game mechanics

Final Fantasy XI previews its April version update

The monthly update cadence of Final Fantasy XI is continuing into April, but this time around the game is actually moving backwards a little bit. Just a little bit, though; it's bringing back one of the more popular Ambuscade foes for players to face once more, complete with new rewards available. If you couldn't get enough of fighting the Gigas, you'll have another opportunity.

Players can also see another old foe with a long history of being fought as another Ark Angel joins the list of Trust companions, this time the Ark Angel MR. There's also new log messages in the chat window for crafting gains to facilitate the Escutcheon line, new Records of Eminence objectives, and a few other quality of life features. Just because some of the monthly update content is glancing backwards doesn't mean the game as a whole isn't moving forward just the same.

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Wisdom of Nym: Speculating on the healer skills Final Fantasy XIV could delete

Tomorrow, we're getting the end of the Heavensward story quests in Final Fantasy XIV, which means I need to start looking at Heavensward as a whole. For now, however, we can look forward to Stormblood and ask ourselves what we're not going to be using any longer as healers. And this wrapped up just before the final story patch, so I feel rather satisfied about how that timing worked out.

I'd say "all according to plan" if I remembered actually planning it this way.

As with previous installments, I'd advise you to take a look back through past articles in this series; the first one has tanks and the general philosophy, while the second column tackles melee damage and the third tackles ranged damage of all flavors. Today, we're finishing things off with healers. That's kind of a tangled mess with every option other than White Mage, but we'll plot a course.

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The Exiled launches Season 2 with a trial extension and a big patch

The second season of The Exiled is arriving, and while that sounds like the preamble to some critically acclaimed drama series starting up again, it's actually a major update for a video game. The Exiled has been in early access for about a month now, and so the second season is arriving to the game with some big shifts, including a new party system for players to group up together and support for the new role of healer. Now you won't just stub your toe and then wait to die!

The 1.1 patch also adds in the diplomacy system, several balance adjustments, and many quality-of-life improvements. New players can now get a free seven-day trial just for downloading the game from Steam, while returning players get two days of free trial status for jumping back in. If you're curious about the game's progress in early access, it seems like the right time to check.

Source: Fairytale Distillery press release, patch notes

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Frostkeep Studios explains the 'why' behind the game and the studio

If you've ever been responsible for interacting with a toddler for any length of time, you'll probably have some idea of the nature of the "why" practice implemented at Frostkeep Studios. Essentially, the idea is that when someone asks for something, you ask "why" five times to get at the core reason behind it. It might sound childish due to its specific similarity to one of the more annoying games children play with authority figures, but it also informs one of the central philosophies behind developing for Rend to hopefully improve upon the whole survival genre.

The official post explains is that for every element within the game, there needs to be a reason to include it more robust than "these other games have it as a core feature." It has to be a feature that is, fundamentally, fun for players in this game and something that works well for this design. Whether or not the philosophy will work out in the long run remains to be seen, but it's certainly a good place to start.

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Lord of the Rings Online sends players to the Black Gate with today's Update 20

The path of Lord of the Rings Online has always pointed, inevitably, toward Mordor. Update 20, live today in the epic MMORPG, brings players within striking distance by adding three new zones (Dagorlad, the Slag-hills, and the Noman-lands) with quests and storytelling bringing players to the Battle of the Black Gate. It's about leading the charge to Sauron's very doorstep, and you're going to be taking part in it. And it's probably not going to end with chuckles over drinks as Sauron reveals this was all a big misunderstanding.

Players will also be able to help supply the Host of the West for battle and explore two new resource dungeons in both solo and group mode while moving through volume IV, book 8 of the game's epic story. There are also plenty of quality-of-life improvements and UI improvements to make your trek to the very doorstop of evil that much more pleasant.

Massively OP's Justin Olivetti trekked into LOTRO this past weekend and produced a guide on what to expect from the update -- get caught up before you log in!

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Skyforge explains tweaks to the Cathedral and the Tower of Knowledge

There are few feelings as negative as being unable to catch up. That's been a major problem with Skyforge's Tower of Knowledge for a long time. Players who were already well advanced had no problem upgrading the tower rapidly, which in turn unlocked new benefits; by contrast, new players would struggle to earn enough resources to upgrade the tower, thus falling further behind the people who were already ahead. It was one of the problems that the developers aimed to fix with the adjustments to the building last week, as explained in depth in the most recent post on the official site.

The Tower of Knowledge no longer requires credits, but instead is upgraded based on enemies defeated with a maximum cap on daily upgrades. You can also unlock powerful Prototypes from research within the tower. The Cathedral has also been improved by making it far cheaper and much more potent in its effects which avoids its previous status as the least desirable building to upgrade. So these changes are all good, unless perhaps you prided yourself on being a god of good urban planning.

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Master x Master introduces Koom and Vonak

Eager to know when everyone gets to play Master x Master? We can't tell you that, on account of not actually knowing. Still, the game is introducing us to two new heroes, so forward motion is still happening! This pair is Koom, an enormous stone juggernaut, and Vonak, a spindly guy with a popped collar and two guns. Care to guess which one is the defensive hero and which one is the assault?

That's not a trick question, by the way. It's pretty obvious. Koom is a huge dude made of stone, he's all about defense. That should not be a difficult evaluation.

As always, the videos for both characters show off their abilities and some of the customizations available for the characters to tweak abilities and attack. You can check out both videos down below, and presumably join the "eagerly waiting for a beta announcement" crowd.

