The Constantly Shifting World of Live Service Games Is Just Our Reality Now

With live service games like Final Fantasy XIV, Warframe, and Fortnite constantly finding new ways to stay fresh, it's difficult to predict what's next.

With Goku in Fortnite wielding assault rifles, who knows what’s next for live service games across the map? Our very own Nerium Strom and Michael Higham sit down to discuss what could be in the cards for games like Final Fantasy XIV, Warframe, No Man’s Sky, and [checks notes] Fallout 76. We also spend a little time on Soul Hackers 2 and why it falls short for Michael. Listen below or on your preferred podcast platform!

Podcast Transcript:

Nerium: Hello everybody, and welcome back to another episode of 99 Potions, the premier Fanbyte RPG podcast. I am one of your hosts, Nerium Strom, Senior Managing Editor of fanbyte.com. John, Imran, and Natalie are all on the International Space Station this week, so I’m joined by…okay, hold on. Let me see if I can pronounce this correctly. It says…your mother fooken boy?

Michael: [laughs] It’s German.

Nerium: Oh, it’s German. Okay.

Michael: Yeah, sorry. It’s German. You know, my parents were wiling, you know?

Nerium: Mm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Michael: So when I was born, they were like, “Oh shit, it’s your motherfucking boy!” [Nerium laughs] And then the nurses were like that, “Das güd, das güd!”

Nerium: [laughs] Were you born in Germany?

Michael: No, I wasn’t. I was born in Mississippi, so yeah.

Nerium: Oh shit. Same thing.

Michael: Ay, say-outh! [Nerium laughs] Born in the south, you know what I’m saying? So I got a little bit of Southern in me.

Nerium: Oh, really? I did not know that about you.

Michael: Me neither. [Nerium laughs] And yeah, but mostly Southern California bullshit, and that’s who I am, and that’s how I came into this world, so that’s my origin story.

Nerium: Hell yeah. I’ve never moved out of North Dakota in any kind of permanent fashion. Your real name, by the way, or your, I mean…

Michael: Oh yeah, we haven’t said my real name.

Nerium: Your stage name is…

Michael: [laughs quietly] Stage name.

Nerium: Michael Higham. [laughs]

Michael: That’s me. Yes. It’s been…I think it’s maybe been…I don’t think I’ve been on 99 Potions since last year? I think December?

Nerium: Too fucking long.

Michael: December, I think it was just me, Andrea, and Imran. I think it was like a post Endwalker episode.

Nerium: That sounds right.

Michael: Yeah. I think that was like the last time I’ve been on 99 Potions, so folks may know me from hit, hit, hit podcasts such as the Game Informer show.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Giant Bombcast.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: GameSpot After Dark.

Nerium: I’ve heard of these.

Michael: Channel F.

Nerium: Channel F.

Michael: Yeah. I have…yeah.

Nerium: All the greats. [laughs quietly]

Michael: Of all the greats, I saved the best for last. Listen, Channel F is popping.

Nerium: [laughs] Channel F is good.

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: I’m on that show, for now.

Michael: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Nerium: God. It is, well…I mean, you’re back here to– you’re not just a Final Fantasy XIV expert, but you are here to talk to us about some Final Fantasy XIV– or me and you are here to just, I don’t know, just sit down and have a one-on-one about Final Fantasy XIV, I guess.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: ‘Cause I’ve gotten back in.

Michael: Yeah, let’s have our one-on-one right here.

Nerium: Let’s have our one-on-one.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Yeah, let’s just have our performance review right now, Michael.

Michael: Yeah. Hell yeah. [laughs]

Nerium: Uh, how would you rate yourself on these numbers one through five, also–

Michael: 10 out of 10.

Nerium: Oh, okay. Oh.

Michael: Oh, one through five? Yeah, still 10 out of 10.

Nerium: Still a 10 out of 10, uh huh.

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: [laughs] But yeah, like Final Fantasy XIV. That’s been going through some shit. We’re kind of on the cusp of 6.2. The 0.2 patches are usually like the real big…kind of the beginning of some beefy stuff in post expansion, I feel like.

Michael: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Nerium: You can correct me if I’m wrong, but we got Island Sanctuary coming.

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: We got more raids coming.

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: We got Unreal Trial shit or whatever it’s called that I’m never gonna touch.

Michael: Oh yes.

Nerium: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what’s going on?

Michael: Yeah, I guess this is a good time to have me on to talk about Final Fantasy XIV, because patch 6.2–

Nerium: It is.

Michael: I feel like I’ve been talking about patch 6.2 for the past four months, ’cause I have been for the past four months. [Nerium laughs] It’s a huge update. I mean, folks who don’t play, you know, every live service game has big seasonal updates and content drops. Well, a patch, quote, unquote, “patch” as they call it in the world of Final Fantasy XIV is more like, hey, here’s a free– it’s a free update.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: If you subscribe, of course.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: ‘Cause you have to subscribe to play this MMORPG, but here, we’re gonna drop a whole shit ton of content on you, and it’s probably the most exciting the game has been since Endwalker. 6.1 was popping, don’t get me wrong.

Nerium: It was good.

Michael: Yeah, it was great, but it was also kind of like, hey, let’s we need to come down from the high that was Endwalker, so kind of ease you into this next era of Final Fantasy XIV. But 6.2, like from, if you watch the trailer for this thing, like it ain’t fucking around. So there’s a lot of exciting stuff, and I guess the first thing I’ll bring up is Island Sanctuary, ’cause it feels like…I think this was first mentioned at Fan Fest in February—or was it February? or April, I think—of last year, before Endwalker, of course. And Naoki Yoshida was out here talking about how like, yo, this is like a Harvest Moon-style game mode within Final Fantasy XIV, and I think a lot of people’s brains fired off like, “Oh, yo, holy shit! I get to take care of a farm and raise animals and grow crops and have my own island!” and that’s exactly what it is. So the last live letter, the live letter from last week, he actually was playing it on stream, so we gotta see a live gameplay demo of what Island Sanctuary actually is. And it’s, at least to me, it is exactly what I thought it was, where you… [Nerium laughs] It’s an Island Sanctuary, and it has its own gameplay systems and mechanics that are separate from the rest of the game, so you don’t need to be…you don’t have to have any experience in crafting or gathering.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: But on that island, you are doing crafting and gathering. And so like you have different tools and you switch different kind of build modes. So you have like a mode you click in your UI, like, oh, I’m gonna build stuff now, or I’m going to herd animals, or I’m going to take care of my crops, or I’m just gonna walk around the rest of the island. So yeah, and there’s like a whole progression path. There’s NPCs that kind of guide you through the thing, and you level up. You have a sanctuary level, and then you get, you know, you can create better tools. You can make more advanced buildings, have a more advanced operation on your island, have assigned NPCs. You earn a specific type of scrip, so that has its own currency, and you can craft like handicrafts and sell them on the market, and there’s like a whole economy that goes along with it. So it’s a…I think this is probably, at least since I’ve been playing, the most different piece of new content that I’ve seen added to the game, because like, you always get raids. You always get new dungeons.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And all that stuff is like obviously like very exciting. You get new side quests, all sorts of stuff, like tribal quests. There’s no shortage of new content whenever an update rolls around. But I think this is, you know, I think this is probably– well, actually, since, I think, Bozja, I would say is probably the most ambitious piece of new content that I engaged with since playing the game. But I think like this is really cool because I think it adds a new layer to the game where, hey, you know, it’s not combat-based. You don’t have to…like, if you go into a critical engagement in Bozja, it’s pretty like stressful, because that shit can be very hard, and there’s a lot–

Nerium: It’s like a mini raid sometimes, yeah.

Michael: Yeah, exactly, and it can be really hard, but you know, Island Sanctuary’s like, I’m gonna get away from all of that and just chill and, you know, build out my own island. Like, every player gets their own instanced island. You don’t have to share it with anybody. So yeah, it really feels like that relaxing piece of content, where like, there’s still something really engaging to do—or at least it seems—but you know, you don’t have to be subjected to the stresses of weighing down your party and things like that. So, yeah. And like, Natalie’s been talking about it for a while, and well, the whole player base has been like, yo, let’s like, we can’t wait for it. Like, where’s it at? And it’s right around the corner, and…

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: My personal like conspiracy theory with this whole thing was that they had originally planned this to be a very much smaller thing, and people lost their fucking minds, and they were like, [Michael laughs] “Ah, we gotta blow this up a little bit more.”

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And that’s why we haven’t seen hide nor hair of it for so long.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Until it’s like, boom, here it is. And that’s awesome, because I’ve not watched this live letter, but I have read a bunch of what you’ve just written and what Natalie has talked about and all this other stuff, and it sounds like practically putting a whole second game inside of the game, which is wild.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, it sounds like they’ve added Rune Factory to Final Fantasy XIV or something like that. [both laugh]

Michael: Yeah. Yeah, that’s quite accurate, I would say. Are you like…you’re caught up on everything, right?

Nerium: Yeah, I’m caught up on pretty much everything. All my crafters are at 90. I’m caught up with all the content, story, done the new raids. I’ve done pretty much everything. The only thing I haven’t like maxed out in terms of like new content from Endwalker is I haven’t like finished ranking up my beast tribe yet.

Michael: Oh, okay. Yeah.

Nerium: Or tribal quests now, I think is what they’re called?

Michael: Yeah, tribal quests as they’re called now. Yeah, sick, because, well, you have all your crafters and gatherers leveled up. I don’t. [Nerium laughs] You sickos. You and Dylan are some sickos. [Nerium laughs] Yeah, there’s a piece of the game I still haven’t engaged with. That’s how big this game is, but.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: If you don’t, there are…even if you don’t engage with certain parts of the game, there’s still a ton of things to get into, even with just this new patch.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: ‘Cause like, new story stuff. The new story stuff looks fucking wild, if you ask me, man. Like, the Final Fantasy IV references haven’t stopped. People are speculating about a…I mean, there is a new character teased in the trailer.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: And trying to figure out the nature of who they are. Like, yo, we’ve never seen this character before. They’re a reaper, and apparently she looks like one of the OG models of an alternate Warrior of Light from back in the day, I think like 1.0.

