Game Progress 9/4/16
September 05, 2016

Stranger of Sword City (Vita)
After taking out the wyvern, three new dungeons opened and fresh Lineage Types cropped up. The game also introduced a new feature, wherein defeated Lineages randomly respawn and take over magic crystals (warp points that sit about midway into a dungeon). To make matters worse, all of the new dungeons lie at the end of a previous stage and require some sort of key and a string of scripted events to access them. Having to start the old dungeons from the beginning because of the respawned Lineages made the three new levels irritating. In some cases, I could only go so far into a new dungeon before having to return to town. That meant exiting the dungeon I was in, then backtracking through another dungeon or re-fighting a Lineage to get the magic stone operable again.

Thankfully, the more I stuck with the game, the more my characters improved. That made entering and finding a new dungeon's crystal less of a hassle, not to mention that it reduced older Lineages into minor inconveniences.

I first tackled the Mausoleum of Flames, which lies at the end of Valley of the Ruined. You need a duplicate key to get in, plus you're required to fight three or four standard battles before your initial entrance. Though they weren't incredibly intimidating, my characters were still pretty green and winning those battles took a lot out of me. After some scouring, I found the level's ambush points and commenced equipment farming. Slowly, I "got gud" enough to eliminate two of the Lineages, both of them giant bugs.

I then put a few characters in the hospital to restore their LP, leaving my wizards and my protagonist to beef up on their own. With fewer party members, my remaining members reaped more experience per battle. When it was all said and done, one of my wizards learned Fire Storm, a fire spell that affects all targets. Most of the Lineages I was facing at the time were giving me trouble because they had an army of little, annoying followers. Two of them were spirits found in the M.o.Flames, one called Heaven's Legion and the other called Hell's Legion. Where before these two bosses gave me trouble and pretty well tore my company apart, I hit them with a double dose of Fire Storm (using high cast, which casts the spell twice) and bumped off their cronies. From there, I buffed avoid and hit like crazy, then hit both bosses with Dragon Fist for good measure. Without their helpers and with buffs and debuffs in place, they were easy prey.

I managed to defeat the scripted boss of the section, which was a mech taken over by a villainous character. It was a rough battle, but not an impossible one. Mainly, it seemed like the monster just... wouldn't... die... After enough high casts and powerful magic, though, it keeled over. Lastly, after some beefing up, I returned to M.o.Flames to fight a fire-breathing dragon with a five star danger rating. Though he was able to kill one of my knights, the dragon was more or less a pushover after several waves of buffs.

Having succeeded in the fire level, I traveled beneath the Mausoleum of Metal and accessed the Underground Ghost Town. This level was pretty irritating at first, because if you don't wrap up battles quickly enough in certain areas, a five star Lineage Type named Gaizel attacks you (apparently he's called Murderall in the Xbox version, which is a way cooler name). To this day, I still haven't beaten him. A lot of players have just skipped him, though I do eventually want to go back and defeat him. If you encounter him, you can still escape using the divinity Flash Escape. I had to do that a lot, because most of the battles were chock full of skeletons or various other creatures who were dodging experts. To make matters worse, the first area consisted of couple of mazes with doorways that turned into walls after you went through them, not to mention scores of poisoned floor tiles. Creeping through this stage took a lot of time and careful crawling, but I eventually weaved my way to a boss.

Midway into the dungeon, I fought a wraith Lineage that had a three or four star rating, but may as well have been a one star. The good news is that Gaizel doesn't attack you if you can't kill this guy quickly enough. The bad news is...... Uh, I guess there isn't any. The wraith was a wimp and could only scratch my characters around five times per turn for a few damage each hit. Although we had trouble landing blows, my wizards' fire spells helped make short work of this one.