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Pathfinder Online has a roadmap forward and a plan for completion

If you'd lost hope in Pathfinder Online ever making any forward motion again, you should be happy to see that there's a new letter from Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens. You should be even happier with the contents of that letter, which state that after a great deal of consultation and deliberation, Stevens has developed a plan to move forward with the game and develop it to an open state. While she states that this wasn't her original plan, she also says that after research, it seemed better than waiting for some white knight to ride in and save the game; it was time to save the game by itself.

Stevens stresses that the version of the game which will move toward an open player base will be a small, niche product aimed at a small, niche audience. She and the small team working on the game looked first and foremost toward what features had already been worked on, what would help new players get into the game, and what obvious gaps of implementation remained in the test version. The full roadmap has a year's worth of development goals, some of which will no doubt wind up getting pushed around, but it's still a plan. Here's hoping for the best.

Source: Official Site; thanks to everyone who sent this in!

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World of Warcraft plans to add unobtainable transmog appearances in the future

Items are a big part of playing World of Warcraft. Sure, dropping ancient elves and demons and dragons to 0 health is its own reward, but half of the time they just teleport away anyhow to provide a future antagonist. It's the stuff you loot from the experience that really matters. The latest of the game's live Q&A sessions covered itemization, and you can either watch the whole video now or catch up with a summary. Keep in mind that the Q&A also specifically mentions not knowing when patch 7.2 is coming, so if you're looking for that, you're going to be disappointed.

If there are appearances in the game that you know are still unobtainable by players, rest assured that the developers are aware of it; finishing up the set transmog UI has made it clear what elements still can't be grabbed by players and need to be added. Legendary effects that feel substantial enough for a given spec are also in place specifically so that they can serve as a "test" for adding the effect as a baseline for the spec in the future. For the time being, the developers want to keep the 6-item sets that allow for three different tier set bonuses at once, but that may be changed with time. It's an interesting look at the game's current item design philosophy, although we make no promises that you'll be happy with the results.

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World of Warcraft previews the Broken Shore experience for patch 7.2

The Broken Shore in World of Warcraft is no one's idea of a vacation hangout. For one thing, it's covered in demons; for another, it's the site of a pretty horrendous defeat for all of Azeroth's forces. But we're headed back there in patch 7.2, and this time it's going to be a different experience, with the official site taking a look at how we'll establish a new beachhead at Deliverance Point and then start taking the fight to the Legion's doorstep.

Aside from the continuing saga of individual class stories and the ongoing daily struggle, players will also be working to improve the local defenses by building up three different buildings. Each building provides different buffs and stays up for three days once complete, so players will need to work together across the region to contribute supplies and bolster construction. Players will also have reputation to gain and new storylines to explore, so you should be well and truly ready before you go knocking on the Legion's door.

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The Elder Scrolls Online deep-dives Morrowind's Ald Carac battleground

The launch of the Morrowind expansion will bring three separate battleground maps to The Elder Scrolls Online, and while all three feature the same three-way battle, they aren't all going to play the same. First on deck? The Dwarven ruins of Ald Carac. If your first thought upon hearing that you're going to be fighting for dominance in a ruin is that you're going to have a remarkably constrained experience, well, you're more or less right about that.

Ald Carac features rather narrow corridors and twisting passages, so players will need to be aware that someone cold easily slip just outside of their fields of vision. Of course, that means you can also set up ambushes within the region, so it cuts both ways. You can also move to the center of the map, which is far more exposed but also gives you a clear view of both opposing bases. It's going to be a game of movement and tight conflicts in Ald Carac, so be sure to bring a melee weapon with you and get ready to realize that there's someone behind you a moment too late.

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The Daily Grind: Which MMOs have the best combat feedback?

I'm quite fond of 20XX, but I really hate the upgrades you can pick up in the game that eliminate hit stun. Sure, it means you don't get knocked back by things, but it also means you can easily overlook when you're taking damage until you explode. I consider that slightly less than a desirable outcome, you know?

MMOs, in general, do not have the same sort of combat feedback as platformers, but they can have similar problems. One of the problems I found in early versions of The Elder Scrolls Online was combat feeling floaty and devoid of impact, making it hard to tell if my attacks were actually making a difference. (That's no longer the case, I should note.) Similarly, I've always found Final Fantasy XI with its slow pace to give you a pretty clear picture of whether or not your attacks are landing and doing something; the answer might be "no," but at least you have an answer.

Of course, there are lots of different games with many different combat styles; TERA has excellent feedback about whether you're doing well in combat, with everything feeling like it has a solid impact, but the similarly designed WildStar sometimes feels devoid of a strong sense of impact. So let's turn the question over to you. Which MMOs have the best combat feedback? Which games are great about making you feel like you're hitting something and causing an impact, and which ones leave you unsure?

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Star Trek Online offers a broad overview of upcoming space combat balance changes

The space combat of Star Trek Online is pretty much the crown jewel of the game. It's intriguing, diverse, engaging, and pretty much everyone who plays the game is all but contractually obligated to praise it. But it's certainly not perfect, which is why the game is rebalancing the space combat. A new post on the official site details the core philosophy behind the changes to keep the gameplay fun and vital while adding more choices, and the barest skeleton of the changes are also outlined.

Beam Overload is becoming slightly less powerful, while targetable kinetic weapons like torpedoes will be harder (but not impossible) to shoot down and no longer will be affected by abilities like Tyken's Rift. Several profession abilities are also being buffed up significantly to have a greater impact on combat, like a big boost to Miracle Worker's effects and a new Science ability to improve healing and exotic damage. The full list of changes will be detailed point-by-point in an upcoming test patch, so players can look forward to the full set of shifts with the upcoming change for feedback.

Source: Official Site; thanks to Michael for the tip!

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