Nerium: Uh huh.

Michael: Mike wrote a short piece on the site about how the community’s been speculating about who this is, and I think that’s really exciting. And I mean, I don’t want to go into what happens in 6.1 story-wise, but it kind of opens up. And you know, after Endwalker, like where do you go from here? It’s like, well, there’s how many alternate shards and realms and universes in the world of Final Fantasy XIV.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: So how about we go back to one of them? And so you’re kind of exploring this new dimension– or, well, it’s not a new dimension, but you’re exploring this dimension that you dabbled in kind of years and years ago.

Nerium: Yeah. They touched on it in like mostly side content, like the containment bay trials from Heavensward, which is like the first expansion, so that’s years and years and years ago.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: That was about a lot of like that void world. Like, you know, Shadowbringers was about a world of light that got fucked over by light. There was also a world of darkness that got fucked over by darkness, and we haven’t really done a ton there yet.

Michael: Uh huh. Yeah. And I think that that’s where the story is going, and that’s an exciting prospect. But even like, there’s just like the new raid. The new raid stories look…raid stories are always interesting, like the eight player raids.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And Shadowbringers we had the Eden raids where, you know…

Nerium: Ah, so good.

Michael: Yeah, you had Ryne and her girlfriend Gaia, like I think that was kind of very cool, very beautiful, and it was like an homage to Final Fantasy VIII in many respects. But this new raid series is completely embedded in XIV’s lore. And if you played Endwalker, it tells you more about the ancients, and I think that like, it feels like there’s unlimited stories that can be told in that piece of the game. And I think the first four raids that were released in like 6.01-6.05, shortly after the release of Endwalker were pretty interesting. The fights were good, but…

Nerium: Yeah, for sure.

Michael: Yeah. It did a lot of establishing, like, oh, here’s Themis and here’s Erichthonios, these new characters, but we kind of know who Themis is, in terms of like their parallel between their… [Michael mumbles, Nerium laughs] the Ascians, the Ascians who we’ve beat the shit out of for many, many years. How about we go back in time and see who they really were before they turned into evil assholes?

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And I think that’s one of my favorite things about Endwalker, but when Endwalker wrapped up, I was like, damn, I want more of that.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: When I first stepped onto Elpis, I was like, holy shit. I want this to be the whole rest of the game, ’cause I think there’s something really striking about, you know, a story where you go back in time, where you see characters before you knew them the first time. I think that’s a convoluted way of saying it, but, it’s like, you know, meeting so-and-so before they turned evil, meeting so-and-so before they died and became like a martyr throughout like the lore of Final Fantasy XIV.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: I think it’s just like a really fascinating thing that adds a lot more perspective, and like, I think Endwalker did a very good job of like flipping the script on you and being like, oh, you thought you knew these characters? Well, check out how they were back in the day, before they were–

Nerium: They used to be hot.

Michael: [laughs] Yo, listen, everyone in Final Fantasy XIV is hot, [Nerium laughs] because all of the ancients were hot.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Listen, if they were like the originators, [Nerium: “Mm-hmm”] if they were like our ancestors in this game, they are all like eight feet tall and fine as hell. [both laugh] Listen, yo, everyone is hot.

Nerium: The descendants of Hythlodaeus just like getting laid all over Eorzea. [laughs]

Michael: Oh my God. That fool was slaying puss [Nerium laughs] all across Elpis. You already know. [laughs] Yeah, it’s pretty fucking wild. And like, yeah, to that point though, you go through the Pandæmonium raids, you’re like, oh shit, yo, who I think is OG Lahabrea. That dude was hot too!

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Holy shit!

Nerium: Yeah, he’s a DILF.

Michael: [laughs] He’s a DILF. Yo, look at this dude. Man, that fool’s looking pretty fine. And like Erichthonios, like that fool can get it. Yeah, I’m down for more hot ancients in my stories. And I think that– so like, but the first four were just like establishing like, oh, here’s what Pandæmonium is. There is a dungeon beneath the city where Lahabrea does some wild shit.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And here’s also– [laughs] speaking of hot, sexy ancients. Here’s a vampire dude, who, once he takes off his glasses, oh no, he’s hot. [both laugh] ‘Cause he looks like– yo, for the first time you encounter Hesperos, I was like, oh, this fool’s kind of a herb.

Nerium: Uh huh.

Michael: He’s kind of a dork. He looks like, I don’t know. He looks like a streamer who’s probably said a racial slur to me in the chat, but. [laughs] And then he takes off his glasses like, oh shit, he’s hot. And then if you play the savage version, he has a second form.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Like, oh shit, he’s hot! So, I’m…I mean, I’m…

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: He goes from a fucking nerd to a fucking like, oh, this is Alucard Castylvania.

Michael: Yeah! [laughs]

Nerium: Like, oh my God. Like, what is up with you, dude? Why do you not look like this all the time?

Michael: [laughs] Yeah, and then we had to kill your ass.

Nerium: Oh God.

Michael: So you hate to see that, and…

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: But this, so this next kind of leg of the raid goes even deeper, and from the trailer at least, it’s teasing that we’re actually going to get to the nature of what this raid’s story is about.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And I mean, I think about Eden too, like the first couple of Eden raids were cool, but they didn’t really…you know, just like learning who Gaia was and what the deal is with Eden.

Nerium: Yeah, there’s like a weird person in a suit of armor shows up, and you’re like, okay.

Michael: Yeah, I guess–

Nerium: That was it.

Michael: Yeah, I guess we care about her now.

Nerium: Yeah. And then it’s like, oh yeah, we do care about her! [both laugh]

Michael: Yeah, exactly.

Nerium: She shows up with that hammer and breaks Reyne out of the ice [Michael: “Oh, God”] with the like fucking darkness attack. Mmm!

Michael: Oh, with the music playing and like [Nerium: “Mm-hmm”] the power of friendship. Yeah, it’s…you expect that by the end of the raid, you’re like, oh shit, this was for reals. So yeah, kinda looking forward to what’s going on with that story there, because I do think like, at least for this raid, you’re going to learn more about, you know, like I said earlier, like you’re gonna learn about characters who you thought you knew, and I think that that’s just, that’s really fascinating. I do like the kind of crossover stuff and like the guest appearances. I know that we’ve had–

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah. We had Ivalice with the Alliance raid. We had Nier with the Alliance raid and Shadowbringers.

Nerium: Yeah. What you need?

Michael: What was that?

Nerium: What you need?

Michael: Oh, wow. [both laugh] Wow. I just got that. Yeah, you had your own raid series. That’s fucking wild. Congrats.

Nerium: Yeah. I think it was really, you know, I did such a good job of crafting and kind of like crashing the market board for everybody ’cause I undercut too hard that Yoshida was like, “Please, please stop. We’ll give you anything. [Michael laughs] We’ll put you in a raid. Just stop killing too hard.”

Michael: Oh my God. But yeah, the guest stuff is cool, but I think there’s just…I think by the time Shadowbringers wrapped up, I think a lot of the community was also feeling like, Hey, there’s like a lot of interesting lore and backstory still left over in XIV.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: I hope that these, you know, intricate and, you know, raids that have stories dive more into that. And that’s exactly what you’re getting in Endwalker. I know we don’t have a new Alliance raid this patch—that was 6.1—but if you played the Alliance raid from 6.1, like you’re getting into the deep end of who the 12 gods that all like all of the different civilizations in Final Fantasy XIV like pray to, and it’s wildly fascinating to come face to face with like these deities who were– well, they are otherworldly beings that you just thought were left to history. And I think you learn a lot about it. It kind of provides some re contextualization for Final Fantasy XIV.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: So I’m excited where that raid is going. If you haven’t played it, you should.

Nerium: Gotta listen to that Nald’thal music.

Michael: Oh my God. It’s like of the best battle themes, straight up. Also, listen, you want to talk about hot characters, Nald’thal.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Talk about two hot characters in one. Oh my God, it was…

Nerium: [laughs] Twins!

Michael: Yeah. Y’all want Thal’s balls, listen. [Nerium laughs] Y’all got Thal’s balls. Yeah, so, there’s just, there’s so much shit coming. Like obviously, if you go to the site, thelinkshell.com, we have breakdowns of multiple things that are coming to 6.2, so it’s just lots to come. Personally, I’m looking forward to the new raids and Island Sanctuary, of course. And then when the 6.25 comes around, which we’re expecting in October, we’ll have things like criterion and variant dungeons, which are another whole type of new content, and then you’ll have new beast tribe—or new tribal quests—and also you’re gonna get new Hildabrand quests.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: I know motherfuckers out there are thirsting for Hildabrand quests, because I did a Hildabrand quest guide, and that thing is doing numbers every week, so. [Nerium laughs] I’m very happy about that.

Nerium: Well, it’s like, yeah. It’s weird, ’cause it’s like one of those very many things in Final Fantasy XIV where it’s like this huge, incredibly put-together thing, like it’s really involved, but the game barely ever like draws your attention to it.

Michael: Right? Yeah.

Nerium: It’s like, you can– there’s entire dungeons and trials and raids and stuff– or not raids, I don’t think, but like trials and stuff in there that you only unlock by doing Hildabrand quests, and it’s just this like goofy side story about this fucking like fake Herlock Sholmes motherfucker [Michael laughs, “Yeah”] who is like messing around and getting suplexed by his dad over and over again. [Michael laughs] And it’s like, oh, Yojimbo showed up. Like, what? Like, motherfucker from Final Fantasy X is here, and he’s just like hanging out with me now? Great.

