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Malik (3/3/08)

This is another chaotic week for me.  Not so much so in the same ways as last week.  I do have computer access and I do have some more normalcy in my schedule.  However, I also have some more responsibilities that are claiming my time.  In particular, even though my day job hasn't changed, my employer did...which means it's time for Malik to fill out forms and take safety tests, and take courses on workplace diversity, and other annoyances like these.

I mean, I can definitely appreciate safety and diversity...but not the training which is so damned intuitive that it would take a lot more effort to fail each course than to pass without any preparation.

Anyway, it's a little old now, but tomorrow will see six Grateful Dead tracks as DLC for Rock Band.  I would include a link, but I have had limited computer time since the announcement came along.  So, if you need an official link/source, then just good some "Grateful Dead" and "Rock Band" and you'll be set.

I am glad to see this pack coming.  I am not a Deadhead by any means.  However, I will take this stuff over three generic sounding "thrash metal" songs any day of the week.  Why?  Well, the value is damned good (6 songs in a pack for around $9-$10).  Also, I am a huge fan of thrash metal, and a lot of other metal genres...however, the music included in the supposed thrash pack is nothing short of being the lowest common denominator.  It's bland, full of growling lyrics (just because the music is supposed to be brutal doesn't mean the lyrics have to sound like pure ass...look at anything from early Metallica, some good old Slayer, or maybe a little old Anthrax and you'll understand)...the difference between deep and harsh sounding and a pure growl are a world apart.  Last of all, this further shows that the OXM March DLC list is not spot on.  I like to look forward to each week with suspense, not knowing what new tracks I can look forward to.  This reintroduces this feeling of excitement each and every Friday.

Anyway, I'm not sure where I stand on the Dead pack.  I don't know their music much (like I said, I'm more for metal than hippy sounds), but I think it'll be worth a checking on youtube after some videos are posted.  I don't expect anything too technical, but if it looks fun, I think the price is fair.

Speaking of which, the final reason I don't enjoy the thought of a thrash pack is simple...guitar from metal is just horribly overcomplicated on Rock Band.  Look at something like Enter Sandman.  It's not difficult, really, but it's far easier to play on a real guitar than on Rock Band.  This happens especially obviously with any metal songs, and mostly in the solos.  I already hate playing the Metallica pack (despite loving the songs) because it's just too much of an annoyance.  So, any delay in the Thrash pack is a welcome thing to me.  I want more songs I can jam to in BWT with some friends than I want songs that will just leave us feeling tired and annoyed.


Malik (3/4/08)

I'm now at the point of Lost Odyssey when you can start to get the "I win" items and skills. LO includes more impact from status ailments than any other RPG I've played, as well as a strong dose of elemental based damage. During the regular course of the game, you're forced to think about what you want to protect your people from.

However, to make it complicated, your mortal characters (for most of the game) are forced to chose only one single protective item at a time...or they can add a new skill set (like another type of magic). However, you can only pick a single element or status issue to protect yourself from. The immortals have the same type of issue, but they can select more than one. Yet, they are still limited by only having a certain number of skill slots to assign both status and elemental protection as well as their usable skills to make them useful in battle. It's almost like a chess game in which you need to always plan your first move (protection) in advance.

I finally got to the final areas of the game. These areas are where you start to find items to grant protection from all elements in a single item...then it becomes complete immunity from all four elements. Add in that you can find, around the same time, an item that grants protection from all status issues and you get a simple "I win" feeling. It helps more than by you're this far into the game, you can have, easily, 25-30 skills slots on each immortal. This means out of five people in your battle formation, four can be completely protected from everything, and the final party member (a mortal) can easily have protection from all status issues or all elements (if you're using the right final party member to equip these special items).

I still have a couple of bonus dungeons to finish, and a few more items to find in the treasure hunt side quest. However, I can easily see myself fulfilling my main goal right now; finishing Lost Odyssey before Smash Brawl comes along on Sunday. This should not be an issue for me and I should be good to go for wrapping up the game in the next few days. That's even considering the possibility that I may have six new Rock Band songs to get tonight (if the youtube videos look like fun).


