Tales of Xillia or my 50 hours of JRPG bliss

JRPGs are a genre very dear to my heart. One of the first consoles we had at home was a PS1 and I remember how much I loved playing on it. Of course it belonged to my brother so my game time was limited but even when I couldn’t participate I would still sit and watch him play games for hours. One of those early titles I recall with great sentiment was a game called “Legend of Legaia”. It was a turn based RPG with a really interesting story, lots of fun mini games and great music. I still remember how happy I was when my brother customized the names of the characters using my real name, making me a part of the game. Back then I was a serious noob and I could absolutely not play the game without extreme god like cheat codes.

We called her Paulina instead

We called her Paulina instead

A couple of years later though, when I first began playing games more seriously, my brother introduced me to more JRPG games such as Final Fantasy 7 or Grandia 2. Ever since I have been a solid devotee of turn based combat style and stopped playing JRPGs when they turned towards more action based mechanics. At least that was the case till most recently I got my hands on Tales of Xillia.

As I learned, the “Tales” games are a long standing series that originated back on the Super Famicom in 1995. I’ve known couple of the entries by name but I have never given them a second thought. Most recently I have been searching for games with good, interesting and surprising plot lines. It didn’t matter whether it was action, adventure or any other imaginable genre, even match 3 would do. In my search I burned through Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea, which was quite satisfying. I went through a couple of amazing visual novel games such as Danganronpa and Zero’s Last Escape. Those were great but limited in terms of gameplay. Finally my fiancee bought me Tales of Xillia and 2 more entries of the Atelier series, knowing how I always whine about wanting a good RPG. I began with Atelier Ayesha but finishing the game didn’t impress me all that much. Since it turned out there was a lot of extra conditions one must fulfill to get optional endings and the interesting back story my experience was somewhat limited and short. On a roll, I launched Xillia and decided to give it a shot.

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After first 10 minutes I hated the game. The combat system seemed chaotic. Characters running on a battlefield in real time, executing commands based on button mashes, control over one person at a time. This is not the way it was meant to be!

Despite the first impression I decided to push myself a bit more to give it a chance. I got immersed in the story and was curious of the further developments. I began to grasp the battling thing. I began to understand and play around with the interesting leveling system which grants skills and combat moves based on the stats one chooses. Everything felt new and fresh. It felt like discovering a new land. For the first time in years I felt like a game was pushing me onto unfamiliar grounds and forcing me to adapt to it. It was fascinating.

The story centers around Milla Maxwell, a pretty 20 year old woman who is God incarnate. While on her mission to save humanity, fate throws her together with a shy and awkward medicine student Jude. The two end up travelling together, helping each other out, making new friends and trying to create world peace. The story is full of twists and turns, colorful characters, cute mascots and everything one could wish from an anime universe. It is light and positive but at the same time very strong and realistic. There are no good and bad guys, there are people with different perspectives and ideals. Under the coat of cuteness and bad puns, the game takes on topics such as individual freedoms, importance of individual vs collective well being and many many more. It may in some places fall into cliches, but it is still satisfying. Every other hour I was convinced the story was about to draw its conclusion but it kept twisting and turning giving me more and more enjoyment as it went on.

Combat does get messy

Combat does get messy

The characters are unique and lovable. The battle system is easy to grasp but challenging and fun to master. The story is exactly what I wanted it to be. To top it off, the game has an amazing soundtrack and it is really visually pretty. The environments you visit on your journey are varied yet somehow all make sense together. I may be overly positive since I just finished the game yesterday and I’m still on the happy ending hype but all I can say is that I have already began gathering money to buy the recently released sequel “Tales of Xillia 2”.

My Game of Thrones experience (No Spoilers)

Finally, after many weeks of slow struggle I am done with the Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve read all the books, I caught up with the series and it feels like its time to share the ups and downs of this journey.

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Before I can get to the point I have to make a couple remarks about my reading habits. I love reading since I can remember. I usually function in sprees having weeks or months of devouring books one right after the other mixed with periods of cutting it cold turkey and not touching a new position for what feels like forever. I have an extremely vivid imagination and whenever I read I do not only process the story within the pages but I also create an endless amount of parallel universes answering all my ideas of what if? It means that in my mind every book sort of lives way beyond its usual interaction time. I will rehash it in my head a million times, find the most thrilling or mind boggling points and reinvent them a number of times. That happens at least in case of good books. With bad books I usually try to find the things I liked, stick to them and try to rewrite the book in my head in a way that could improve it and make me happy with the time I spent on it. Nonetheless, there is lots of background processing in every case.

