RIFT Prime: Launch

RIFT Prime is here! As previously mentioned on this site, Trion Worlds has launched a vanilla/progression server for their Free-to-Play MMO RIFT. Having played the original game at launch, I decided to check out this experimental server to see if I could recapture the magic that I felt during the game’s release. I’ve now spent a whole week on the Vigil server and I’m here to share my initial thoughts.

First, let’s talk a bit about what exactly RIFT Prime is. RIFT Prime is a special “progression” version of RIFT. This version of the game is restricted to a single server. Unlike the main game, which is Free-to-Play, Prime requires a subscription. (Just like the original version of RIFT did). For the most part, the content in Prime will mirror that of the vanilla version of RIFT. However, some quality of life improvements from the current game will carry over. The RIFT Prime server is expected to last for approximately a year before characters created there are transitioned to the main game. As time goes on, content from RIFT’s version updates and expansions will be added, but at an accelerated rate. The idea is, to allow players to start fresh and be fully caught up with the live version of RIFT by the end of the Prime server’s lifespan. It is currently unclear if Trion will enable the special World Event content that followed RIFT’s original patches and version updates on the Prime server. We shall see.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve played RIFT. I noticed right away that the game is now downloaded through Trion’s GLYPH launcher. Downloading GLYPH and installing the game proved to be no trouble whatsoever. However, as expected there was a considerable queue to actually log into the game on day one. Thankfully, this tapered off after the first few days.

Being back in RIFT and seeing it just like I remember was a bit of a surreal experience.  With the exception of some UI changes and being automatically placed in a “starter guild”, almost everything was just like it was the first time around. Sadly, one notable exception to this is the maturity level of the public chat channel. Trolling and outright trash-talking are unfortunately all too common in MMO games. But they tend to not be as bad when content is stuck behind a pay wall. I was shocked at the number of obvious trolls and the immaturity level of the public chat once I emerged from the starting area. It was just as bad as anything you’d find on a free-to-play game.

Social complaints aside, my biggest gripe thus far with the game has been the handling of previous purchases. For the sake of this progression server, Trion Worlds has locked existing players out from their previous account-wide purchases. Meaning, if you have any RIFT Store or Collectors Edition mounts, pets, costumes, etc on your account – they are not accessible in RIFT Prime. I don’t have a problem with this move, in itself. But, what Trion has done is made many some of the old CE mounts and pets available for sale on RIFT Prime store. Now, if the idea behind this is simply to allow new players starting in Prime a way to add these vanity items to their collection, that’s fine with me. But, if it is being done as a way to tempt existing players to spend real money on loot that they’ve actually already bought… that’s a problem. Already I’ve talked to several players who already own the Ancient Tartagon mount on their main account and are planning on shelling out real money to buy the same mount again. Why?

The problem is compounded by the fact that Trion has not been very transparent about what exactly is going to happen when RIFT Prime ends. At that time, when our Prime characters are moved over to RIFT Live, will our old account-wide purchases than be unlocked? If so, it’s a bit of a non-issue. But still, why not be clear about this up front?

The one good thing about this Prime version of RIFT is that there is no Pay-to-Win items available in the store. Everything for sale on the Prime Store is either vanity or account related. This is a move that I approve of. I sank enough money into RIFT back in the day before it went Free-to-Play that I don’t really plan on spending a lot, if any, in the Prime store. So far, the only purchase I’ve made was the Progenitor Pack. This optional purchase grants you a total of sixty days subscription time, a special mount, vanity cloak, title, and portrait frame. If you plan on paying the subscription for a few months, this pack pays for itself.

As far the game itself goes, I’ve actually had a blast playing through all of the early content and quests. RIFT is a faction-based MMO. This means that all players are split into one of two factions. These two teams compete against each other for control of the gameworld. In the Live version of RIFT, I always played as a Defiant. So, for this outing I decided to go with the Guardian faction. There’s just something about the aesthetics of the Guardian starting areas that I enjoy. They have a more “fantasy” feel to them and they are lovely to look at.

The first few days of RIFT Prime saw a slew of activity in these areas. Rifts were being taken down in record time, as were zone events and elite monsters. It felt very nostalgic to see so many players actually “playing the game” in these locations. Flash forward to a week later, and the population has already evened out a bit. But, there’s still more than enough players around to get things done.

Due to time constraints and having to multi-task between various games, it took me a little over a week to reach the Guardian capital. This city serves as the central hub for pretty much the rest of the game. I’m unsure at what pace Trion plans on adding new content to Prime. But I’ll be sure to provide updates at the “progression” continues.