Michael: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah, and to that point, the game never points you in that direction. The game never nudges you and says, “Hey, you know, that sidequest over there, you know, that’s actually like a pretty deep storyline,” and you wouldn’t know about it unless someone drew attention to it and you looked up where to find the quests.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: So I think that’s fascinating that like XIV has so much legitimately cool content that it feels like it sometimes gets just lost in the sauce, and then…but for Hildabrand, I think it’s really fascinating that the XIV team is kind of tying it into relic weapons and… [laughs] Yeah, Yoshida’s out here like, “Hey, listen, my team put in so much work to make these stupid-ass quests. [Nerium laughs] Y’all motherfuckers are going to do them, whether you like it or not, okay?” Because if you want those relic weapons that everyone loves– and again, looking at the traffic numbers for us.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: People are out here trying to get their relic weapons from A Realm Reborn all the way to the resistance weapons today or from Shadowbringers. And so like, “Oh, y’all like relic weapons. Have you heard of Hildabrand? [Nerium laughs] ‘Cause if you like relic weapons, guess what? You’re in for a treat. And if you’re skipping cutscenes, I’m gonna find you, [Nerium laughs] and you’re gonna get jumped, okay?” Just, straight up, so.

Nerium: They tricked motherfuckers into going to Eureka to get relic weapons, and now they’re tricking them into doing Hildabrand quests.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And it’s honestly, it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful like way of designing a video game.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: Just be like, if you want the shiny stick, you gotta fucking earn it.

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] It’s like, “Oh, we put so much time and effort into this piece of content, and you’re not playing it? Oh, you thought. [Nerium laughs] You’re playing it now.” So, yeah, it’s just…yeah, that’s 6.25, so like an after the fact patch.

Nerium: Yeah, yeah.

Michael: Yeah. And yeah, there so much other stuff. I’m looking forward to what the job changes are. I really like what they’ve done with PVP since 6.1.

Nerium: Oh, PVP is so fun now.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I’ve been playing a ton, ’cause I’m trying to get that Archfiend armor before it goes away.

Michael: Ooh, you better hurry up.

Nerium: Yeah, I know. I’m at rank…I’m almost rank 12. It’s rank 25 is what you have to be.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: But I haven’t been like playing like a ton. I’ve just kind of been doing my front lines here and there.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: So that’s been good, but it’s also just like, [deep breath] bwaaa, I really want that Archfiend armor. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I just wish it was done. But like, because of the way that they completely rebalanced PVP in Final Fantasy XIV…PVP was something I like never fucking touched for like years almost in that game.

Michael: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Nerium: But now, there are parts of PVP where I’m like, there’s more personality to each individual job in this game in PVP than there is in the PVE for some of them.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, the way…because they’re so pared down, like they’re so just like, “No, you have eight skills, and that’s it,” which is perfect for playing with a controller, especially in the heat of a player versus player battle.

Michael: Oh, yeah.

Nerium: Which is probably why they did it, but it’s like, oh, gunbreakers can do the draw injunction system from Final Fantasy VIII, because they use gun blades, which is also from Final Fantasy VIII. So they can do a thing where they like pull the essence out of a rival player, and it’s like, okay, you stole the essence of a healer, so now you’re a better healer tank. Oh, you stole the essence of a DPS, so now you’re a good DPS. And like, that stuff is so cool to me. Like, it’s really interesting, and it’s stuff that I hope that is a test bed for PVE in the future, for like [Michael: “Mm, yeah”] developing some of that personality, because like, warriors– or not warriors, tanks in particular feel like they are very, very, very similar right now. Most of the time, it’s like, okay, this one does this thing a little bit differently, but mostly you are building up a bar, you’re spending that bar on a super move, and then you are going back to doing a three hit melee rotation and then sometimes using shields. And I would love to see like, oh, what if they did some draw injunction stuff with the gunbreaker in the future in PVE where I can like draw from a boss in a dungeon based on like the move that they used, almost like a blue mage or something like that would be really cool and be able to use different powers. I would love some shit like that, but in the meantime, it’s been cool doing Crystalline Conflict and all that stuff in PVP.

Michael: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I put a lot of time. I was surprised by how much time I put into PVP when the first– yeah, when Crystalline Conflict came out, ’cause I did front lines. I’m like, yo, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.

Nerium: Uh huh. [laughs]

Michael: Oh shit, I forgot to remap my hot bars for this other job I’m playing, and I literally have no skills mapped to it, which is funny, [laughs] ’cause you wrote about this when 6.1 just dropped.

Nerium: Uh huh.

Michael: You were like, “Hey, I hopped into PVP. It seems really cool, but I forgot to set my fucking hot bars.” Yeah. That’s funny. Yeah, you know, I think it is also funny that you mentioned that, you know, maybe they’re experiment– like, they could use PVP as an area to experiment, like the stakes are pretty low. Like, PVP obviously is a big deal to them.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: But it’s like, if they tweak one thing in the main game, it has dire consequences for like the entire player base.

Nerium: Totally.

Michael: ‘Cause PVP is the optional piece of content, after all. And I think a lot about how…I think when you look back at the kind of progression of the game since Realm Reborn, is that it always feels like they’re…they do their main thing, and then they try out new things on the side to then be implemented later on down the line or iterate on. So I think about– that’s a cool thing to bring up, especially as they, like, they have 19 jobs in the game. Where do they go from here?

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And Yoshi-P is basically saying, “Ayy, we’re basically gonna have to draw ideas from scratch now, because we’ve basically referenced all kinds of jobs from–” like almost every job except for Reaper is like a reference to a job in a previous Final Fantasy, which is cool, but he’s like, “Yo, we gotten to the point where we’ve exhausted a lot of those things, so we’re gonna be drawing things from the ground up.”

Nerium: [stage whispering] Draw from Final Fantasy Tactics. Bring in the arithmetician.

Michael: Yo! Isn’t the arithmetician close to astrologian? Or no, I think that was–

Nerium: Eh, maybe.

Michael: There was an astrologer job, I think, in Tactics.

Nerium: Yeah. There’s like the oracle, which might have been like that.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Ask me to remember all the fucking jobs in Final Fantasy Tactics. There’s like 25 of them or something like that, just in that one game.

Michael: Yeah, which I played last when I was 10 years old.

Nerium: Right. They haven’t put in, like…they have not like made that game easy to play necessarily.

Michael: At all, yeah.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Unless you, you know, allegedly!

Nerium: Allegedly, allegedly.

Michael: Use, uh, other means, allegedly.

Nerium: Allegedly.

Michael: So, with… [Nerium laughs] And when I think about like the criterion and variant dungeons, where they have– so, these are new types of dungeons that have multiple paths, and, you know, XIV being an MMO, it has to…its main story quest has to be pretty linear, because they have to pull you in a specific direction to progress. And I thought about this a lot, and I think a lot of the community’s been saying like, yo Endwalker was incredible. It’s the best, or like, it was an incredible way to kind of cap off this era of Final Fantasy XIV.

Nerium: Mm, mm-hmm.

Michael: But there are some things that probably need change at this point, ’cause it has been following a pretty similar formula for a while now, and I think dungeons are one aspect where…I like dungeons, and I really enjoy especially the big thematic ones.

Nerium: Oh yeah.

Michael: Really, really help flesh out and contextualize the main story.

Nerium: You know, like Smileton.

Michael: Oh, yeah. [both laugh] Oh, Smileton’s so cute, though! Oh my God.

Nerium: I love Smileton. Like, don’t give me wrong. I genuinely love Smileton. [Michael laughs] When you come into Smileton and you look down, and it’s like, oh, the moon is hollow, and it’s just full of fucking bunny people making weird giant carrots and stuff like that in the–

Michael: With their 3D printer.

Nerium: With their 3D printer in this big fucking thing, and you get zipped through the big M. C. Escher painting the whole way.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: That shit is really cool. It has nothing to do with anything in terms of story. It’s a big goof, but it looks cool as hell.

Michael: [laughs] Yeah. By the way, that is a genuine explanation of what this dungeon is, so if you don’t play XIV, [Nerium laughs, “Yeah”] and you’re listening to this, you’re like, “What the fuck is this game?” [Nerium laughs] Trust me. There are like a hundred things we can reference, and you’re gonna be like, “Yo, what the fuck is Final Fantasy XIV?”

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Yeah. I think the formula of dungeons have been very predictable since…I mean, since A Realm Reborn, like you…and since they’ve kind of revamped some of the older dungeon from Realm Reborn, they’ve been in line with how the dungeons are designed now.

Nerium: Yeah, yeah.

Michael: It’s like, you know, you pull mobs, you fight a boss, pull mobs, fight a boss, pull mobs, you fight the final boss. And it’s been…like the pulling the mobs, regardless of how different those enemies are, it is the same kind of…you go through the same motions.

Nerium: Oh yeah, 100%.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Let me tell you, as a tank.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: It gets real samey real fast.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Oh, I’m just going to smash the two button combo for AOE that I have—down, up, down, up, down, up—over and over again, move on to the next one, and then like somebody will yell at me because I– and you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t, because you’re either…if you pull all the mobs, everybody’s like, “Why’d you pull so many fucking mobs? I don’t know what I’m doing.” [Michael laughs] Or if you don’t pull enough mobs, somebody’s like, “Hey, hurry the fuck up and pull more mobs.” [Michael laughs] It’s just like, argh! So I just check for the sprout now. If I see a sprout, I do not multi pull.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I do not do the hero pulls. I just take it slow, and I go forward. If I don’t see any sprouts, I’m like, okay, you know what you’re doing. You know how to handle this.