I cling to small things seeing them as parts of plotlines or conspiracies I’d like to see. I think how things would turn out differently if this or that element could have been changed.

If you have any experience with Game of Thrones you should immediately notice that series could be a major brain overload for someone trying to approach in a way I do.

The first time I actually encountered A Song of Ice and Fire was when the tv series launched. My fiance is a huge fan of it so we decided to watch it together. I like fantasy and I also enjoyed the previous HBO shows such as Rome. It seemed fun at first. Then it turned out to be the most frustrating, annoying and terrible show in the universe. I immediately began to hate each and every single character. You can’t feel any empathy for anyone, there is no one to root for. Given Sean Bean as Ned Stark it was obvious where the only noble plot line has to go. Mid first season I also attempted the books for the first time. I might have read 5-6 chapters and gave up. It turned out that in the book people are even less likable. I did not believe it possible but there it was. I just couldn’t force myself to continue. Stopped reading, stopped watching.

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Then the second season came along. The whole thing was becoming real big with everyone watching, sharing spoilers on Facebook etc. Somehow spoilers helped me make it through the most annoying parts. I was more tolerant towards all the events because I knew what would eventually happen and I could take it calmer. We finished watching season 1, watched season 2. I reached the point when I could watch the episode without cursing people on the screen. Huge improvement. At the same time I felt silly for continuing. I mean I obviously didn’t like it from the start so why even bother? One part of it was definitely the need to share this interest with other people. My fiance bought a GoT themed boardgame we would play with our friends. Everyone would know all the references to Greyjoys or Martells when I didn’t even know who the latter ones were. On the other hand though, there was this itching curiosity. What will happen ? Things unfold so quickly that whenever you feel you can stop, something happens that pulls you in even deeper. Eventually you are at that point where you already invested so much, you want to see this thing through. Season 3 sealed me in that place. Early season 4 we stopped watching and I began reading again.

It was tough. I hated the beginning just as much as the first time. Since I watched the series I knew everything that would happen so it felt like I had nothing to truly look forward to. I kinda pushed myself through the first book. Immediately started with the second one which I found much more approachable. The longer I spent with the books, the more I started notice the subtle differences. The more complex stories that had to be simplified for the sake of the on screen format. A more thorough emotional background made all the characters come more alive. Certain story lines were fully explained and things finally started making sense. I began to grasp the bigger picture I couldn’t quite see from the series. I began to learn the history of all the major houses. I learned the geography of Westeros. I learned incredibly much about their cooking and eating habits. All the small things that got cut on TV. When I reached book 3 I once again became excited because I knew I was drawing to the point the series haven’t reached yet. I have read about things before I saw them and my mind went crazy. The imagery wasn’t tainted as I had to come up with my own scenery instead of constantly seeing TV sets. That also meant it became more difficult. I didn’t know the digest so it meant I had to focus more on the story to understand what is going on. It was increasingly challenging as books 4 and 5 take place at the same time and the timeline gets completely messed up. It took some figuring out to do, but in the end I got through it.

Definitely not how this guy looked in the books

Definitely not how this guy looked in the books

I also finished watching the series. It was a funny experience. It’s like your eyes opened for the first time. I began to see all the changes between the books and series and I started howling on the inside “how could they do it”. After a while, I’d come to a realization it’s not that bad but some of the story depth simply goes missing because of it. It’s like you get what you came for but you were so hyped it doesn’t quite cut it anyways.

So after all that what do I think about Song of Ice and Fire?

I really loved it.