Malik (3/5/08)

I checked out the videos on youtube of the latest DLC for Rock Band. While I do enjoy one of the songs (never knew it was called Casey Jones or from the Grateful Dead), I don't see myself buying this stuff. It just doesn't seem worth the money from a guitar on expert perspective.

The songs all seem to have two things in common. Most of them are very easy. I mean they are insanely easy and require very little skill versus something more fun to rock out to. Secondly, the songs are all just hammer-on jungles. They don't look too hard, but I'm just more of a person who likes to rock some power chords or well placed single notes over the hammer-on mess than it The Grateful Dead Pack 01.

Also, I have to say that all of the songs are, as one would expect with even the slightest knowledge of the Grateful Dead, incredibly slow and mellow. I like the "rocking out" aspect of Rock Band, and this mellow vibe is not what I need. I need something with energy, not pot inspired grooves.

So, for those reasons, I'm skipping this week. I hope next week brings about something a little heavier. I especially hope that Harmonix doesn't counter this slowness with the Thrash Pack 01. At least the OXM schedule is shot now (of course it was screwed up by the NIN pack last week), so who knows what will await us.

I'm still playing Lost Odyssey and have ranked up about seven new achievements last night (unlocking all the skills for all the mortals and beating two more optional bosses). I'm nearly ready to finish the game, but I first have the Temple of Enlightenment to get through. This may be the perfect dungeon to wrap up the side quests with.

This final bonus dungeon is probably the single most complicated dungeon in the game. It's a place filled with moving platforms, and structures that can be completely changed and moved using switches (in the form of glowing orbs). Add in one final bonus boss and I think I'm set for a long and complicated journey ahead of me.


Malik (3/6/08)

I have some minor mini-spoilers for Lost Odyssey, so if you are playing LO and want to avoid all chances of spoilers, now is a good time to look away.

Last night I played through the Temple of Enlightenment. Damn. That has to be one of the most frustrating dungeons in the entire game. For one thing, it is long and confusing versus anything else on the game. Most of the bonus dungeons were tiny and quick to be laid to rest. This one, on the other hand, took me about 4 hours to get through...and another 45 minutes to get out of. You have a lot of weird puzzles, and the potential for a lot of back tracking if you failed to initiate certain steps before you get to where the steps are eventually needed.

The layout of the dungeon/temple is similar to the Ancient Temple you play through at the start of disk 4. That is to say that the dungeon is primarily designed around moving platforms and switches. However, the ToE involves switches that move and rotate entire sections of ground. Sometimes it's required to make progress, sometimes it's used to find treasure, and sometimes it just confuses the shit out of you. In other words, I never knew what I was doing or what was going on.

Most of all, I missed a lot of treasure. I know that the final key item I need to get through the Backyard fighting tournament is in the ToE, but I didn't find it on my first (and I'm determined it's also my last) trip through the place. So, I am ending my side quests at this point now that I've finished the ToE.

The worst part of this dungeon (or best part if you're power leveling) is that enemies come at a far higher encounter rate than anywhere else in the game. You may only walk about 2 seconds after a fight before the next one begins. When you add in how confusing the dungeon is and that most battles will require some time to get through (high HP and potentially high damagers if you don't have elemental and status protection), you have the problem of not remember what you were doing before a fight after the battle ends.

To wrap up the frustrations, you have one more problem; you need to exit this place when you're done with the boss. Unlike most dungeons in which you simply have to unlock your way forward and backwards remains unlocked, you have to reverse solve puzzles to get out of the place. This means that you're going to feel a nice dose of frustration when it's all said and done.

I am now in the final real dungeon (although, I've read that it is not a point of no return; despite how the game makes it look that way when you enter). I am overpowered from the ToE (which included Hellish Kelolons...who give a level up with every victory), and overly protected with my 29 slots per immortal (I could make it the full 30 with some time in the Backyard...but I'm so overpowered as it is that it wouldn't make a real difference). Slots that contain resistance to all elements (zero damage), protection from all status issues, and some other nice abilities like my fighters (Seth and Kaim) sharing all drained HP and MP from attacks with the whole party. Then my rings always see HP being drained by Kaim and HP and MP being drained by Seth. So, with a perfect on an attack (which I get about 75% of the time), one round of fighting sees the entire party gaining ~750HP and 75MP.