RIFT Prime

Several years ago, I made a two-part post on this site regarding my experience with various MMOs. ( You can read them using the following links:  Rise of MMOs part 1 & Rise of the MMOs part 2 ). In these articles I elaborated a bit on some of the multiplayer online games I’ve tinkered with over the years. One of the games I touched on in that post was RIFT. RIFT was a game that I got to experience from day one. I played it well into its second expansion. RIFT was released during the time between the original version of Final Fantasy XIV and A Realm Reborn. During this lull, I found myself in search of a new MMO, RIFT was the obvious choice.

At release, RIFT borrowed very heavily from World of Warcraft in terms of design and playstyle. But it presented a world all it’s own. One of the more unique features of RIFT are…. rifts. Rifts are essentially random portal/events that pop up in the open world. Some rifts are more frequent than others and the appearance of a rare one would often result in players stopping what they were doing to come participate.

I have fond memories of very first point release for the game. There was a server-wide special event that occurred as the evil goddess descended to do battle against players. It was exciting, yet very flawed. The servers had a hard time keeping up with the load and as result, many players found themselves unable to participate in the event. This resulted in many people missing out on one-of-a-kind achievements and titles. The community was livid. The mismanagement of the event saw the first mass exodus of RIFT players.

One of my fondest memories of the game was participating in the first ever Extra Life event. This was a special marathon session where gamers would accept pledges for charity and play RIFT for 24 hours straight. We played alongside with the game developers and even earned special titles and rewards.  Good times.

The early days of RIFT were lots of fun. As time went by, things started to settle down and as happens with most new MMOs, players began to migrate elsewhere. Trion Worlds, the developers of RIFT, tried to keep things interesting by releasing free content and new paid expansions. But after a while, RIFT’s population took a major hit. Eventually, the game moved to a Free-to-Play model. It was during that time that I finally said my farewell.

These days, RIFT thrives as a F2P game, but it is barely recognizable to old players like me. Even if I wanted to try to get back into it, I’d be completely lost. That’s why the rumors that Trion was going to introduce a classic version of the game caught my attention. It wasn’t long before I realized that the rumors were actually true, RIFT Prime was happening!

This version of RIFT launched on 3/7/2018. Like the original, it will only be available by subscription and will start out with the vanilla version of the game (but, with many of the modern quality of life enhancements). It’s going to be handled in a progression format, but at an accelerated rate. You’ll be able to relive all of the content patches from day one, up to the modern version of the game. Eventually, the RIFT Prime experiment will end, and you’ll be able to import your character to the regular version of the game.

I find this entire concept very appealing and I’ve decided to participate. It has been many years since I last set foot in the world of Telara. Tonight, I’ll be taking my first step back in. As a result, I’ll be posting my progress on this site.


March 2018 – Launch


Project: PC Upgrade – Final Results

The day has arrived! After almost a decade I’ve finally built a new PC. In my last post on the subject, I discussed my options; would I stick with an Intel processor or would I venture off and try one of AMD’s new Ryzen CPUs? Would I stay a loyal Nvidia user or jump ship to ATI? Well, the time to reveal my decision is here….

After doing a lot of research, I decided to ultimately stick with Intel. Despite the whole Spectre/Meltdown debacle, the latest generation of Intel chips still seemed to be the way to go. Despite having a larger core and thread count, the Ryzen 7 still comes up short in terms of most performance benchmarks. The only exception to that seems to be with workstation-style tasks. But for day-to-day use and gaming, Intel is still the king.

Following my personal rule of “build for longevity”, I did decide to go with Intel’s new Coffee Lake chip. In fact, I ultimately decided on the i7  8700k. At the time of this writing, this is currently the fastest Intel CPU on the market. Despite being the “latest and greatest”, this wasn’t an easy choice. The 8700k is famous for running pretty hot. So if I decided to experiment with overclocking (something I don’t usually do), heat issues could potentially be a factor. With this in mind, I decided to spend a little extra and go with a high quality cooling tower from Noctua instead of sticking with a stock Intel fan.

Noctua fans are world renown for their quality and durability. Plus, they are quiet as a mouse. I know many people would have considered going with a liquid cooling solution. But again, I don’t typically overclock. I build my PCs for longevity and I’d rather get my power by purchasing top of line products rather than pushing more performance out of a chip than is expected. Of course, that being said, I built my entire system with cooling and airflow in mind, so I may experiment with some very mild overclocking in the future. By my calculations, I should easily be able to get about 20% better performance with just some minor tweaks that shouldn’t result in that much more heat.  We will see.

For a mainboard, I went with the ASUS Prime Z370-A. Unlike their “ROG” boards, the “Prime” line from ASUS are geared towards middle of the road users. It features all of the customizability options without some of the extra flashiness. Option-wise, it contains all the slots and ports that I needed for my purposes, and still offered enough options for future upgrades.