I think i have never been as conflicted about a book or a tv series. It made me frustrated and angry. Westeros is a land dominated by injustice, lack of gratitude, honor or any type of loyalty. There are no good or bad people, everyone is morally grey and everyone looks out for themselves. In a way it is so real, it feels almost tangible. Even the worst people can have a bit of good, even the best ones aren’t perfect. Even though it seems natural characters should be written like that to be realistic it’s the first time I noticed how picture perfect a lot of our fiction is. I read a lot of crime novels and a lot of romance. In those genres it is usually obvious that the perp usually gets what he deserved. Crime is punished. Detectives are praised. In love people deserve second chances. Problems resulting from bad communication can be easily fixed cause people are good and willing to collaborate. That is often not so in George R. R. Martin’s saga. Our world doesn’t work the idealistic way but books are very often an safe, escapist haven. Somehow for me Game of Thrones broke that sense of security. I felt worried and anxious about what is going to happen next. I was surprised many times and I clung to every scrap of information just to make sense of all the events. This is something that does not happen often to me. Since I overthink and overanalyze everything I often imagine the possible endings and most of the time one or another is true. It’s not like it disappoints me but it makes a feeling of a surprise a rare and precious thing. Martin’s writing is impeccable and the amount of details he put into his work to make his universe more believable is invigorating for my imagination. He also knows how to create the perfect balance between making his readers crave for more and still giving them enough to survive on till the next time. In my survival I also bless the internet as it has been an invaluable source in those few past lecture days. Reading up on all the theories, all the facts i might have missed, going through time lines to have a good overview of everything for the future.

485f3d3d0ce39b7cdb3bfe38740f6c06cc7c94f725d336945d34c832051b98e9I am personally amazed at the journey I had with this series. It’s been fascinating to observe my own change of attitude and it’ been great to experience the story both on screen as in writing. I definitely recommend the books to anyone. They do grow on you even if initially you want to tear every single character apart. Knowing Martins love for murdering characters you might also get a kick of some of the characters actually dying. You never know who’s turn is next.

After graduation

As of 6th June I have officially graduated. Now it is time for the real world. I began some serious job searching but at the same time it’s finally vacation time!

What does that mean?

Lots of games, reading and general relaxing!

I just finished playing South Park: The stick of truth. I plan to write a quick review of it some time soon. Currently I’m also playing Persona 4 Golden, Animal Crossing : New Leaf and Atelier Rorona. I also forgot to mention my thesis was on video games so needless to say I played a loooot for that one. Lots of great material for writing. Just need to find the motivation necessary to do it.

I’ve also been reading a lot lately. Currently I’m slowly wrapping up the Song of Ice and Fire. I’m currently on the last book so soon enough I might be able to share some thoughts on it. I haven’t written anything on books before so this could be interesting.

I really hope to begin writing more regularly. It feels like a proper brain stimulation before I actually find something more permanent to do.

 

XOXO

Milly

 

Everything at once.

Once again, it has been a long while. School, work, language studies – things got crazy busy. It is time though, for a long, looooong update. Let’s do it in steps, let’s keep it fun and to the point.

  1. LARP
Look at the hat!

Look at the hat!

So as I mentioned before I was to a big medieval LARP in mid june. It was quite fun. I was absolutely unable to speak Swedish since people rolled in high style medieval vocabulary. There was some major hick ups because of that since I felt sometimes excluded and a bit upset but looking back it was also really really fun. I helped to assemble the magical key that allowed to either save or destroy the world, won’t know until the next chapter. Participated in ventures into the forest to meet  the elves, attended a funeral of a dwarven princess, drank with the barbarians and cooperated with the alchemists. I also had a cute hat!

2. Resident Evil

As I previously mentioned I had a bit of a retro spree. I opened it with playing Resident Evil Zero which was incredibly fun but sadly only possible to me because of all the cheat codes you can use through emulators. I SUCK at those games. The tank controls make it impossible for me to do anything. Though I have to admit that after playing for many hours I started to get a hang of it. I succesfully finished it and then moved on to Resident Evil Remake. I made it to around the moment where you fight the Plant 42 and since then I sort of didn’t have much time and moved on. I’m kinda scared of going back since the game is quite tough and now I’m once again completely unused to the controls. I will probably do it eventually since I love the series so much, but it will take another strip of lots and lots of free time. Don’t think that’s gonna happen any time soon.

3. Saint’s Row IV

I LOVED THAT GAME. I finished it in less than 2 days and enjoyed every second of it. The level of ridiculousness is once again over the top and the new super hero sort of mechanics make it even more awesome then before. I know that many fans of the car driving mayhem were disappointed but that type of playstyle is actually one of my favorites. What is particularly interesting is the fact that they give you most of the great options from the beginning. You get to enjoy them for the entire game. I loved Infamous, but some of the best movement solutions were introduced so far into the game I just didn’t get to play around with them long enough. The plot in Saint’s Row is quite thin but I just enjoyed it for it’s silliness, references to popular culture and general feeling of badasness.