Michael: [laughs] Yeah, I’ve been trying to level up some of my tanks. And I’m not, like…I’m mostly a DPS player, and sometimes a play healer, but tank is probably the one I have the least amount of experience in. And when you are leveling up and you kind of do some of the earlier dungeons, healers and tanks don’t necessarily have a full kit, and they don’t have the skills necessary to do wall to wall pulls. So I don’t have, like, if I do Brayflox’s Longstop, [Nerium: “Yeah”] or like Stone Vigil, I think, I don’t necessarily have all my mitigation skills, [Nerium: “Yeah”] and healers don’t have most of their oGCD heals. So I’m here trying to do ???, and I’m just like, oh, I’m just gonna do a wall to wall pull, ’cause I assume everyone’s better than me and can take care of me.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And then I’m just like wiping twice, and everyone’s like, “Yo, what the fuck are you doing?” I’m like, oh, my bad, my bad. They’re like “Use mitigation.” I only have one mitigation skill. [laughs]

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: And then they’re like, “Well, don’t pull so many mobs.” I’m like, shit, you know what? You’re right. You’re right. My bad. That’s on me. So I never played tank again.

Nerium: Yeah. Never again?

Michael: Yeah. [both laugh] No, may– I do like playing gunbreaker and dark knight. My gunbreaker is like level 80-something, and I’m still leveling up dark knight, just ’cause I like the storyline.

Nerium: Yeah, me too.

Michael: I still need see it through. But yeah.

Nerium: Some of the earliest work from…Ishikawa? Is that…

Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Nerium: She worked on it?

Michael: Yeah. If folks don’t know, she’s the lead writer for Shadowbringers and also the lead writer for Endwalker, and one of her early projects was the dark knight storyline. So if you haven’t played it and you want to see the early seeds of her work, at least in XIV, play the dark knight storyline and I think parts of the Stormblood MSQ were also…

Nerium: Yes. I think it’s like the post…no, she did like the…

Michael: Azim Steppe? I think?

Nerium: The Kugane stuff? Or yeah, okay.

Michael: Yeah. I think she did some of the Azim Steppe quest lines, which were fascinating.

Nerium: Yeah. It’s still probably some of like the coolest world building that they’ve done, [Michael: “Yeah”] just like to set up like, oh, the Au Ra like have different…it’s a thing that you see when you first boot up a character in the game. It’s like, oh, if you want to be a human, there’s like this type of human and this type of human. There’s humans that were like from this region of the world, and there’s humans that were from this region of the world, and they look different, but that’s about it. And then in like the, you get that with the Au Ra, and it kind of sets up the idea that like the Au Ra who like live in this part of the world have a completely different culture than the Au Ra who live in this part of the world.

Michael: Absolutely.

Nerium: And it’s like kind of interesting.

Michael: Yeah, it’s super interesting. Yeah. And again, it’s another aspect where I think XIV has a lot of room to grow and can explore more things, and I hope they kind of keep doing that with things like raids and some of the MSQ. But yeah, Final Fantasy XIV. This is probably the– yeah, like I said, this is the most excited I’ve been in a while, and that feels really good, ’cause you know, covering XIV day in and day out, I’ve kind of struggled with my relationship with the game.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: So this is actually couple’s therapy between me and XIV, and Nere is here. They’re gonna help me kind of [Nerium: “Yeah”] work through my problems with my loved one named Final Fantasy XIV.

Nerium: I’ve got my clipboard right here, ready to go.

Michael: [laughs] Thank you. Thank you. So, yeah, I just want to say that I love my dear XIV very much, but you know, it’s been, sometimes it’s a struggle when I have to see you every day.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And, you know, I have to write about you every day, you know?

Nerium: I get that.

Michael: Still love you! [laughs]

Nerium: But it’s like, you know, it’s a game that like Yoshida himself has gone out there and said, like, he doesn’t expect people to just like sit and play the game every single day.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: It is a game that is like, for the large– for everybody who’s not doing Savage raids, who’s not like going for relic weapon grinds and that sort of stuff, like trying to get a specific mount from Eureka or something like that, you’re not trying to go for ??? or something. For people who aren’t doing that stuff, it is like meant to be: you check in with the patch, you do the new content, you leave. You come back again, you do some dungeons, you get some Tomestones to get your gear up a little bit. You play for a couple weeks, and then you come back, ’cause they know that they’ve got you for that subscription. They don’t have to keep you playing every single day, hoping to pop a loot box or something like that, like, you know, Overwatch or some other game that does something similar, because those games are all about just like player retention, player, retention, player retention. People have to be playing this game all the time because they need to want to buy skins or primo gems or whatever.

Michael: [laughs quietly] Primo gems.

Nerium: This game’s just not that.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, it’s a game that is like, yeah, it uses an old business model that is not actually like that common in games anymore. Very few…it’s like this and WoW are like the big ones. Even like, you know, most of them have gone like free to play, like Star Wars, you know, went free to play. Guild Wars 2 is still going strong, but they did the whole thing of just like, no, you pay for the game once and you just get it, and we’ll do microtransactions here and there for other stuff if you want, for mounts and whatnot. But Final Fantasy XIV still has all that stuff, but it’s like very, very downplayed compared to the rest of it, ’cause they can just like keep on working on the thing that they have, ’cause the income is there.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: But when you’re in that position of like, well, now I have to write about this game that is not designed to be played necessarily that way, and you have to write about it every day and every week, I totally get it. I mean, I used to have to do that with Dota, back when I worked for Red Bull.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And just be like, yeah, I don’t know, played more Dota today. There’s not much else going on. [both laugh]

Michael: Yeah, so when these new content drops come around, it gets me genuinely excited, also kind of nervous, but like.

Nerium: Mm, mm-hmm.

Michael: I almost like dread content drops, whereas I used to be like on the edge of my seat like super excited about it. Now, I’m still very excited, but I’m also like, ah, fuck, like that means…okay, that means new gear, new Tomestones, which means guides for how to farm Tomestones and another guide for what you need to buy with them. Fuck, okay, there’s a new Unreal Trial. Shit. I don’t really do Unreal Trials. Should we have a guide for that? Like, my mind’s running at a hundred miles per hour, thinking about all these other things that I didn’t used to have to think about. But it’s cool. It’s cool because it’s an area that I’m very comfortable with, so at least there’s that.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: But it has changed my relationship to the game quite a bit. But yeah.

Nerium: I’m what I’m saying is, Michael, you just need to get into another game to play when you don’t have other stuff to be doing. Let me tell you about Warframe.

Michael: Ooh!

Nerium: Okay. So the Lotus– [laughs] I’m serious. Like, we should get some stuff going on. Again, this was me for the first time when Fanbyte first started. It was like I was holding down the fort on Final Fantasy XIV stuff, ’cause I was the only person on staff playing it.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: And I was like trying to get people on the staff to play different games, ’cause it was like, listen, this is what we do, we cover…that was like one of my original pitches for Fanbyte, was like, this is what we do. Everybody else out there, you know, no offense to GameSpot or whatever, but the GameSpots of the world, they review a game, and they typically move on.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And then they’ll do news things about stuff later on, but they don’t necessarily like write real in-depth stuff about each individual patch for a thing.

Michael: Just can’t have people…it’s rare. Having people on staff with that kind of institutional knowledge [Nerium: “Right”] is like value added, but it’s never explicitly sought after.

Nerium: Yeah, it’s just a different, like the business is model is different.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And when we first started this website, it was like very much like, listen, we can see how this is going. More and more games are just gonna be all about patches and stuff like that. Nobody’s covering that stuff, so let’s do it. And so I was like trying for a long time to get people to like, listen, Final Fantasy XIV is so good. [laughs] You have to play it.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And I was like trying to get merritt. I remember merritt bringing her PS4 with her to E3 that year and playing Final Fantasy XIV in her Airbnb at the time. And it just happened to work– and I was like trying to get people into Warframe, and it just happened to work out so that most of the people at Fanbyte ended up getting way into Destiny, and that was the game most people got into, [both laugh] until you and Mike and Andrea now, and Natalie of course, like all came on board more like just built in ready, like let’s go, Final Fantasy XIV. And now I feel like we’ve got some like drip feeds of people coming in and being like, “Oh yeah, I’m working my way through A Realm Reborn.” You know, Imran has played a little bit of A Realm Reborn, and it’s been cool and fun to see him try and do that with his partner.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: But more people need to be playing that, but you want to play some Warframe? If you wanted to play–

Michael: Listen, Warframe.

Nerium: Warframe. Warframe is for real perverts. Warframe is for real sickos, and I love it.

Michael: Yeah, I fucked with Warframe quite a bit through the years.

Nerium: Oh yeah?

Michael: Yeah. I think Mike Mahardy…

Nerium: Oh yeah.

Michael: Shoutout to my boy Mike Mahardy. He was kind of one of the first– or actually, no, Alessandro Fillari, who I used to work with at GameSpot, my boy also. He was one of the OGs who put me on a Warframe, ’cause he did some of the coverage. And again, as another case of where like, uh, there’s this Warframe opportunity. Who on staff plays this game?

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And he was like, “I think maybe I’m the only one who has,” so he did a lot of our Warframe coverage, and then Mike Mahardy got into it, did some video essays on it, and then I was kind of…I tried it out, and Warframe is fascinating. It’s really cool. I like it a lot. I just don’t…it’s a different type of impenetrable.

Nerium: Yeah, for sure.

Michael: Because you’re just like…in a way that it’s different from Destiny. I think people like to make the comparison to Destiny too, just ’cause like, oh, sci-fi space shooter that has RPG elements.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: But there’s so much customization and so many different directions you can go with the game, [Nerium: “Oh, yeah”] that you get kind of like, not just choice paralysis, but you’re just like, yo, what the fuck are these menus? What does this shit mean?

Nerium: How much do I need to be worrying about my mods versus my Exilus mods versus my Arcanes? Like, these Arcanes are a pain in the ass to get. Do I actually need those? Should I worry about those? Should I upgrade those?

