The Vana’diel Diaries (March 2007)

Big month. Lots accomplished, and then a BIG SURPRISE ENDING!! Read on! (Or go read testgame.exe, because someday it will be the greatest game in the Cosmos. It will!) February 1 40th level and I'm s

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Crawlers NestBig month. Lots accomplished, and then a BIG SURPRISE ENDING!! Read on! (Or go read testgame.exe, because someday it will be the greatest game in the Cosmos. It will!)

February 1

40th level and I’m still finding myself dragged into the Crawler’s Nest. I joined a party with Moesizlack (bwaa!), Kyyra, Buddah, Stedron and a rotating DD in the secret room. Unlike the Secret Beach in Valkurm (which really isn’t that secret), the secret room is actually behind a false wall in a large cavern deep in Crawler’s Nest.

This time, the secret room was freaking packed, with three total camps crammed into a room that really shouldn’t support more than one. It was chaotic, spammy, messy and hectic. Not only that, but I was asked to pull. I’m not a big fan of pulling as it is, especially when I’m having to cycle four rolls on different party members. Pain in the ass.

Just the same, it was good for about 5,000 xp and 41st level. I’m beginning to think I need a goal for level 50. It’ll probably be harder going, but I just destroyed 40 by 24. Let’s go for 50 by 15, two days before Erador’s yearly Ides of March/St. Patrick’s Day Party. This year they’ll have a third reason to raise their glasses. By my reckoning I’ll need to make a level every five days. Piece of cake.

Tonight, Erador, Jinjo, Kaizersan and I are going after my first AF item: the Trump Gun.

February 2

Last night I got together with Erador, Setsuni, and Bobmarley (later replaced by Jellybean) to do the first Corsair AF quest. It was a rocky road.

It begins with a walk through uber-treacherous Caedarva Mire to Arrapago Reef. This place is filled with nasty mobs, many of whom have ‘true sight’, meaning they see right through invisibility. It’s a dangerous walk, hard to navigate and downright scary. I died three times on this trek, but we eventually made it to the reef and to the first cutscene which opened up the quest.

Next it was off to the Maze of Shakarami, where we absolutely annihilated an NM called Lost Soul. From there I entered another cutscene where Finn picked up the Wheel-Lock Trigger necessary to get the Trump Gun built.

Back to Arrapago. Setsuni fell asleep on us on the ferry ride to Nashmau, so Erador navigated for Jellybean and me. We would’ve made it, but I got myself lost and burned through my Prism Powders (Invisibility) and Silent Oils (Sneak). Erador found me and gave me some of his, but was aggro’d by a Lamia on the way back out. We all died.

I’m going to try this again today since I’m home, but I’m not sure how it will work out. It’s a very dangerous hike and I’ll need some heavyweights to help out. Maybe I can solicit some help from my friends in Hands of Fate.

February 3

Trump Gun! AF1 – Mission Accomplished!

With an assist from Vudoku (former Blackwind’er and current member of Hands of Fate), I was able to trek across the death fields of Caedarva Mire into Arrapago Reef and deliver the Wheel Lock Trigger I acquired in my fight with the Lost Soul. A warp back to Aht Urhgan Whitegate and I’ve got my Trump Gun! w00t!

And the Trump Gun is hot shit. It does better damage than my +1 Darksteel Hexagun and is just as fast (though not quite as accurate). Did I say 50 by 15 earlier? If this keeps up, it’ll be 50 by February 15…if not sooner—I’ve already reached 45.

Shadowblade rejoined us in Fruit Bat Revenge yesterday, and I’m really glad to see him back. Seems he spent the last month hiding away in Hyrule playing the new Zelda game on his shiny new Nintendo Wii. Can’t say that I blame him.

February 5

It seems like every day is breaking new ground. Discovering new areas to xp, killing new monsters (or at least new versions of old foes), and earning lots of tasty experience points. Invites are plentiful and times are good; let’s hope it stays that way.

There are two places parties most seem to be hitting at this level range. One is the Quicksand Caves off of Eastern Altepa Desert – plenty of Beetles, Spiders and Anticans to be slaughtered there. It’s usually almost completely vacant, which is odd. You’d think it would be packed. I think the reason for this is vacation spot #2 on the list, which is the bottom floor of Garliage Citadel just a stone’s throw from Jeuno.

It’s funny – when I was in the low-mid 30s I absolutely panicked when running by the big holes in the floor in the Citadel – an errant step resulted in a fall and a one-way ticket to death. Now we jump right down, run across the bottom floor into a series of small inlets in the large cavern, perfect for camping. I picked up 47th and a little change.