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Nom nom, awesome games.

4. Future plans

I’m desperately trying to get GTA V but I feel that’s not going to happen because of it’s high price. Right now I started playing the games from the newest Indie Humble Bundle so hopefully I’ll write about that soon. Also I’d like to save some time to talk about Puzzle Pirates and my struggles with the game over the summer. Right now, I decided to save some time in my schedule specifically for blogging so I’ll try to keep the content around here well updated. Also right now, as a part of a class, I write on another blog that might be of some interest for you. Check out  http://socialmediauppsala.wordpress.com and let me know what you think.

Short update

I didn’t write for a while but I i guess life just happened.

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Since my last post the work at the nation got quite intense, together with studies, gaming, health issues and travelling back n forth between Sweden and Poland. Probably not much will happen around for at least a week or two more but then there will be so much to talk about. Next week I will be going to my first big LARP which is a new type of gaming I’m trying yo discover and honestly speaking it freaks me out. I’ll be most likely the only english speaker around and with my limited swedish skills I’m just worried my expression won’t be what I’d wish and I won’t have as many opportunities to interact with others. Time will tell. The second thing I got going is a spree of some retro gaming with Resident Evil series but that will be a big piece of writing coming up, since there is so much emotions and joy tied to that one. Don’t give up on me! I’ll be back soon enough😉

Hope dies last – few words about Dead Space 3

It’s been a while since I wrote anything but I can tell you it hasn’t been idle time for me at all. I had to do some stuff for my studies as well as for my student nation in which I started to officially work. Despite having little free time, as usual I sacrificed it to what I enjoy the most which is video games. I picked up the new Sims expansion which as usual sucked me in for hours, but that’s not the main point here. I also picked up another production from EA which would be Dead Space 3. It took me quite a bit to finish it and it was a tough journey but I made it and it feels horrible.

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Let’s start from the beginning so you can all understand the feelings I have towards that game franchise. Since I was little I loved watching survival horrors. Some of the first games I remember my brother play were Resident Evil and Silent Hill. I loved the atmosphere, I love the tension and creepiness. Resident Evil is so close to my heart that as I am writing it I am wearing a Racoon City Police department t-shirt and consider an Umbrella tattoo. The thing is though, I always watched those games, never dared to play them on my own. When I first encountered the horror genre I was around 6-7 and I was so freaking terrified I couldn’t sleep and I saw monsters everywhere. Despite that I still kept on watching, kept on reading up on it etc. As I grew up I started watching horror movies and such to raise my immunity but the fact remains I still get startled by people saying boo in the darkness so you can just imagine how horror video games work on me. Just watching some of the let’s plays gives me nightmares.

Still I continued exploring the world of horror by observing others play it.

Then finally one day I decided I want to try it and it so happened that the game I played was Dead Space. I started the game just scared of the fact I am trying it out, made it through the first quarantine, freaked out and switched it off. Didn’t play it again for a couple of days, but then I went back and forced myself to continue. First I would only go wherever the arrows would point me, too scared to explore, expecting crazy shit happen as soon as I go off the path. Never go off the path. Soon I learned how to deal with the monsters and even though I still jumped up every time they jumped out of the vent i started straying away and enjoying the experience. At the end of the game I was not only really into it but also so happy and proud of myself that I finally made it. After that game I tried other horrors though i still utterly suck at them. When Dead Space 2 came I grabbed it as soon as I had the opportunity and went through it in a spree of maybe two days. Still scared, still anxious but enjoying every bit of the experience. Exploring the world, learning more about unitology, getting into some psychological drama. I loved both games even though I know the second one was already criticised quite a lot. When I heard about the third one, I waited for it impatiently. I was so hyped and I was so looking forward to it. And then it came out, and it crushed me….