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, should I sell those? What am I doing here?

Michael: Should I use a different frame, or…

Nerium: Should I, ah, yeah.

Michael: Yeah, and like, what planet do I go to? What is this side quest series?

Nerium: How do I get to the story? Because like, that game does not put the story front and center in your face.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: But there’s like a really deep, involved main story campaign in that game like 30 hours in, once you get to that point. [laughs quietly]

Michael: Yeah. Yeah, so I have a ton of respect for– I was about to say Fortnite. [Nerium laughs] Warframe. I don’t have any respect, zero respect for Fortnite. Ever since I saw LeBron James and Naruto [Nerium: “Mm, mm-hmm”] shooting each other with M16s while Ariana Grande pulls up and kills them both. Ever since I saw that, I’m like, I have zero respect for Fortnite. I see what you’re doing. I know you’re getting that money, but fuck y’all. I’m gonna try this shit out. I’m gonna buy that LeBron James skin. [both laugh] And now that they have Goku…

Nerium: Listen.

Michael: That is, dawg, the wildest shit. [Nerium laughs] Okay. Goku came out– at the time we’re recording this, Goku came out and is now in Fortnite yesterday.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: There’s a clip where Goku pulls up with an M16, shoots a motherfucker, hits him with a Kamehameha, pulls out a lightsaber, kills them, hits the griddy, [Nerium laughs] and…or maybe they hit the whoa or something, but the–

Nerium: It’s the griddy.

Michael: It’s the griddy.

Nerium: I have this link in front of me.

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: [laughs] As you were talking, I pulled it up, ’cause I knew exactly what you were talking about, and I just dropped it into our chat.

Michael: From one, uh, bigfurryballs on Twitter.

Nerium: [laughs] Shouts out to bigfurryballs.

Michael: [laughs] Ayy! Haha! And I’m like, what the fuck is Fortnite? But also this sounds like a shitpost [Nerium laughs] we would’ve done back in like 2017 when they had their first guest character or whatever, and we’re like, “Haha, imagine if Fortnite had Goku with a lightsaber shooting someone with an M16 and then dabs on him.”

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Well, you know what? That’s reality.

Nerium: That’s just reality now.

Michael: That’s just the real world.

Nerium: That’s meta now. That’s like, [laughs] that’s the actual like best way to kill, ’cause like, that Kamehameha he throws out is like a one shot.

Michael: It’s, yeah. It’s like a charged like a beam ability, but goddamn.

Nerium: It’s fucked up.

Michael: Yeah, it’s fucked up. Get Goku in Warframe. Get a Goku frame.

Nerium: Okay. Okay. They had that–

Michael: SSGSS fucking Warframes.

Nerium: They got the big titty werewolf coming first that I wrote about.

Michael: Yeah. That’s, yeah.

Nerium: Excited about that.

Michael: Yeah. There’s a frame that is like almost like a based on a rhythm game.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Sort of like a rhythm mini game.

Nerium: Octavia.

Michael: Yeah, Octavia. I remember I picked up Octavia, and I was like, oh shit, this is cool as fuck. So there’s like a lot of different gameplay nuances with some of the frames there, but also like Warframe just feels really good.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Like, when you go through a mission and you just kind of bullet jump your way through the entire fucking mission and doing like, you know, having the slowmo, shooting your enemies down in slowmo, like bullet time, and just like barreling through all these corridors and just like knocking down a mission in like two minutes, it’s pretty wild.

Nerium: “What if Max Payne was a wizard?” is a really good pitch for a video game, you know?

Michael: [laughs] Yeah! That’s a good way to put it. So like, yeah, don’t sleep on Warframe. Like the RPG elements in that game are pretty deep.

Nerium: Oh yeah.

Michael: So if you’re a super…if you’re super into that like min-maxing and customizing and if you’re just like messing around with numbers, kind of very different vibe from XIV, ’cause like XIV, you don’t care about numbers until the very endgame, and even then it’s more of like– well, I mean like, people who like care about parsing and like are doing Savage raids day one, that stuff very much matters to their success, but it’s very…it’s not complex at all. It’s like, which items, which gear pieces do I need, and which materia do I attach to them? That’s it.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: That’s all there is to kind of figure out the endgame gear in XIV. Warframe, on the other hand, yo, you want to bust out the calculator? You want to mess around with some numbers? You want to do math?

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Ooh, Warframe‘s got numbers on decky, son. That is, so if you want to get into that, that’s…I have a lot of respect for Warframe.

Nerium: Well, I’m glad.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: [sighs] I got a lot of respect for Final Fantasy XIV too, though. I don’t know.

Michael: Aw.

Nerium: I have a lot of respect for a lot of video games right now.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And that’s the problem. I got too many. I’ve got Monster Hunter. I’ve got Warframe. I’ve got Final Fantasy XIV to play.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I keep wanting to check out like…this is a stupid sentence to say. I keep wanting to check out Fallout 76 again. I don’t know why. I’m just a fucking glutton.

Michael: [laughs] That is a stupid sentence, but. [both laugh] No, Fallout 76, like, I do not fuck with that game at all.

Nerium: Mm, mm-hmm.

Michael: I know that it’s improved a lot, but I think the core of that game is still, you know…

Nerium: That’s just it. Yeah.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I keep go– so, the thing about Fallout 76 is I have gone back, and I, at the time, was like, oh, okay, so they added story, they added all this other stuff. I want to go check that out. And like, maybe it’s, you know, maybe they ironed out some of those bugs. You know how it is with Bethesda games. Sometimes they do that. But what actually caused it to happen is I was like really jonesing for a new Fallout game, and I played 4, and I was just like, God, 4 is not good either. [Michael laughs] And we just kind of forget that, because Fallout 76 was so bad, but 4 was just not good.

Michael: Ah, yeah.

Nerium: And I was like, well, I need to get that hit somewhere a little bit. So I tried Fallout 76, and I was like, and I booted it up after they had added all that story stuff, and was like, this still feels janky as fuck. Like, what is this?

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, what am I doing here?

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, there’s a bug in here, and it was like, I can’t– I found my first settlement area or whatever that I can claim or whatever, and it just won’t work. And I like looked it up, and it was like, there was a forum post from the day the game launched saying that same bug, and it’s just like, are you kidding me?

Michael: [laughs] Yeah.

Nerium: They like, they did this, but Fallout 76 is in that same boat of like, or could have been in that same boat as Final Fantasy XIV and No Man’s Sky, another game I play pretty religiously these days.

Michael: Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Nerium: So fucking good. But of like, rough launch, but they kept at it forever. And it’s like, what happens– Fallout 76 is a perfect example of like, what if we kept at it forever but didn’t want to spend a lot of money or whatever. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah. Yeah.

Nerium: It’s just so…it feels like they’re trying to have that renaissance or tried to have that renaissance and just fell on their face about it.

Michael: Mm.

Nerium: And I like remember messaging my friend Cass Marshall over at Polygon, like, “Hey, how do I improve the framerate in this game?” [both laugh] And like, this game is like, sometimes it runs fine, and sometimes it doesn’t, and it like doesn’t matter what I set the settings to.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: And Cass’s response was so funny to me. They said Fallout 76 is like a wounded dog or it’s like three-legged dog. [laughs]

Michael: Aw.

Nerium: It’s doing its best, and you just have to not think too hard about it. [both laugh]

Michael: Aw. Nah, I feel like…well, so I did…I played the early days of 76, and I was like, okay, this is not for me.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: I did an interview with the devs last year, actually. It was like one of the last things I…we did like our summer games project at GameSpot, so I interviewed a bunch of devs, and included was the Fallout 76 folks, and they had– at least for me, like I did a bunch of research beforehand, and I talked to them for that interview, of course, and they had come a long way in terms of kind of rebuilding what that game was supposed to be. And it’s very much a No Man’s Sky situation, where it, you know, No Man’s Sky was, at first, it was just like, you are alone in space and maybe you’ll run into somebody, but you know, fucking whatever. You make your own fun.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And Fallout 76 was very much like that too, where it’s here’s an instant zone. Maybe you’ll run into someone, and that’s exciting, but otherwise, make your own fun. And then everyone’s like, “Yo, this ain’t it,” and they went back, and there’s a lot of story stuff. There’s a lot of Fallout lore built into that. I know they had a story about, you know, that goes deeper into the Brotherhood of Steel.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And they added…I don’t know, did they already add the pit? I know that they were…that was one of the things we were talking about with them.

Nerium: No, I don’t think it’s in yet.

Michael: Okay, ’cause they had teased adding the pit.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: So they’re like pulling from a wealth of previous Fallout stuff and incorporating that into 76, and yeah, and then like adding like different things you could do with power suits and all sorts of shit, so.

Nerium: That’s cool.

Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It seemed like, and they were saying like, yeah, there’s, because of Game Pass, a lot of people are playing this game.

Nerium: Mm, mm-hmm so.

Michael: And to me, it’s maybe like just, hey, what’s a live service game that I could play on Game Pass?

Nerium: Yeah, mm-hmm.

Michael: And it’s like, well, there’s Fallout 76. So, I think they’ve got a healthy player base, and that was one of the topics of that conversation last year, was like, “Hey, you know, you have a healthy player base now?” They’re like, “Yeah, yeah, we have more than enough people playing it that we can just like continue adding content, and it makes sense for us to do those sorts of things.” I just, you know, it’s just not necessarily my jam, though.