Due to budget constraints, I stuck with a hybrid SSD/HD instead of going full SSD for storage. I was able to add a second 2TB hybrid disk to my rig for only $90 as opposed to $300 or more for a SSD solution.

I ended up keeping my existing Sound Blaster Z card in this rig. Since I actually do a lot with audio production from time to time, I prefer to use a real soundcard to on-board sound. But I couldn’t see enough in Creative’s new Sound BlasterX AE-5 card to make me consider an upgrade. The Sound Blaster Z is still plenty for me.

I also ended up retaining my old Corsair CX750 Power supply. This thing is a medusa of cables, however. So I seriously considered going with a new modular PSU. But in the end, I was able to route and tuck away any excess, so cable mess wasn’t an issue. This is an important part of system building that people then to overlook. Proper airflow in a gaming PC cannot be dismissed. When building a PC, I always make sure to route wires and cables behind the back panel and secure them with cable ties.  Any unused wires are also secured and kept out of the way.

To ensure optimum airflow in a PC, you also have to make sure you have the right case. For me, I decided to go with the Corsair Carbide Alpha. This chassis had plenty of room for my needs, it also features two front intake fans and one rear exhaust fan. The intake fans feature a three-way speed switch on the front of the case. – Now, I know some would admonish me for this set-up considering I dropped a big honking CPU cooling tower right in the middle of airflow lane. But surprisingly, this does not interfere with the case’s ability to “breathe”. The Carbide Alpha features venting on the back card panels as well as the ceiling of the case. The air circulation is not impeded by the large heatsink/fan in any way.

The new case design did mean having to finally let go of my internal DVD drive habit. This is something I’ve been reluctant to do. But I managed to pick up an inexpensive USB DVD Burner and so far it’s worked out better than expected.

For a GPU, I did decide to upgrade my old GTX 960 to a GTX 1060. I know that is only a modest step up, but right now with the ongoing crytpo-currency craze, GPU prices are just too unreasonable. There was no way I could afford a 1080 or one of the AMD Vega 64s at this time. For the curious, my card of choice was the MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6G OCV1.

I also took the opportunity to upgrade some of my peripherals. I ditched my aging Logitech Surround speakers and went with a newer 2.1 speaker system. I chose the Soundblaster Kratos S5. These speakers are a popular for their 24bit USB connectivity. But, considering I use a good quality sound card, I actually connect them directly with an audio cable instead. Soundwise, they are amazing. The volume range and clarity is exceptional. My only complaint lies in the volume knob that’s hard-tied to the speakers. It seems a bit finicky… At its lowest setting, sound can still be heard through the tweeters. It doesn’t seem to have a “true-zero” position.  I often listen to music at low volume when I work, so being able to turn the volume down to nearly nothing is important to me. For now, I’ve had to rely on a combination of using the OS volume controls in conjunction with the speaker knob… not an ideal solution. But it allows me to have a sound-neutral setting on the knob.

Finally, I also decided to take the plunge and jump on the hype-train that is Razer. For years I’ve heard people tout the benefits of Razer mice and keyboards. But, I never really believed they were that different. While shopping for components, I found an old holiday bundle on sale and decided to bite the bullet and give at go. It included a Cynosa Pro keyboard and a Deathadder mouse. I have to admit, that I was shocked at just what a difference these products make. Until now, I was using a cheap Logitech Mouse and Keyboard combo. It switch has been night and day. That being said, the Cynosa pro isn’t a mechanical keyboard like many of Razer’s products, but quality difference is still undenyable. I can’t recommend this simply upgrade enough.

The cherry on top to the whole project was the purchase of a quality office chair with lumbar and neck support. I use my home chair for work and play and I’m often in it 10 hours a day or more. Truth be told, this was probably the most important purchase of the lot.

In the coming weeks I’ll be doing a full “My Tech Picks” post that will elaborate a little further on some other changes to my overall gear and rig. Stay tuned!

Record Shop: Stone Temple Pilots – Core

The early nineties was the golden age for alternative rock music. Bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana were dominating the scene and new groups were popping up so fast that it was nearly impossible to keep up. A large number of these were obvious copycat bands that were simply trying to ride the coattails of more famous acts. Groups like these would disappear just as quick as they could spawn. Stone Temple Pilots was often accused by critics as being one of these copycats. Their hit song Plush certainly sounded a lot like what Pearl Jam was doing at the time. The production of the track all the way to the vocal style just felt very “Pearl Jam-ish”. But those who took a moment to listen to the other songs included on their 1992 album Core, would be quick to discover that’s where the similarities ended.

