This art book only contains 40 pages but it is well worth it and for the cheap cost of $25. This book contains a variety of colored works and some concept art. The book is a mix of Guilty Crown works, album covers and originals made by Redjuice. There is very little to explain why I like this artist because overall Redjuice makes amazingly detailed characters and backgrounds. He is incredibly talented in digital art, and he makes some very impressive science fiction themed work.

Nidy 2D's Pixel Philia 6

I picked up this art book along with Miwa Shirow's m3w-ver.10+CE, which they both were from comiket 83. The only difference with this book was that I was able to pick it up on for $25 making it a lot simpler than the other. This art book has 38 pages full in color and contains a mix of originals, mecha themed girls, vocaloid, and touhou works. Although this book contains a lot more lewd-esque (exposed, undergarments, and etc) images than I thought, 2D really excels in making cute and moe style characters. There wasn't as much touhou artwork but there were some really impressive originals. 2D is one of my favorites mainly for the fact that he makes very cute characters, he is skilled in a variety of styles and his touhou collection is pretty amazing.