Nerium: Yeah, yeah. I actually will say to the story’s credit, like a lot of– I do remember reading a lot of the like in game terminals in that one and like, oh, there’s some like really cool side stuff in here. I don’t necessarily care about the like scorch plague or whatever it was called, but like a lot of the stuff about like, you know, there’s like, because it’s set in West Virginia, there was like cool stuff in there about like, from the past before the bombs fell, stuff about like union busting and like how the U.S. government brought in like troops to go kill a bunch of like mining unions and stuff, which is stuff that happened in real life as well in the United States, in that region.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: And then they like put their Fallout spin on it and stuff like that. It’s like, oh, that’s cool that you address that and make that part of the narrative here. Like, that is more Fallouty than I feel like Fallout has been in a little while, so. And I’ve heard other people say that there’s a lot of really good stuff on the side like that too.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: But like, yeah, like you said, it’s just not necessarily for me.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I’ve tried. I’ve really tried.

Michael: Yeah. So that’s live service games.

Nerium: Live service games.

Michael: They out here. There’s also a lot of great non-live service games of recent.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: So.

Nerium: What the hell else came out? You played Soul Hackers 2.

Michael: I could talk about the preview period, ’cause I’ve…

Nerium: Yeah, sure.

Michael: I played a little bit more past the preview, but I don’t think– my feelings haven’t changed is what I’ll say. So yeah, it’s just…damn, it’s disappointing.

Nerium: It’s a bummer, huh?

Michael: It’s a bummer, especially, yeah. Yeah, I haven’t really talked about– well, ’cause I haven’t been on a Fanbyte podcast in a while.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: But I’ve talked about it a little bit on the Game Informer podcast I was on. Nere and I are both kind of Persona and Shin Megami Tensei perverts.

Nerium: A hundred percent.

Michael: Yeah, if you will. So, Soul Hackers 2. So, it’s an offshoot of mainline Shin Megami Tensei in the Devil Summoner branch of SMT, and Devil Summoner branch is fascinating. So if you played the Raidou Kuzunoha games from back in the PS2 era or if you played the original Soul Hackers from the Saturn days, which also got released on the 3DS, then this is kind of continuing that lineage in a way, but eh, it doesn’t really feel like it does continue that lineage. Not that it had to, but coming off of–

Nerium: It’s a weird lineage to continue, ’cause like, [Michael: “Yeah”] who remembers those games, you know?

Michael: Yeah, so they can work with a clean slate, which is cool, because the Soul Hackers theme, what makes it different from the rest of the SMT lineage is that it’s sci-fi cyberpunk spin on the devil summoning and demon, the whole, you know, we live in a world where people can summon and control demons. And that’s such a cool mix, that you have like this contrast between the supernatural and high tech futuristic world and kind of the problems that come with that. So I think it’s a fascinating mix. They just don’t do anything with it.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And it’s coming off hot off of SMT 5, which I absolutely loved from last year. And I’m like, oh shit, yo, SMT’s going to have like kind of this revival. That’s how I feel like, especially if you’re gonna bring back this kind of obscure branch of the franchise back. It seemed like, oh, wow. You know, that’d be really cool. If Soul Hackers is really good, we had a great mainline SMT game, you know? What if we have Devil Survivor come back or Digital Devil Saga come back.

Nerium: Digital Devil Saga, please! Well, I’ve been playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3, so.

Michael: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. So, that’s another game I want to talk about, so I won’t spend too much time talking about Soul Hackers 2, because the more I’ve been playing Soul Hackers 2, the more I’m like, damn, I really I wish I was playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3 right now. [Nerium laughs] Yeah, it’s a bummer, like the…and I think a lot about why SMT and Persona hit so hard for me and why Soul Hackers isn’t doing it, and I think I said this before, is that Soul Hackers 2 feels like a script I wrote in high school.

Nerium: Mm.

Michael: It’s…I wouldn’t say it’s written, it’s not written poorly. It’s just, it’s very rudimentary, and it just feels so basic. You can see the seeds of something good out of it, but it really, it feels like a first draft of a story, and it doesn’t really– there’s nothing necessarily that draws you in about the characters.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And I feel like they– you can see the game trying very hard to establish these personalities, but it does feel written like it’s someone’s high school or like a high school play or something.

Nerium: Yeah, there’s something… [sighs] There’s something about it that’s just kind of like, somebody was given the mandate, “We’re bringing Soul Hackers back,” and gave it to somebody who was like, “Why?” [Michael laughs] And they’re like, “I don’t know. It’s another brand. It’s another Shin Megami Tensei brand we have. Make it look more like the popular Shin Megami Tensei games. Make it look more like Persona 5.”

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And so it kind of has a vaguely Persona 5-like sort of cel shading to it and stuff like that. And then like, they weren’t really given any other direction to go with it, in terms of like, what is the hook here that makes this different? Like you think about like Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. That’s like, oh, it’s Etrian Odyssey, but it’s in the Shin Megami Tensei universe. That’s cool. I love the dungeon crawling. It’s like hardcore dungeon crawling with like exploration and map making and puzzles and stuff like that. Or you think about like, obviously Persona, like the thing about the dating sim stuff. Shin Megami Tensei V is just like, we’re gonna zero in real hard on the combat and just make the combat as like brutal and challenging and interesting as possible. And then, you know, all of these different ones have these different things, Devil Summoner Raidou Kuzunoha games were like Pokémon games, which were cool.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And this one just doesn’t feel like it has an identity.

Michael: Yeah. A thousand percent. And it’s disappointing, because you could see potential in it. Like when you walk around some of the hub areas and you look at the backgrounds and like kind of, they’re dazzling, and you’re like, wow, I want to explore this city. But your hub areas are just like really small pieces of like, just really small areas you only go to to visit vendors and that’s it, so there’s no real exploration. And let me tell you about the dungeon design. Holy shit. These are some of– [laughs quietly] I hate to say this, but these are some of the most uninspired dungeons I’ve ever seen in a SMT game. Like I think about…so there’s this piece of the game called the Soul Matrix, where the more you like kinda level up your– like throughout the story, you level up your attachment to the various party members, and you go to the Soul Matrix, which is this kind of…not infinite floors, but they’re just like dungeon floors that open up as you level up with your different social standing with the different characters. And the point is that the deeper you get into the dungeon, the more you learn about the characters and the more abilities you unlock for them.

That sounds cool, but if you actually go into the Soul Matrix and start exploring these dungeons, they’re just like plain laid out mazes with no design inspiration at all. You’re just like, it looks like you’re in a cyberscape that looks like PS2 memory card loading blocks, [Nerium laughs] and you just walk along a path, and you just like kind of, you fight demons that just randomly pop up in the area, and it’s a slog. I remember when it was like, “Hey, you have new floors opened up in the Soul Matrix.” I’m like, damn, don’t tell me that. [Nerium laughs] ‘Cause that is also a primary way to level up. This game can get pretty hard if you’re under leveled, but the Soul Matrix is kind of filler content where you can get new demons and level up more. And it’s like, unless I want to– I play on normal. Unless you put on easy, you can’t just mainline the main story and forget about the Soul Matrix. And plus like, I want to see what this game has to offer, so I’m gonna do it anyway, but yeah, it’s…ugh, I’m in like, I’m deeper into the game, and it hasn’t…like you play the early hours, like okay, maybe they’re just, you know, maybe this just starts out slow. And there are some games that I really love where I’m like, you know, after 10, 15 hours, then it, quote, unquote, “gets good.”

Nerium: Oh yeah, for sure. JRPGs can be like that sometimes, like they love to have a lot of setup.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I mean, I think Xenoblade we’ll get to in a minute here, but yeah.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Same way.

Michael: But the thing is, and even in those early hours, there’s something to draw you in. They give you a reason to be like, hey, listen, here’s a hook. Like when I think about Persona 5, and I was sold on Persona 5 from the get go, but that opening where they give you the in media res start for the casino heist, you’re like, oh shit, this game is cool! [Nerium laughs] This is a cool-ass game.

Nerium: Uh huh.

Michael: And then like the immediate setup with Joker getting arrested and kind of having the flashback of why he got arrested, and then you have the whole kind of flashbacks and the like bouncing between him being in the interrogation room. There’s like, that is a tremendous hook, so even when you’re going through the motions of early school life, and when Morgana’s kind of constantly like telling you to go to sleep and then this is how you do dungeons. This is how dungeons work. It’s like, okay, I see what you’re doing here, but damn, am I excited for this game to open up, ’cause I want to get to that cool shit that they’ve been teasing. Soul Hackers, like, you…I think I described it to someone. Soul Hackers feels like a person is trying to tell you this story about people you don’t know.

Nerium: Mm.

Michael: And you have no context for who they are, so I’m just like, who are these people and why do I care about the story? And yeah, it’s just, the only other way I could describe it is just like, it just tries too hard to make these characters interesting, and it’s just not hitting the right notes. And like, it doesn’t…the combat system’s cool, but other than that, I don’t think there’s much else to kind of draw me in. And it sucks, because these are adult characters who have adult problems, and I kinda like that. Like SMT is adult in the sense that it’s just very…it’s dark and violent, and it has a lot to do with evil shit happening in a post-apocalyptic world. Persona is still very mature in that way, but it is centered around, you know, these coming of age stories of young adults or characters in their late teens kind of making their mark on the world. Whereas Soul Hackers is like, hey, these are adult characters who have relationships and, you know, are embedded in a world of crime, and that just sounds really cool on paper, but if you actually jump to it, it’s just not that interesting, so.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Sorry.

Nerium: You know a game that is interesting?

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: Xenoblade Chronicles 3.

Michael: Woo!

Nerium: A game I have not had as much time to– eh, I talked about it a little bit on Channel F this week.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: But I talked about it with people who’d never played a Xenoblade Chronicles game before and who didn’t know what I was talking about, and they hadn’t played this one, and I want to talk about it with somebody who is on my same bullshit.

Michael: Yes! Let’s go.

Nerium: This game is good.

Michael: Ah, how far along are you?