As time would go on, Core would eventually come to be heralded as one of the best rock albums from the nineties. This is a proclamation that I fully stand behind. For a debut album, Core is an impressive feat. The songs are powerful, compelling, catchy and well-written. This record first caught my attention with the release of the single, Plush. This song was a freaking monster when it was released. It was all I needed to go out and buy a copy of the CD. Once I settled down to digest the entire album, what I found was an amazing example of artistry. This was not the typical grunge “flavor of the week”, this was rock and roll – as it was meant to be. Real, unbridled, in-your-face ROCK.

Let’s take a closer look at the album track-by-track.

1: Dead and Bloated – The album starts off with the semi-muted sound of Scott Weiland’s voice shouting the opening lines to the song. This is followed by two powerful whacks to the snare drum… then the whole band kicks in. This opening jolts the listener to attention and the track never lets go until the very end. The verses are catchy and the chorus is melodic and beautiful, yet still hard and abrasive. This song does a great job at defining the overall sound of the Stone Temple Pilots. It’s a fantastic opener to the record.

2: Sex Type Thing – This is actually the first single from the album. It’s a powerful, crunchy rock track that takes the momentum from the first song and actually cranks it up a notch. This song came under a bit of scrutiny during it’s original release. It was claimed that the lyrics glorified rape and violence against women. However, as artists tend to do, Weiland actually illustrates absurdity and cultural problems by personifying them in song. This has been a staple of rock music for as long as it has existed, critics and media still don’t get it. Controversy aside, this is a fantastic track and one of my favorite STP songs.

3: Wicked Garden – This song is another fan favorite, despite never being officially released as a single. This is a powerful track that really illustrates the songwriting prowess of the band as a whole. Everything from Weiland’s vocal delivery to the cohesiveness of the DeLeo brothers is on display here.

4: No Memory – This track is a short instrumental segue. Some would call it filler, some would claim it is nothing more than an intro to the next track. In truth, it’s really nothing special on it’s own, but it does serve as a nice intro to the next song, Sin.

5: Sin – This is probably the first real track on the album that some would consider forgettable. Sin is a mild-tempo rock song. It’s well written but not overly spectacular. It fits in very well with the rest of the album, but when compared with a number of other tracks on Core, it doesn’t shine on its own.

6: Naked Sunday – This song is a bit of a forgotten gem. This is a powerful tune with a great vocal delivery but it tends to be overlooked by many due to the large number of other hits on the album.

7: Creep – This is the first acoustic track on the record and also the third single. It is important to note that the single version that’s usually heard on the radio features a slightly different vocal delivery towards the end of the song. This radio version is a bit of improvement in my mind, and to me, is the definitive version of the track. That being said, the album version is still great. It’s certainly one of the highlights of the record.

8: Piece of Pie – Like Naked Sunday, this is a great track that is often overshadowed by the rest of the record. It’s groovy and very well done. But, it has a difficult time rising to the top of the pack.

9: Plush – This is arguably the crown jewel of the album. This was the second single and one of the biggest hits for STP. This song originally drew a large comparison to Pearl Jam by critics, but as time has gone by, these criticisms have largely faded away. Plush is a powerful, well written staple of nineties rock radio. It is an unforgettable classic.

10: Wet My Bed – This is an odd little throwaway track. It features some interesting production qualities, but is ultimately forgettable.

11: Crackerman – After a handful of mild-tempo songs, Crackerman cranks up the power and delivers some more driving rock and roll. Again, despite not being a single, this song received significant airplay and is another fan favorite.

12: Where the River Goes – The album closes with a bit of a wind-down. This track still features a thick and heavy sound, but it brings the tempo down a bit. It’s not anyone’s favorite song, but this track serves as a good finisher to what is a great album.

Core is an example of rock and roll done right. The nineties were an odd time for rock music. It was easy for bands to get stuck with a specific label and to focus on singular type of sound. During a time of grunge, STP reminded the world that sometimes it is okay to just “rock”.

When listening to albums, I always suggest enjoying them on a nice Hi-Fi stereo system or on a portable device with a good pair of headphones. The production of this record is great and still stands the test of time. There is a new 25th anniversary deluxe edition that doesn’t fall victim to the wiles of over-compression, like so many modern releases do. Either version of the album would serve well for a new listener.

When listening to a record, always listen from start to finish. Some songs tend to be more enjoyable when following the song preceding them. Put the record on while you’re driving, or doing house work. Let it play in the background. Listen it to a few times. Some records need to grow on you. Don’t skip around. Even if a particular song doesn’t grab you right away, let it play through. Your opinion may change.