February 6

The Monday Night Static Party met last night. Good times were had by all. We spend much of evening we xp’ing on various targets: damselflies, some goblins, and quite a few sheep as Erador continued his quest for sheep meat. (Heh…sheep meat.) Satharn had a rough go of it, dying twice during the campaign despite Shadowblade’s valiant efforts to keep us alive when things got rough. Just the same, she made 17th. I double-leveled from 15 to 17, and Erador pushed to 15th.

I’m taking the next few nights off (really, I am!) to get some well-deserved rest. Then it’s back into the Corsair gear for the long push from 47 to 50. I’ve already got a posse rounded up for G1, and with any luck I’ll have that cleared before sundown on Sunday.

February 7

I know, I know. I wasn’t going to play FF XI yesterday. I was going to turn in early, catch up on some sleep, spend some time with the family, etc.

Well, that didn’t happen. I’m a bad man.

Instead I signed on for one hell of a ride. I joined Luulu, Riios, Zaira and Deathwish in Garliage Citadel. With Apis kindly PL’ing, it was near constant combat for about 90 mintues. EVERYONE pulled, and we intentionally pulled links so we’d have mobs waiting for us – our bard kept them asleep until we were ready to execute the beasties. We beat down funnel bats and chamber beetles like bullies at recess, practically impervious to their feeble attempts to hurt us.

Over the course of the party, I made about 14,000xp, jumping from 47th to 49th level. I’ve already got backup set for G1 this weekend; now all I need to do is make 50 by Saturday afternoon. Piece of cake. Heck, I might even take a swing at my second piece of Artifact gear before the weekend ends.

(And I thought this would take me through mid-March…)

February 9

I took a break from my rabid xp’ing to finish a series of ridiculous quests. They’re necessary to really get into the meat of the Aht Urhgan storyline, but that doesn’t make them any less boring.

Collectively, all four quests are called ‘Lure of the Wildcat’. It involves running around each of the four major cities (San d’Oria, Windurst, Bastok and Jeuno), talking to a series of people (about 20 different individuals) and pimping this mercenary company out of Al Zhabi. In about two hours I did San d’Oria, Jeuno and Windurst. I figure I’ll take care of Bastok tonight or tomorrow.

This is gonna be a busy weekend. I need to make 50th so I can do my first Genkai with Erador and Vudoku. Erador wants to go after this NM called the Goblin Wolfman, and I’m gonna ride shotgun. We want to get in a Beseiged and possibly take another swing at Promyvion – Holla. Saturday’s gonna be a busy day.

February 12

Mission Accomplished. I scoff at 50 by 15; I spiked the ball at level 50 Saturday afternoon.

I joined Kaizersan (playing his Puppetmaster) along with another unusually constructed party (two PUPs, a NIN tank, WHM, BLU, and me playing COR) in Quicksand Caves to beat up on Beetles and Anticans. We hit a few rough patches in the beginning, but things eventually smoothed out and we slowly but surely started pulling in some big xp. It took about two hours, but I made the 6,400 xp to make 50th level.

Immediately following, I joined Vudoku, Blacksabre and Erador for G1. The first item on the list was Exoray Mold found on the Exorays in the Crawler’s Nest. Next was a piece of Papyrus from the Eldeime Necropolis. Finally was a bit of Bomb Coal from an Explosure in Garliage Citadel. I snatched that from our treasure hoarde as well, returned the items to Maat (the little dancing geezer who governs the Genkai quests) and wrapped up G1 – my level cap is now 55.

We didn’t get to Beseiged, so hopefully we’ll do that sometime this week. Erador and I did, however, help Satharn get her magicked skull – the last item she needs for the subjob quest. She’s knocking on the door of 18th, so she’ll probably pick up subjobs pretty soon here.

At 52 I have my second AF (more trekking through Caerdava Mire – ick), a whole new outfit becomes available at 55 and a new gun at 56.

Tonight’s the static party, but I might wave off in favor of resting up.

February 13

It’s Monday night and you know what that means…time for the world famous static party!

As the cheering dies down, I’ll run the credits for last night’s group by: myself (playing DRG), Erador (playing WHM), Kaizersan (playing PLD), Satharn (playing WAR), Deadstop (playing DRG) and Loads (playing RDM).

This was kind of a rocky ride. Satharn unluckily bumped into a few ornery goblins on her way to camp and died. Deadstop met a similar fate after we pulled aggro on a pair of goblins we weren’t ready for. It was a rough night.

The good news is the xp was top drawer, nearly everyone picked up a level and Satharn finished the subjob quest. I think she’s going to level up Thief now, so the static party might take a week off while she solos that job up. When we restart (somewhere around level 10), I’m thinking I’ll dust off my Blue Mage gear and give it a shot.