I think my only complaint at this point in the game is that I have entered "I win" mode. There is no real challenge and I doubt any challenges will pop up any time soon. My characters are broken and fighting no longer requires and strategy beyond Kain and Seth doing normal attacks (to recover everyone's' HP and they do massive damage), Sed attacking with a weapon that potentially does an insta-kill, and April and Ming laying down a double cast of Prismus (or Shadowus, if it's an elementally guarded foe) as soon as they are able to cast. In other words, strategy no longer applies.

At least I know I'll finish the game easily before my copy of Smash Brawl is delivered.


Malik (3/7/08)

Last night I finally laid Lost Odyssey to rest. I decided it was time to end it with Brawl coming out in only a few days and tonight is dedicated to Rock Band.

I'll avoid most of the important spoilers about the ending, but I'll give one that should be of no real value to the spoiler fearful. That is simply this; when you decide to finish Lost Odyssey, be prepared to give up a lot of time. The ending is long. From the time you have your last save spot to the time you see the final save game screen (for New Game+), you may find that a couple of hours have passed you by. It's not that the final boss is that long (although it is a pretty long battle without the standard "deal a ton of damage and win" scenario), but there are a lot of cut scenes...a lot of cut scenes.

With how many cut scenes make up the end of the game, I find it surprising that anything beyond the ending can be on the final disk. It's one fully voiced and animated cut scene after the next.

Also, as a minor unimportant potential spoiler, when the game gives you a final warning that you cannot return after you've entered the final dungeon...don't believe it. You will get this message a few times during the final THREE areas of the game. So, if you're afraid of not being able to go back to finish some side quests, I will just say this; Grand Staff is not the final dungeon, and neither is Grand Staff (you enter it twice in the final few hours of the game). There is a final area (which is actually cut scenes followed by a boss fight) after Grand Staff. In fact, you'll know you can enter the true final dungeon if the game asks if you'd like to save after you clear a dungeon. Then you're free for any final preparation (like the auction house) before you actually finish the game.

After finishing Lost Odyssey I do have one conclusion to my constant talk of the game for the last few weeks. That conclusion is simple; I think this would rank up there as my second favorite RPG I've played. It's not quite as enthralling, to me, as Xenogears...but every other RPG I've played feels shallow in comparison. I think what really puts this impression in my mind is simply one thing above all else; the plot.

Lost Odyssey offers more character development, background, and direct plot than nearly any game I've played. In fact, this game almost makes me view it more as art than game because of how well it blends so many literary qualities (not limited to the Thousand Years of Dreams short stories). It also offers some plot elements that I have not seen in any other RPGs. The way that Sakaguchi blended some concepts, like immortality and family for example, is brilliant. Also, the idea of using memories as an equal to life in those who life without fear of death is a nice change. Add in a villain that is determined to rule the world, and not just destroy it, and you have something that's simple but almost unseen in RPGs.

On a different note, the Rock Band DLC for next Tuesday is...unknown. Scroll down a couple of posts on that link to see more...or not. It seems there were some complications with the announcement, but supposedly the DLC is good to go.

Personally, I hope this means that something big is in the works. Afterall, if the DLC is ready, then the only real "complications" I could see are one of two things.

On one hand, it could mean that two or more packs or sets of music are ready to go, and they are simply trying to sort out which is the better option to go this next Tuesday. For example, they could be trying to space out genres so that we're hit with something to please people who were let down by the Grateful Dead pack. This could imply that maybe two hard hitting packs are ready and Harmonix wants to select the better one to please non-Dead Heads.

The other possibility I can see starts the same way. Multiple music is ready (or nearly ready) to go. Harmonix may be deciding if they will release multiple packs in one week, or if both sets will even be ready. So, they could be holding off announcing since either something may not quite make the final release date or something extra may be added that would not make the announcement. I hope it's that multiple packs may be released since I love me the whole variety type thing. More songs means more money for Harmonix and more happiness from the fans. Now who could complain about that scenario?

So, either way I should have some thoughts on some DLC announcement(s) come Monday. Until then, keep in mind that Smash is coming...and soon.


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