Project: PC Upgrade

WARNING: This post is going to be very nerdy and technical.

The time has finally arrived… I am building a new PC.

It’s been a year since I last made a “My Tech Picks” post. But if you follow them, you’ll know that my personal PC is getting a little long in the tooth. In fact, I built it back in 2010.  Over time, I’ve made a few upgrades here and there to various components. (Video card, hard drive, monitor, etc). But I’ve been rocking the same core system for the last eight years. A few months ago, I went to purchase the latest Wolfenstein game on Steam and I noticed that my PC didn’t meet the minimum requirements to run the game… It’s time for an upgrade.

My current CPU is an older  Intel Core i7 950.  This was one of the first generation Core i7 processors (AKA: Nehalem). Today, the Core is still Intel’s main product, but we are currently in the 8th generation (AKA: Coffee Lake).

I always build my own PCs. When I do so, I build them for longevity. So my personal rule of thumb is to go with the best components you can get without having to take a second mortgage on your house. This is especially true when it comes to the CPU and mainboard. Most everything else can be swapped out with relative ease. So I always try to get the very best processor available. Well, a lot has changed in the last eight years since I built my last computer. To so get started, I have a big choice to make: Do I stick with Intel or will I go rogue and snatch up an AMD processor?

Over the years I’ve built a number of PCs. I tend to prefer Intel processors since they usually outperform whatever AMD is offering at the time. In fact, of the eight PCs I’ve built for myself, only two of them have ever contained AMD chips. To be honest, Intel usually outperforms AMD in nearly every benchmark. But, AMD typically offers their CPUs at a much cheaper price.

Today, things are very different. Both Intel and AMD’s latest CPUs are priced about the same. Also, this time around, AMD’s Ryzen 7 processor boasts some serious tech-specs that put the current Core i7 to shame (at least on paper).  The latest Ryzen 7 1800x features 8 cores and 16 threads versus Intel’s  6 cores and 12 threads. But, Intel still takes the lead in clock speed. Then, there’s the whole Spectre/Meltdown controversy to consider… Intel is susceptible to both and AMD users only have to worry about one.

When it comes to graphics, I almost always use Nvidia products. I’ve owned a few ATI cards over the years, but I’ve generally been dissatisfied with them. ATI cards almost always tout better specs, but they tend to fall short when it comes to their driver performance. But, things are different this time around. ATI’s latest card the Vega 64 is a BEAST. It delivers top of the line technology at a mid-grade price point. Not to mention, my current monitor supports Freesync technology. This is a big plus if I own an ATI card. Of course, the biggest problem is actually getting my hands on one. The Vega 64 cards are supposed to retail for $500. But due to the crypto-mining craze, they are literally sold out worldwide. The only way to get your hands on one is to dish out over $1,000 to a reseller and even then, they are still nearly impossible to find.

This problem isn’t isolated to just ATI cards either. Almost any GPU is going to come with an inflated price at the moment. And there’s really no end in sight for the shortage. Some experts say prices should normalize in the fall of 2018, while other predict it might go on for two-three years. Literally speaking, this is the worst time in history to try to build a gaming PC… But I won’t let that stop me. Worst case scenario, I could always keep my Geforce GTX 960 and wait for things to settle down. But, I think I can find a few mid-grade cards at an affordable price that would still be an upgrade over my current setup.

I plan to build within the next couple of weeks. So which will I choose? Intel or AMD?  Nvidia or ATI?

I’ll be making an announcement on the site later this month.


Nerd Passion: Manga

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of comic books. It is also not a secret that I harbor a deep love for all things Japanese. So why have I never talked about manga? After all, manga are nothing more than Japanese Comic books! Well, there is a story there…

Back when I was a young lad living in Okinawa, my family briefly resided in an apartment building in downtown Ishikawa (now called Uruma).  My front yard was essentially a parking lot for a massive Pachinko parlor. So, for my brief stint living downtown whenever I wanted a place to play, instead of dodging traffic, I’d actually go out onto the rooftop of the apartment. Most of the kids in the apartment building would play up there. One day, while I was hanging out on the roof, I noticed that someone had left behind what looked like a thick phone book. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a Japanese manga. Now, being an American, I had never seen anything like this. The content was much more mature than anything I’d ever come across in a Marvel or DC book. It was some sort of crime story and it was extremely violent. It was interesting, but not really my cup of tea. I flipped through it for a moment and then left it where I found it. Over the course of my three-year stay in Japan, I encountered many other manga books. But of course, not being able to read Japanese, I also didn’t give them much attention.