Following the wraith is another maze filled with poisonous fumes. Getting through this level wasn't hard at all, and completing it took me to the magic crystal and a convoluted area with three nifty ambush points and some sweet loot. After spending a little time there, I pushed on further and fought an anthropomorphic spider Lineage who was also a major pushover. Unfortunately, one of the game's villains pushed me into an abyss after I killed the boss, and I had to fight two other Lineages, a witch that looked like a winged bunny and a five-star undead dragon, simultaneously before exiting. On my first attempt, the dragon utterly destroyed me. The second time around (and bear in mind that I had to fight the spider again, too), I was able to bring down the witch with no problem, but the dragon still posed a slight threat. Using tons of avoid buffs, I was able to mitigate the dragon's physical damage. His breath was still pretty potent, but I was able to keep on top of healing, using a combination of Sky Dragon and Dragon Fist, and eventually brought the zombie down.

With those two out of the way, I thought I'd take on Mausoleum of the Sea. This one stood at the end of the Shadow Palace and required a talisman to access it. There's also an insect Lineage guarding the entrance to the mausoleum that gave me a lot of trouble when the three new dungeons first appeared. However, High Cast-Fire Storm proved to be my friend once again, as it killed all of the lesser bugs aiding the boss. With them out of the way, Dragon Fist and hit buffs did the trick, though the boss still had a fair amount of HP and didn't go down without a fight. It died just the same, though.

M.o.Sea restricts you from using magic. I dealt with that by purchasing a lot of magic consumables, but those were only so helpful. On one hand, they helped me to eliminate the first two Lineages in the area. One was a ghost that attacks you if you fail to defeat a certain ghost ship in a timely manner, the other was a kraken lord who strikes when you've killed a lot of krakens (and I killed a lot of krakens). Neither boss was particularly troublesome, thankfully.

What really sucked about M.o.Sea is that it's composed of tiny land masses surrounded by currents. In order to get to a certain sandbar or shelf, you have to step off the land in just the right area and let the current carry you there. It's a good thing the area map shows you where the currents lie and which way they run, otherwise this dungeon would have been maddening.

Eventually, I reached a boss called Jormugand, a massive sea serpent that took eons to kill. He appears in the chamber before the area boss, if you don't finish a battle quickly enough. I didn't do particularly bad against him in my first few attempts, but my inability to kill him swiftly meant that he would revitalize himself before I could significantly drop his HP. I eventually ran out of gas each time and the creature just pulverized us in the end. I decided to take some hard online advice and temporarily kick out my two wizards, since they can't cast magic anyway. I then hired a couple of samurai, gave them polearms and stuck them in the back row. One cool thing is that the game scales new recruits based on your protagonist's stats, so these guy started off at a pretty decent level. I went back after some grinding and farming and challenged Jormugand with my samurai, and my group spanked the living crap out of him.

I felt good after that and deiced to take on the last two Lineages of the area, mincing a merman king and a scripted battle against a mermaid. The former was a breeze, but winning the latter battle was pure luck. I continually used Mind's Eye Scrolls to buff avoid while hitting the boss with hit debuffs. With a little effort, she slew half of my troops, leaving me with two fighter-knights and a samurai who acted as support. Eventually she grew tired of my samurai's constantly coming to someone's aid and gave her one hard slap that chopped off all of her HP (she was just about full at the time). She then moved on to my last two, but could only dish out something like 20 damage per hit, and that was when she actually landed a blow. So we sat there for probably ten minutes, trading blows and healing, getting nowhere. Right as I was able to declare the battle a stalemate, I landed one final shot and killed the mermaid. Needless to say, there was a lot of hospital time after that...

Currently, two new dungeons have opened. I'm scouring the Mausoleum of Ice, which is a tricky dungeon full of slippery floors. Also, the dungeon disallows the use of most skills, including those that give you passive stat bonuses and those that allow you to damage certain types of monsters. Of course, the level's ambush points also have tons of spirits that can only be damaged after using the skill Magic Weapon. You can still pick them off with magic, but had better do so quickly, because (yet again) the Lineage Type Behemoth appears if you're not fast enough. I tried my hand at this boss, but he ate me for breakfast. One the flip side, though, I did manage to take out a cyclops Lineage at the start of the level and find the dungeon's magic stone. Right now, I'm considering leaving the area so I can access the Mausoleum of Storms and find out if farming there is any better than it is here.

The last thing I accomplished was killing the (optional) golden general Lineage in the Shadow Palace. That dude plagued me for weeks. It's funny how every previous battle I had with him was a struggle. However, when I took him on last night, I completely destroyed him.