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I might be disappointed with the game because my hopes were too high up, happens to me all the time. The fact is that my first survival horror became another actiony pulp that doesn’t make any story building sense and is all about mindlessly shooting stuff in boring, repeatable locations. I can live with the horror not being there as much as it was before, or maybe it just being a different type of horror. Some locations still have the gloomy mood, some side stories still bring that feeling of mistrusting humanity and feeling a chill creep up your back when you further consider it but most of it is just monsters jumping on you from where they shouldn’t. I admit with my jumping reflexes I got startled a lot, but that’s not really what I looked forward too. I was waiting for some suspense that will push my brain into overdrive and make me fear for something that’s just in my head. Still, that part I could live with. Gameplay wise the game is pretty much the same with the horrible add on of weapon crafting. Then there is the story. First I have to say that the cast of characters we see in the game is some of the most bland and cliche group of people ever. An awkward love triangle, that doesn’t even serve that much of purpose, pathetic lines of dialogue that seem like they came from a bad soap opera and horrible horrible focus on the made up part of Isaac’s life instead the necromorphs and markers. After I finished the game I read lots about the ending and the text logs I went through and such and it gave me a lot to think. I noticed that the story of markers got actually developped and as I read about it I actually really liked the way they went with it, but in the game I haven’t even noticed it due to the HORRIBLE CHARACTERS. They got so much exposition the interesting parts faded away and didn’t make that much sense.

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In a way I guess I could say the game was okay. I shot some necromorphs, I learned more about markers what else could I want? They messed up the whole unitology with a crappy villain but hey, we all make mistakes right? So why was the whole experience of playing it such a pain in the ass? Every time anyone in the game spoke, every time I was supposed to learn something new it was so painfully bland and boring. It feels like it was thrown together so hastily and so lazily that it shouldn’t have ever been released like that. It just feels wrong and I can’t explain it in proper terms I guess. It just feels like another series I love got ruined by EA. Sims has been a mess for years now, Dragon’s Age went to hell, Mass Effect gave me frustration for months, what will be next?

You know all what is the worst about it all? I still do believe, I still do have hope that it all will get better in time. I’m just a bit worried it makes me the stupid one.

Miracle of being connected

53Connectivity

A sunday as any other. Wake up with an alarm set up on my cellphone. Proceed to an airport bus which I board with my pre-purchase online ticket. On the bus my cell phones reminds me about all the medication I need to take same as every other day. I get to the airport and through iMessages I let my fiancee know I arrived safely. Through Facebook chat I talk with my brother letting him know there is no delay and when exactly he can pick me up. I buy a coffee which is so amazing I actually share it with my friends through a Facebook status update and in less than a couple of minutes I get feedback in form of likes. Finally I go through security control to the other side of the airport and sit down with my laptop, with internet connection from synching my phone to it and write this post.

Even though it is such a common thing to do, it sort of keeps amazing me. The level of being connected to the rest of the world is so unbelievable.

Just writing those words I know they may actually be read in the US or in Japan, both existing in completely different time zones and being as far from me as imaginable. I remember just when I was in primary school and I couldn’t even contact my parents to let them know my classes ended early and I need someone to pick me up. When I wanted to meet up my classmates I had to either talk to them in person or call on a house phone which would be usually picked up by their parents since kids weren’t allowed to do that. The world seemed so much smaller and so much less accessible. Now it is the exact opposite. It is amazing but is it always good?

connectivity_imageI personally am a technological optimist I have to admit. I see so much potential in all the social media, in video games and in all the networking inventions that come along with it. Since I moved to Sweden I actually adore them even more since they allow me to stay in touch with my entire family and the friends I left behind. Nevertheless every time I use Facebook or I blog I keep wondering is what I have to say really interesting?

Since internet is an open space anyone can do anything they wish on it. You can post pictures of your meals, you can post pictures of your animals or you can post your research and official public statements. Those types of use seems as far from each other as they can be but so often they all are parts of our routines. We communicate differently in different networks and all together create an incredible cloud of information that sometimes starts feeling like smog. Sometimes I feel suffocated with the overflow of personal lives of others, of their achievements, of their hobbies or their problems. The amount to pick, process and respond to is so extreme it is most often beyond our capabilities. Yet still we engage in it every single day and we do not go crazy.

I guess since I can say I’m one of the younger generation I just adapted over time. We all know humans are highly adaptable and since I grew side to side with technology we understand each other and form a strange form of symbiosis. I still wonder how different would life be if we were still in the era of our parents? Is being connected making us closer or tearing us apart from each other? I guess it is one of those questions everyone wants to solve but it is moments like that, here on the airport, when you think about it so much more. When you feel like everyone is so far away from you, beyond you reach, and at the same time you can still contact them and interact with them with such ease.

Mind blown!