Fast forward several years later… I’m back in the USA and Japanese culture is gaining in popularity. I now see manga starting to pop-up in local bookstores. On a whim, I pick up a book that looks interesting and bring it home. This book was Chobits, a story about a young man and his personal android companion. I become hooked instantly and ended up reading the entire series in just a few days. Sadly, the cost of these little books was a little too high for my budget at the time. So, I decided to willingly put off this new hobby for the time being.

Time goes by and anime and manga have become even more popular. These days, nearly any bookstore in the US is going to have at least one single shelf dedicated to manga. A few years back, my oldest son talked me into watching the Sword Art Online anime with him. I ended up enjoying it much more than I expected, so I decided to give the manga version of the story a try. Again, I became hooked immediately. In fact, I actually liked it much more than the anime.

At that point, I could no longer deny it: I like manga. Despite my deep-rooted love of Japan, I try my very best to avoid being labeled as a weeabo. Sadly, this is another mark in the “Is Sensei a Weeabo?” column… But I’m still resisting!

So, what does all this mean? Well, it’s simple. I’m going to throw manga into the overall “comic book” topic on this site and include them in my reviews. In the coming days, I’ll be introducing my first manga overview. I hope you enjoy it.



Dungeons & Dragons: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Anyone who has followed D&D since the older days will recognize the words “Unearthed Arcana”. This was title of a rules supplement for the first edition of AD&D. That book added a plethora of new optional classes and rules to the core game. Over the years since, there have been other Unearthed Arcana books released for various editions. These days, “Unearthed Arcana” comes in the form of downloadable rules and options that Wizards of the Coast release to players for testing purposes. This book, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is a compilation and a refinement of several of those releases.

This should not really be looked at as a core rulebook. But instead, as a compendium of options for both the players and Dungeon Masters to consider. It contains information that should interest both. Let’s take a look at what’s included:

  • New Character Subclasses and backgrounds
  • New optional rules for DMs (resting, player skills, situational damage, traps, items, encounters, etc)
  • New magical items
  • New spells
  • Tables for name generation

The bulk of the book focuses on new options for existing character classes. Many of these options were previously presented in Unearthed Arcana articles, but they appear here more polished and refined. These, combined with the new spells and magical items really make up the most appealing content. The middle section contains new rules and options for Dungeon Masters. A lot these are very specific and situational, but come in handy nonetheless.

I personally find the subclasses included here to be of exceptional quality. There’s so many good options presented here!  But, players hoping for entirely new classes and races are out of luck. It seems that Wizards of the Coast is a bit gun shy about releasing such things. (Although we did get a taste of some new races in Volo’s Guide). Regardless, this book makes a fine addition to the 5E lineup. In my mind, this is a resource that DMs and players can borrow from in pieces. It has the potential to enhance and expand an already excellent game.But without stepping on the toes of the DM but overriding whatever house rules he or she might already have in place. That being said, I would like to see something a little more substantial in the future. I think 5E has played it safe long enough. It’s time to see some new campaign settings, classes, etc. I want to see a Manual of the Planes, a Dragon Lance book, a Monster Manual II…. something! May 2018 will see the release of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, this new rule expansion will include monsters and playable races. So we’re getting there.

With this post, I am now all caught up on official Fifth Edition releases. From now on, posts will be made as products are released. I may occasionally take a look at some of the more popular third-party releases. I also plan to post updates on the site in regards to my upcoming home campaign. So stay tuned!

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual


Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes


Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

FFXIV: Version 4.2 Update

I’m little late getting this post in, but I’ve finally had time to dive into the latest update for Final Fantasy XIV. Like most point releases, this patch adds several new things to the game. But sadly, one of the biggest pieces of content will have to wait a little while longer. The addition of the Eureka battle system has been pushed back to 4.25. I won’t be reviewing that update separately, but I will throw a little sidebar discussion into my 4.3 post at a later date.

So, what is included here?  Well, the BIG focus on this patch are some new main scenario quests. (Including the introduction of a new character). These are very story-focused. And, I LOVE where the story is headed! This new storyline sucked me right in and really got me excited to see what’s coming down the pike. I hope SE can maintain this momentum. Of course, there is more packed into this update. So let’s take a look in detail:

  • New main scenario and side quests
  • A new Aetheryte
  • New Dungeons
  • New Raid content
  • New Omega content
  • A new trial (The Jade Stoa)
  • An update to the glamour system and the addition of a glamour-related minigame
  • New beast tribe quests
  • New Treasure Hunt content
  • A new Submarine option for Free Companies
  • New PVP content
  • Various refinements, balancing changes, items, and Q.O.L tweaks.