Nerium: I’m not nearly far enough, ’cause I went back and played all the way through Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2, which I had never beaten. I always got like 75% of the way through. I was literally on like chapter 8 or 7 out of 10 in Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: So I was like, I’m gonna do that, I’m gonna do the other one, Xenoblade Chronicles 1, and I’m gonna play the epilogue thing, Future Connected from the Switch version of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 as well.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: So I went back, and I only started 3 late last week, like Friday or something like that, I think. So I’m past the part where, you know, we know what’s going on, kind of, but I know that there’s more to learn still. You know, I’m at the stage where I’m starting to liberate colonies. I know about Moebius. I’ve fought a number of consoles, that sort of stuff. I’ve got two of the hero characters on my side right now.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: I’ve got the healer boy who loves his sweet little mecha, and I’ve got Colony 9 guy who’s like the Paladin.

Michael: Uh huh.

Nerium: Final Fantasy XIV Paladin.

Michael: Yeah. Oh. I’m not– you’re further along than I am.

Nerium: Oh, am I? Okay, cool.

Michael: Yeah, I’ve only played about three hours, ’cause I’ve just been catching up on XIV, playing Soul Hackers 2, like I said, and I’ve been playing fighting games, and I went to EVO, so I haven’t had much time to…

Nerium: Right, yeah. You’ve been traveling.

Michael: Yeah, I’ve been kind of doing a lot and spending my weekends with a bunch of people. So it’s cool, but I just haven’t had time to sink into Xenoblade Chronicles 3.

Nerium: Yeah. Another 120 hour JRPG in your life? Yeah.

Michael: Yeah. My homie Jake Dekker from GameSpot, he reviewed it for GameSpot and he was kind of…he’s been like kind of the Xenoblade nerd around the block.

Nerium: Mm.

Michael: And yeah, he’s been telling me. I’ve been talking to him like, yeah, I’m super into it. And I recently started up Xenoblade Chronicles 1 [Nerium: “Mm, mm-hmm”] earlier this year to kind of get ready for 3. And I do like 1 a lot, and I think that the vast improvements in gameplay in 3 are very apparent. Yeah, it’s a ton of fun to play, and I think like the…I don’t know if y’all talked about it on previous episodes, but just like the gameplay setup is, you know, closer to an MMORPG, where you have auto attacks and it’s a matter of firing off skills that are on cool down.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And there’s a lot of positionals. So jumping into Xenoblade Chronicles as a Final Fantasy XIV player [Nerium laughs] was like, oh shit, I get it. Like from the jump, I was like, oh. One tutorial, and I was like, oh, I know exactly how–

Nerium: This guy’s a monk. This guy’s a dragoon.

Michael: Yeah. You know, this is your tank [Nerium: “Uh huh”] who has to pull aggro, and as long as they hit their aggro abilities, you shouldn’t be attacked or whatever. So it’s like, oh shit, this makes perfect sense. And your party composition is like, hey, you have tank, healer, and DPS characters. Like, oh, okay. Speaking my language.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: So I think it’s, yeah, it’s cool that this is a– like Xenoblade has carved out its own– like you don’t see this type of gameplay from any other kind of RPG in that space.

Nerium: No.

Michael: So.

Nerium: Probably the closest thing is maybe like Final Fantasy XII.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Which is like, yeah.

Michael: Game systems similar.

Nerium: 15 years ago now or whatever?

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, it’s been a while.

Michael: Yeah. So, I like it from a gameplay perspective, but I talked a little bit about this on the Bombcast, that like Xenoblade Chronicles 3, at least in the early hours in its setup, is like 1000% my shit.

Nerium: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Michael: Where it takes itself a little bit more serious, at least from like the other, like at least from one and two from the jump.

Nerium: Oh, compared to two, which two has the fucking, like, the Furby who talks like Jar Jar Binks that has a sex robot made? [both laugh]

Michael: Yep. That is…

Nerium: I think is how it has been phrased before.

Michael: That is not made up. [Nerium laughs] Nere is pulling from actual source material from Xenoblade Chronicles 2. So yeah, it was really exciting to see this game take itself more seriously, and I think it’s really getting the tone right.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Where, you know, you… [sighs] It doesn’t have to explicitly explain everything, too. It does it in a lot of like the mannerisms and kind of the body language of its characters, so.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: So, Lanz and Eunie…so the main character, Noah, and Lanz and Eunie are kind of this—and there’s other characters around them—are kind of just like the squad. They’re three of the six main characters that you kind of get in the game, so they’re at the start. And the setup is that, you know, the world of Aionios is embedded in this war, and people survive off of killing one another. You basically consume their life force to sustain you. And it’s just like this really fucked up concept of a world, and everyone who lives in that world just kind of accepts it, because that’s all they’ve known. That’s all they’ve grown up.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And like these kind of child soldiers, like I’m sure I’ll learn more about the nature of that, but they’re like, they have 10 years to live. From year one, they’re trained to be killers. They’re trained in a military camp, and their only job is to fight in a war to feed the Flame Clock, which is kind of this resource of life force that sustains everyone and keeps everyone alive.

Nerium: Yeah. They’re grinding XP by killing other people.

Michael: [laughs] Yeah.

Nerium: Which is like, it’s wild, ’cause it’s like, the game is in conversation with the fact that– like it uses terms like attacker, defender, healer, for you the player, like DPS like an MMO, but the characters in the world also know it. They have been like taught to view human life as like basically a big video game.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And that’s like canonical in the world.

Michael: Yeah. And yeah, so it establishes that straight up, and it’s just this very bleak and dire world, but so the main character Noah, you can tell that he’s thinking to himself, like, “Damn, this shit is fucked up. Why do things have to be this way?” And so these– I mean, they’re not 10 years old, but they live 10 years. So by the time– they’re adults by the time they reach like their ninth and 10th year of service, and in that world, once you make it to year 10, you are sacrificed to send to heaven, basically. And there’s this one side character who’s very excited that he’s coming up on his 10th year–

Nerium: Just one day before retirement.

Michael: Yeah. And Lanz and Eunie are like, “Wow, I’m so proud of you. It’s gonna be incredible,” and then they’re like, “Yeah, can you be at my ceremony?” Like, “Yeah, we’ll definitely be there.” And then Noah’s just like staring off in the distance, thinking to himself, like, why does shit have to– why should it be like this?

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Why do we have to only live 10 years? Why are we constantly trained to kill one another? Like, why do things have to be this way? And you can tell that that’s what he’s thinking in a lot of his mannerisms, and he has flashbacks to some of the traumatic experiences that he’s had through the years, and I think it just creates this really interesting contrast between the other main characters and the main character that’s really mature, and it kind of like, you know, the concept of knowing when your time is up is very fascinating to me, so.

Nerium: Yeah. They literally have like tattoos on them that like count down how long they have left to live, basically, at all times.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And everybody’s like stoked about it, ’cause they’re trained from birth to basically be like, “Yo, like if I make it to my 10th year, that’s like, nobody does that. That’s the best I can ever hope for is to die, like, to not die in combat.”

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: That’s like the most exciting thing in the world to these people. And Noah, yeah, like you said, like Noah’s the one who’s just like, “I don’t know about that!”

Michael: [laughs] Yeah.

Nerium: “That seems bad.”

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: But like, you’re right about like, they don’t like beat you over the head with like the worldbuilding and stuff like that, but it’s so good in some ways about like…there’s a couple things, there’s two things in particular, one of which I talked about on Channel F, which is that like, every time– it does the Assassin’s Creed slash the Ghost of Tsushima slash every open world game in the world now thing of like you go around, there’s points of interest on a map, you go to those points of interest, you go collect a thing, then you go clear up bandit camps or whatever. But the bandit camps in this game aren’t really like bandit camps. They’re these colonies of other soldiers that are basically like trapped in this eternal war, so you can go and start liberating them over time. And when you do that, you get like extensive cutscenes between all the different characters, like talking about like, hey, you can free these people from this thing, but they’ve literally only ever known this their entire lives. Just because you free them and give them like freedom of choice to not have to fight, they’re not necessarily going to thank you for it, ’cause a lot of those people have been bred to hate this other faction that they’re fighting literally since the moment that they existed.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And so it’s like, you know, early on, you liberate one of these camps, and it’s like a guy comes up and talks to your squad that has people from the other faction in it, and he’s got like a bandana like covered in blood and with a big bullet hole in it, and he’s like, “This belonged to my friend. You guys fucking shot him in the head.”

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, “I don’t like you guys just because you came in and cleared this shit out. Like, fuck you.” [Michael laughs] And there’s like this whole system of like finding out rumors and picking up things for them and stuff like that and like going and discussing things with your squad, almost like Persona 5, actually.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: Like when you plan a heist in that game of like, hey, I heard that they need food. Hey, I heard that they need water. Hey, I heard that like their priest who sends people off, you know, to the afterlife is not doing his job, or like, why is that? Let’s figure that out, because we know how to do that, but we can’t be around and do it for them forever. And so like, it doesn’t just go like, brrrp, you just like flipped the icon from red to blue.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: It’s like you go in and you do that, and then it’s like, no, there’s more to do here, and there’s going to be a lot of context for it and character context. And you’ll get people who join your squad as like hero characters who are basically just like special characters that like don’t, you can’t change their class, like they’re locked into whatever class they come as.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: And then you can learn their class from them and teach it to every other unit in your squad. Another cool worldbuilding thing that really made me think about like Digital Devil Saga, besides the whole like kids, you know, or young people fighting each other in war, is just like, there’s a moment where they’re like, early on, one of the first things that they’re told to do is like, you need to get to this city. Like, this is important. Like you guys have figured out the truth of this world, what the fuck is going on. You need to go to the big sword that is sticking out of the ground that’s the size of a mountain. There’s a city there, and you can get to it. And they’re like, “Okay, I guess we’ll go to this city, because this dying man’s wish was to send us to this city.” And then like, there’s a conversation they have later where somebody’s like, “Yeah, but what’s a city?” [both laugh] They’re like, “I thought it was a person. I thought it was blah blah blah.”