Pokemon GO (Android)
Walk, hatch, hunt, evolve. My wife and I had done a lot of those four things, and we've managed to log a fair number of Pokemon into our 'dexes, including (finally) a Magikarp.

I managed to evolve and gain a fair number of higher powered mons over the last few weeks: Nidoking, Clefable, Persian, Golduck, Poliwhirl, Victreebel, Graveler, Haunter, Kingler, Rhydon and Starmie. I also hatched my first 10 km egg for a Kobuto and 32 candies.

Finally, I caught some rare "no-evolve" Pokemon around the area: Jynx, Tauros, Pinsir and Electrabuzz. My Pokedex says I've caught 88 and seen 90, since both Bulbasaur and Tentacool ran away from me (the former on two separate occasions).

Final Fantasy Record Keeper (Android)
Having played through and thoroughly disliked All the Bravest, I decided to give this one a go. It's better than the aforementioned FF title, but that's not saying much. Record Keeper is more or less the same kind of bag, where you engage in classic fights from previous FF games, but this time with the classic battle system more or less intact. You play as a "record keeper," who tends a library packed with tomes and paintings describing/depicting Final Fantasy history. Calamity strikes and the works need to be restored. You do this by replaying key battles and defeating bosses, thereby restoring that segment's painting and possibly unlocking additional characters like Cloud or Squall (or even villains like Golbez or Garland) to join your entourage.

Right now, my party consists of Record Keeper, Rydia, Sephiroth, Cloud and Kain. I've cleared tons of dungeons from I, II, IV, V, VI, VII, X, XI and XIV, plus I've unlocked scores of characters through daily challenges.

It's not a bad title, per se, and it's at least a fair fan service. My main complaint is that there is no middle ground, difficulty-wise. Dungeons are either extremely easy--to the point where all you do is tap "auto battle" and set the phone down to win--or impossible. The closest I've come to seeing any fair challenge was the second dungeon of Final Fantasy XIV, where I had to fight Galvanth the Dominator. His status afflictions kicked my ass, mostly because getting your hands on Esuna is pretty difficult and requires some precise item farming. Thankfully, I managed to kill him on my third attempt.

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honestgamer honestgamer - September 05, 2016 (11:09 AM)
I caught a Bulbasaur this weekend in Pokemon GO. That was the first time I had seen it. I'm nearing 200 Magikarp candy, since they're one of the most common types around here. It takes 400 candy to evolve, so I'm still a ways from doing that, unfortunately.
JoeTheDestroyer JoeTheDestroyer - September 06, 2016 (03:37 AM)
Magikarps are rare around Spokane, though not non-existent. The only place you can seem to find them is along the Spokane River, but we've only had one opportunity to walk along it (I caught my first Staryu that day).

We recently took a trip to a neighborhood called Browne's Addition, where there are tons of female Nidorans and frequent Charmander appearances. We caught one Charmander and saw another pop up on the "nearby" section later that day. I think we may be going there more often.
overdrive overdrive - September 09, 2016 (11:54 AM)
I played FF Record Keeper for a while, but grew bored with it. My verdict overall is that it's good for a free to play just because it does hold most of the key FF moments through time (ie: the "fair fan service" that you mentioned). But since it's a free to play, there are the inherent flaws to that sort of game. I lost interest around the time two big flaws got too hard to ignore.

1. So, you want to do those Expert version of the "dungeons" you'd completed! Great idea because you can get better rewards in general, as well as the occasional new character. Well, except for the minor detail that simply making one try at one will generally knock out all your stamina, so you'll be waiting a good while before you can do anything again. I hate free to play...

2. And come to think of it, just doing those Expert versions was a pain in the arse for the sole reason that bosses tended to be made tougher simply due to having an ungodly amount of health. FUN FACT: some of the toughest battles I was in while playing were against chump bosses like Whelk (FF VI) and Guard Scorpion (VII). Why? A big key in getting the best rating is not getting hit by their special counterattack where they go in defense mode and blast you if you attack them. You basically have to hope the boss does enter defense mode while you still have attacks in the queue or you're screwed.

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