I was really bummed to see the Eureka content and the new Hildibrand quests pushed back for a future update, but I was quite pleased with many of the surprise changes that were included. By far, one of the most welcome is the revamp to the glamour system. Glamours have been redesigned from the ground up. As a result, the system is much more useful and also helps alleviate inventory woes by converting a large chunk of vanity gear into “glamour plates” that are stored outside your character’s inventory. This change has also resulted in SE again making an update the inventory UI. Many people are complaining about this, but personally – I’ve have no issues with the change. What inventory space is seemingly “lost” by the update, is regained in the form of a saddlebag.

Another interesting new feature is the ability to now record duties for later playback. This is an interesting concept. The idea here is to be able to playback battles and other group content for review and learning purposes. You can switch between the perspective of various players, pause, and slow down/speed up playback, etc. A very handy feature!

In a nutshell, 4.2 is a pretty typical but solid update. Final Fantasy XIV continues to grow and expand, and this patch really gives a glimpse into what type of changes might lie in store. This game has come extremely far since the rough days of 1.0. I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon.

I give this patch a rating of:  A


Review: Parasite Eve II

It took longer than expected, but my review for Parasite Eve II is finally here! Two years after the release of the original game, Square followed up with the second entry in the series.  I really enjoyed the first Parasite Eve game and I was very excited to experience the next chapter.

This game picks up three years after the events of the original. After what is now known as the “New York Incident”, Aya was recruited into a secret unit of the FBI called M.I.S.T. Her job is to hunt down and eliminate any remaining Neo-Mitochondria Creatures (NMCs).  The game begins when she is deployed to Los Angeles to help put down a sudden burst of NMC activity. While completing her mission she has an encounter with what appears to be a humanoid NMC. The creature escapes but Aya is persistent in learning more about this unusual being.

Her next assignment brings her to a rural town in the middle of the Mojave desert. The area is infested with NMCs and Aya investigates a lead hinting at their point of origin. It is during this investigation that she unravels a shocking conspiracy. One in which she has unknowingly been a participant in.

While the storyline builds off of the original game, the actual gameplay is considerably different. The first Parasite Eve was an interesting mix of RPG and survival horror action. This time around, nearly all RPG elements have been stripped away. This leaves the game as strictly an action-based survival horror title. In fact, it looks and feels very much like a Resident Evil game. Parasite Eve II has even adapted the familiar and irritating “tank-style” playcontrol scheme, as well as other aspects that have become synonymous with the Resident Evil franchise.

To be honest, the changes from the original game are a mixed bag. The combat no longer relies on meters and timers and it’s not locked into a specified battle area. This allows for much more freedom during combat. Aya is able to run around unfettered and even change zones while engaging an enemy. This is a good thing. Sadly, the movement controls really make navigating problematic during combat, especially early on in the game. Thankfully, Parasite Eve II has a targeting system that does a lot to help with the pain-point caused the crummy playcontrol.

Aya also does not level up in the traditional sense. Combat still yields EXP. However, EXP in this game is reserved for strengthening and unlocking her Parasite Abilities. Aide from experience, Aya also earns Bounty Points with each monster she eliminates. These points can be exchanged for weapons and items. So it’s beneficial to take out any NMCs that you encounter, even if fleeing is an option.

Despite taking a step back in the areas of playcontrol and originality, Parasite Eve II offers some very stunning visuals. The backgrounds are prerendered, yes. But the sprites in the game itself and the cinematic sequences are very well done. This game provides the best of the what original Playstation could offer.

So, praise and gripes aside – how does it play? Parasite Eve II is solid and has hours of content. I personally found the middle section of the game to be a bit repetitive and at times, boring. But, the action picks up again towards the end. As a survival horror, the game excels. The atmosphere is there, and it is very well done. I just wish it would have kept more of the unique elements from the first game, instead of of settling in to what has now become a cookie-cutter format.

The game does feature multiple endings depending on certain choices made during your playthrough. Getting the best ending on your first time through is unlikely unless you have a guide. Thankfully, you can replay the game over upon completion. So it’s very possible to enjoy everything the game has offer even if you missed it the first time around.


Difficulty: Variable –  Parasite Eve II offers a single difficulty level for first time players. The biggest challenges here are not found in tough boss mechanics or random encounters. But rather, I found the toughest aspect of the game to be the mastery of the game controls (ie: working through the stiff and stubborn playcontrol). After an hour of two of playtime, you tend to get the feel for things and the game gets a lot easier. Once you’ve completed the game the first time, you do unlock two additional modes of play. Replay Mode (an easier, New Game + style experience) and Bounty Mode (this is essentially Hard Mode). Finally, after reaching a certain rank in either Replay or Bounty mode, you can unlock Scavenger Mode. This ratchets up the difficulty by another notch. But wait… there’s more! Completing the game on Scavenger Mode presents you with a final option: Nightmare Mode. This is mode of play is similar to Bounty Mode, but much more brutal.