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: You know, ’cause they’ve never heard of what a city is before. And it’s like, you know, hours into this game, and it’s just revealing in this very subtle way like just how indoctrinated they are into the [Michael: “Mm-hmm”] particular worldview of what they are, like that they don’t even know like very basic stuff that we take for granted. We hear this JRPG MacGuffin, and we’re like, “Oh, okay, that makes sense.” And not until like you get to the first like one of those big like camp liberation type things, colony liberation type things, do you realize like, oh, this is a big deal for them. They’re acting purely on faith here, ’cause they have nowhere else to go. They have no idea what they’re even looking for.

Michael: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Damn. Oh, so good.

Nerium: Ugh, cool game.

Michael: ‘Cause like, and I think, now that we’re talking about it, I think the contrast between Soul Hackers 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 in how it’s written, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, it feels like these feel like genuine natural human conversations that characters are having.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And just like one subtle thing is like there’s a minor cutscene where Lanz is talking about = how he’s going to, like, “I’m gonna lead the charge, and I’m gonna be an honorable hero.” And then Noah interrupts him mid sentence and says, “Lanz, relax. Like, this isn’t about being a hero.” And Lanz is like, “Damn, man. Like, I was just like, I was just fucking around,” and then they just keep moving on. And it felt like this very natural thing that would happen in a real world. Whereas like Soul Hackers 2, it feels like these very stilted and…they don’t feel like conversations that people would have. It feels more like a game explaining something to me. And I just think, and your example, especially, where the game doesn’t stop you and say, “Hey, by the way, so this is how these characters understand this world.”

Nerium: Right!

Michael: Let’s explain why, let’s take time to or make the characters explain very plainly about why this is what it is. Rather, the game embeds that in the dialogue, and you just get it, like from one line of dialogue, you just get it. Like, oh, these characters don’t know about that thing, and it says a lot about who they are and what this, how they live their lives. And it just, yeah, I love that shit. So yeah, Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Oh! I know we’re supposed to wrap up soon.

Nerium: Yeah. But?

Michael: But I haven’t been able to talk to you about AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative. Have you finished that game?

Nerium: I need to play more of it. I have not finished it yet.

Michael: Ah.

Nerium: Oh, but it’s so good!

Michael: Speaking of another game that has incredible writing.

Nerium: Yeah! Oh.

Michael: And just really good dialogue. Ah, how far are you? Just drop a…

Nerium: I’m not far enough. I’m, um…you know the fucking weirdo doctor?

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: In like, with the sneakers?

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I’m dealing with him.

Michael: [laughs] With the sneakers. Okay.

Nerium: That’s the thing that stands out to me about him!

Michael: I know exactly what you’re talking about.

Nerium: He wears those big fucking sneakers.

Michael: Yeah. He looks like a hypebeast.

Nerium: Yeah. What the fuck?

Michael: Like, too old to be dressed the way he is. Okay, yeah.

Nerium: I’m dealing with that stuff still, but.

Michael: Okay, so yeah, that’s pretty good.

Nerium: Ugh! I’ve seen you tweet about it, and I want, I need to meet these characters and this like…

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: I loved that first game. I really loved the first.

Michael: Oh yeah. I liked the first game. I had a lot of problems with it.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: But this, I think nirvanA Initiative just knocks it out of the park. I love…

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: Talk about a game that has incredible voice performances.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: This game is carried by its characterizations, and that is a huge credit to the voice cast and the voice direction. I just think that like, because it’s mostly visual novel, and there’s 3D exploration embedded in points in that story, but I think like for this game to work, it needs to be like written in a very intriguing way, but also it needs to have the right voice actors, and just across the board, everyone is incredible, just really brings these characters to life. I love Ryuki and Tama. They have such a great– and another thing too is having a dynamic.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: Like how these characters bounce off of one another, and like Mizuki from the first game who is now an even more important character in this story.

Nerium: Ah, Mizuki fucking kicks ass. I love Mizuki.

Michael: Ah, dude, Mizuki rules. And so you have these new characters who are already like, right off the bat, from hour one, I love Ryuki. That is my boy. And I love Tama. That’s my girl. And then you have the other…like, the story’s split in two, and then it’s like, oh, but I also get to play as Mizuki? Like, holy shit! This is, I’ve never been so hyped off of a game that’s mostly a visual novel, so.

Nerium: Yeah, for sure. Like, the cutscenes and story and when they do action in these games is like actually like really investing, and like, it’s wild too, ’cause it’s like, we talk about like naturalistic dialogue and stuff. There’s nothing naturalistic about the dialogue in AI: The Somnium Files games.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: But it’s like, it knows that that’s not the case, and it like pushes for it.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: It like just pushes harder and harder and commits to that, because like, I think it was like @minovskyarticle, a very good Twitter account that people should follow, but it was like talking about Kotaro Uchikoshi who’s the lead writer on these games.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Is like pushing 50, and he probably has like a better understanding of like shitposting and internet talk than most other people in his field. [both laugh]

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: ‘Cause it’s just like, you’ll be having a conversation, like you do the thing that you do in a lot of these games, where it’s like, I’m gonna click on everything and see if anything shakes out.

Michael: Uh huh.

Nerium: And a lot of times you do that in games, and it’s like, “It’s a chair. It’s a hat,” you know, or there’s nothing to click on at all. But then, in this game and in the previous one, you can have like these entire exchanges where your detective character, whichever one you’re playing, Mizuki or…Ryuki?

Michael: Yeah, Ryuki.

Nerium: They will talk to their like little AI partners and be like, “Hey, let’s talk about like the history of salt and like salt as a seasoning for the next like 20 minutes.” [both laugh] And it’s like, your character will just like, you know, the AI will give you like ??? and it’s like really funny. Like the characters are just totally wild. At some point a Five Nights at Freddy’s looking motherfucker shows up, and everybody’s just chill with him.

Michael: Yeah. [laughs]

Nerium: He looks like a Freddy Fazbear, just like this huge musclebound Jason Voorhees guy, but with a big teddy bear head that looks creepy, [Michael laughs] and he talks and he is like, [extremely normal guy voice] “Hey guys, what’s up?” like, “How are you doing?”

Michael: [laughs] Yeah.

Nerium: And he’s just like a nice diner owner. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah. He’s like a super sweet guy who is a really good cook. Yeah, and that game does a lot of legwork in giving all these characters really interesting backstories that matter to the whole context of the story.

Nerium: Mm-hmm.

Michael: So it never feels like…this game never feels like it’s meandering, and I go into this knowing that everything that I pull from these characters is going to matter in some regard.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And it ends up being the case, and that’s really cool. So by the time I finish it, it feels very whole. Like, oh, I know everything about all of these characters, and it all tied together by the end, so it doesn’t feel like any kind of wasted time. Like I spent like 25 hours playing this game ’cause I wanted to see everything, and by the end of it, I was like, “Man, oh, I wish there was more.”

Nerium: Yeah. That’s how I feel at the end of any of his games too. I felt that way about 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward too.

Michael: Oh, yeah. Yeah. 999 Potions.

Nerium: [laughs] Shut the fuck up.

Michael: [laughs] But yeah, AI: The Somnium Files, gotta play that. Oh, what an incredible game. My second favorite game of the year.

Nerium: I know. There’s just so much to play right now, too.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Like, I keep talking about, “There’s not much on my game of the year list,” and then I’m like, I go down the list, and I’m like, oh, actually, [Michael: “Yes”] fucking Norco, I still gotta play Total War: Warhammer III, fucking, Immortal Empires.

Michael: Ah, Three Hopes!

Nerium: Three Hopes.

Michael: Three Hopes is so good. Damn.

Nerium: Three Hopes is out this year. God damn. There’s just too much. There’s always too much, even in the light years.

Michael: Yeah.

Nerium: Anyway, we should wrap up.

Michael: Yes.

Nerium: We’ll have to– we’ll come back probably next week and talk more stuff, I think.

Michael: Sure thing.

Nerium: All right, everybody. Thank you all for listening to another episode of 99 Potions. We got a lot of conversation out of just two people talking.

Michael: Ayy!

Nerium: And that’s value. That’s free.

Michael: Yes. Yeah.

Nerium: So you should tell your friends to listen to this podcast as well. Give us a rating, a review on iTunes and Spotify, all that jazz. You know how it is. You’ve listened to other podcasts before. There’s no way that this is the only podcast you’ve ever listened to before. You’ve heard the Mcelroys or whoever the fuck say this shit 700 times, so.

Michael: The Macklemores?

Nerium: The Macklesmores, [laughs] the Macklemore brothers, you know?

Michael: Huh.

Nerium: Oh boy. Anyway.

Michael: Anyway, we gotta get some cash.

Nerium: We gotta get some cash.

Michael: Only got $20 in our pocket.

Nerium: [laughs quietly] God damnit. And you can…well, we don’t get jack shit if you follow us on Twitter, but do it anyway. You can follow me on Twitter @neriumstrom. Michael, where can people follow you?

Michael: You can find me and all of my bullshit @michaelphigham on Twitter, and you should go to fanbyte.com. That’s fanbyte.com, hit video game website, fanbyte.com.

Nerium: Yeah.

Michael: And go to thelinkshell.com for all your Final Fantasy XIV news, features, and guides, because 6.2 is about to pop off, baby. Let’s get it.

Nerium: Fuck yeah. And you can follow our producer Paul @polimayo on Twitter as well. And we like to end every episode of 99 Potions in the same way over here. Michael, we like to take our guests and sidle on over to the bar.

Michael: Mm-hmm.

Nerium: Grab a big old potion off of the potion bar, that we still haven’t really quite worked out why the potions are sold at a bar, but that’s how we do it every time. And we give that sucker a big old clink!