February 16

Everyone tells me that Thursday is a bad night for parties, and that not pulling an invite on a Thursday night isn’t anything to be worried about.

Still, I sat LFG for two whole hours yesterday. While I had one party fall apart while forming, it was a complete bust. Lame. The only thing I accomplished was getting flagged for San d’Oria Mission 5-1, which I’m hoping to do this weekend.

I also did the unthinkable…I ordered a copy of World of Warcraft with my new PC. Erador and I are going to try out the free month and see if it has anything to offer. Nearly every one of my friends who plays video games is either playing WoW or planning to start soon, and I have heard a lot of compelling arguments for giving it a shot. We’ll see how it goes starting in early March.

February 23

Has been nearly a week since my last update, and it all traces back to San d’Oria mission 5-2 last weekend, which was an unmitigated disaster in the complete and total sense of the phrase. I know everyone in the party meant well and tried their best, and a lot of the time it was just bad luck, but the mission wound up being a complete and utter cluster fuck.

Yes, we did eventually kill the Shadow Lord (well, they did…I lay there…dead), but on the way to the fight we got lost numerous times, burned through dozens of Prism Powders and Silent Oils (expensive little items that turn you invisible and render you completely silent so you can sneak through areas filled with dangerous monsters without attracting attention), and I wound up dying five times over the evening. FIVE TIMES. This also took me a level down back to 49, meaning I was completely unable to fire my gun, so in the climactic Shadow Lord fight, I sat on my ass (at least until I was killed, then I just sort of lay there).

Two days later I xp’d back through 50 to within striking distance of 51, but the damage had been done – I didn’t really have a whole lot of fun.

So what to do? Why, buy a new computer, of course. I bought a nice new rig from Dell which should arrive today. Then it’s time to begin my journey to the dark side….

February 26

This is it. The Dark Side.

I have (at least for the time being) forsaken Final Fantasy XI and rolled a character in the most popular MMORPG on the planet, World of Warcraft. Last Friday night, the Dwarven Priest, Hale, was born on the Agrammar server.

Not to sound like too much of an idiot, but…wow. I can see why Blizzard’s money factory is number one. World of Warcraft is fantastic. It does a lot of things right that FF XI does wrong, and I’ve yet to really find an aspect of the game that I truly dislike:

– It lends itself very well to solo play. Where there is just no way most jobs can solo effectively beyond 12th level (give or take) in FF XI, it’s entirely possible for any job in WoW to solo right on up to level 60 (or 70 with the new expansion). This means on the day where I just have an hour or two to play, I can solo instead of sitting around with the flag up, hoping I can round up a party.

– The completion of quests awards experience points. Finally, a quest system that is WORTHWHILE. The quests in WoW aren’t necessarily much different than those in FF XI (go here, deliver this, kill this, etc.), but knowing there’s a big chunk of xp at the end makes it all worthwhile.

– Death does not bring with it a big xp hit and the potential to level down. You have no idea what a relief that is. Dying is no longer a stream of curses and the worry of how am I going to get that lost xp back. Dying can be viewed as a much less stressful learning experience and a jog from the graveyard back to your corpse, or a resurrect (which Priests learn as early as 10th level).

– I find the graphics and sound more appealing. Some argue they are more ‘cartooney’, but I find that really visually engaging. The wardrobe changes are more pronounced as well – little things like belts and bracers actually show up on the toon, whereas the FF XI avatar really only shows change when a big piece of equipment is swapped out.

– Gryphon riding >>>>>> Airships

– Hale will always be just a priest, but I have slots for seven other characters I could make at any time. I’ve already rolled Gaelan, a Human Warlock, and have plans for other characters in the future. While Finn can play any job, he’s still going to be Finn. This allows me to jump into the shoes of an entirely new persona…and it doesn’t cost me an extra $1/month per character.

– Money isn’t always a constant struggle. Farming cash and/or items to sell is always a necessary evil, but in FF XI it can take nearly half your playtime for an expensive job. In World of Warcraft, nearly every mob drops something of value, including crafting materials. Even the most basic of crafted items is useful or can be sold at a nice profit.

So I don’t think you’ll see me on FF XI for a spell…I’ve got business on Azeroth.

What’s next? Is this the end of The Vana’diel Diaries? Stay tuned!

(or go read Zack’s Cheat Codes for Life, because I could really use some advice on throwing a Fade when confronted by some spouse aggro)

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About the Contributor

From 2006 to 2007

Steve Hamner is a former staff member from GameCola's early days as a monthly email newsletter.

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