Story: This game takes the fundamental story provided by Parasite Eve and gives it an X-Files/Conspiracy twist. This is not necessarily a bad thing, per se. But, I feel like by doing so it really takes some of the more unique lore elements away from the game. All that aside, the in-game story is well done and captivating even if it loses some of itself.

Originality: This game really took a huge step backwards when it comes to being unique and original. It seems that Square panicked at some of the minor criticism they received from PE1 battle system and just decided to scrap it and follow the Resident Evil formula in hopes that no-one noticed. Everything that made the first game unique has been watered down. This is true for both the storyline and the gameplay itself.

Soundtrack: The game scores high here. The music is atmospherics and catchy. The game soundtrack is an excellent companion to the adventure. It is comprised of everything from lo-fi jazz to industrial. It helps build tension and excitement. It is everything you’d want from a survival horror score.

Fun: Despite a number of complaints, this actually a very entertaining game. Fans of the survival horror genre will find a lot to like. The replayability of the title means there are many potential long nights filled spooky fun. The storyline, even if it is not original, hooks you. The characters are soulful and engaging. I had a great time exploring the depths of this game.

Graphics: Like many PS1 titles, this game shows it’s age. However, it stands up better than most Playstation titles from the same era. The prerendered backgrounds are well done and the character sprites were top of the line for their day. The cinematics are as good as they get and are a pleasure to watch.

Playcontrol: No no no. This is the my biggest issue with the game. The playcontrol in this title is several steps down from the original Parasite Eve. It follows the familiar but frustrating scheme found in other survival horror games of the day. Turn-and-walk style controls are the bane of my existence when it comes to action games. Thankfully, we do have a targeting system that helps ease the pain. Without it, this game would be a nightmare to control.

Downloadable Content: No.

Mature Content: YES. Graphic violence, gore. Some minor language.

Value:  Despite a number of complaints, this game can still be very much worth your time. It is available digitally on the Playstation Network for $5.99. Physical copies can be found on eBay for $10 or less usually. Considering the vast amount of content and replayability, it is well worth that price even with all of its faults.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – This is a tough one, because despite its flaws, Parasite Eve II is still a really good game. I enjoyed it immensely. But, when stacked up against its own prequel and other games of a similar nature, it just doesn’t have what it takes to stand out. If you are fan of the original Parasite Eve or if you’re a hardcore survival horror nut, then this game is definitely worth your time. If not, it might be a little hard to recommend this one. To give this game a score of 2 seems a bit unfair. But, it’s not quite where it needs to be to get a solid 3.

Available on: PSN

Dungeons & Dragons: Tomb of Annihilation

Finally! We are up the most recent D&D adventure for 5th Edition. In fact, at the time of this writing, this is the adventure that is currently being run in official game sessions. Of course, I’m talking about Tomb of Annihilation.

Tomb of Annihilation is an adventure set in the world of Forgotten Realms. It takes place in tropical region of Chult. This is an area that could be best be compared to the jungles of South America. Chult is also popular as a location populated with Dinosaurs! Yes, we finally have some official dinosaur action in fifth edition D&D. The adventure is designed for players of level 1 and will take them to level 11 or even higher.

The storyline to this adventure is an interesting one and it actually ties-in to the classic D&D adventure Tomb of Horrors (which can be found in the 5E book, Tales from the Yawning Portal). The focus of this adventure revolves around something called The Death Curse. This mysterious event is causing anyone who has been raised from the dead by magical means to begin rotting away into nothing. The source of this curse has been identified as coming from a strange tomb hidden in the depths of the jungle. Players must brave this deadly dungeon and eliminate the cause of the curse.

This seems to be a very well put together adventure. The book contains more than enough information and resources to give the DM everything he needs to referee the game. There’s also plenty of content here. This will not be a short adventure at all. So expect this to provide weeks or even months of entertainment. The biggest challenge to this adventure seems to be the sheer difficulty level of the dungeon itself. This is certainly not a storyline to present to rookie players. It’s also not one that should be attempted by an inexperienced DM. The traps and encounters in this book are downright brutal and punishing. This is made more so due to the fact that the Death Curse prevents any normal means of resurrection. It’s also worthy of mentioning that this book also contains two new background options for players. But this alone does not make it a worthy purchase for players, in my opinion.

I’m looking forward to diving into this book once I have managed to get my DM skills up to snuff. But I don’t expect that to be any time soon. Regardless, Tomb of Annihilation appears to make a fine addition to the growing selection of adventures for 5E.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual


Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes


Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation