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Second Wind

Second Wind: City of Steam: Arkadia

Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, City of Steam, Second Wind, Steampunk

Screenshot -- City of Steam: Arkadia
I've been rooting for City of Steam ever since it was first announced, mostly due to my sheer love of the steampunk genre. We've got high fantasy and gritty sci-fi games galore, but steampunk has been largely neglected in the realm of gaming.

That's why it was so disheartening to hear that City of Steam's first incarnation (of which I spoke rather highly when I saw it at PAX East in early 2013) would be shutting down after only about five months of opening its doors to players. It was a bold move for Mechanist Games to make the jump to self-publishing, and when I saw the game featured on Kongregate, I decided I'd check and see how the troubled title was holding up in its new form. The question is, does City of Steam: Arkadia manage to stoke the fires or is it just a bunch of hot air?

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Second Wind Roundtable: The final days of Warhammer Online

Fantasy, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Humor, Second Wind, Sunsets

Screenshot -- Warhammer Online
I know it's been a while, but the Second Wind Roundtable is back for a special occasion: the shutdown of Warhammer Online. As you may know, Mythic's long-floundering RvR title is officially shutting down on December 18th, taking with it the war between Order and Chaos that's been waging since 2008.

I was never a die-hard WAR player, but I did have an account still in good standing, and the game was made free for all former subscribers, so I figured that I'd jump in for a last hoorah despite the icky taste it left in my mouth the last time I played. I wasn't about to do this alone, though, so I pulled my now-ex-friend Eliot Lefebvre along for the ride. A post on the official site promised new NPCs to power up our characters and "other unique experiences," so I expected a big end-of-the-world bash as former players returned and boosted to max level for one final brawl. What we got was... well, just read on past the cut. I need a drink.

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Second Wind: Fallen Earth

Sci-Fi, Screenshots, Fallen Earth, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Post-Apocalyptic, Second Wind

Fallen Earth Sector One
My favorite thing about the Second Wind column is the idea of coming back to a game you once loved and rediscovering what made you once love it. It could be a game that possibly burned you with a new update or left you heartbroken after a patch, but you just can't get that game out of your mind.

For me, that game is Fallen Earth. It's not so much that the game burned me at any one particular time; it was a gradual decline in respect for the game after years of playing through horrible AI, broken pathing, and unfixed lag that made the game unplayable at times. The changeover to F2P didn't help anything, and when most of the core staff was eventually laid off, I lost interest.

But what always kept me going was the overwhelming good points about the game. The setting is perfect for me, the faction wheel is (was) genius, and the sense of humor is unmatched. I played Fallen Earth relentlessly since beta because it scratched so many itches for me, but the problems soon became too much to overlook.

But I just can't get her outta my mind.

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Second Wind: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, part two

Fantasy, Opinion, Final Fantasy XIV, Second Wind

Second Wind Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, part two
Welcome back to Second Wind, one and all. You may remember that a couple of weeks back, I published part one of my impressions on the recently released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. If you didn't read it, either because you didn't care (but for some reason care about part two) or because it was too long (sorry), you missed out on most of my feelings about Disciple of War and Magic progression in FFXIV, but not quite all of them.

So here in part two, I'll be summarizing my seemingly endless thoughts on that subject as well as my thoughts on gathering and crafting, which should wind all this up and let me stop analyzing the game and start playing it. Maybe. At any rate, if you'd care to know more about high-level adventuring progression (which I've found to be markedly different from the low- and mid-levels) or the time-honored crafts of the Disciples of the Land and Hand, click past the cut and I'll do my best to satisfy your wonder.

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Second Wind: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, part one

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Hands-On, Final Fantasy XIV, Dungeons, Second Wind

Second Wind Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, part one
The time is finally upon us, everyone: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is live. It has been for a few weeks now, actually. And over those few weeks, I've spent just about every spare moment of my time in the fantastical world of Eorzea, running my remarkably adorable Miqo'te tail all over creation to save the world from rampaging primals and the nefarious Garlean Empire -- and occasionally sewing some rather fetching clothes.

There's no denying that Square Enix has taken titanic strides in revamping its much-maligned MMO. Whole game systems have been torn apart and rewoven into something barely recognizable, and I'm not even going to entertain whether or not the changes were for the better. They absolutely were. The real question here is whether it will be enough to change the game's course. And as it happens, that's just the question I plan to answer in this multi-part edition of Second Wind.

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Second Wind: EverQuest II, part two

Fantasy, EverQuest II, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Second Wind

Screenshot -- EverQuest II
Hello again, friends, and welcome back to another installment of Second Wind. You might remember that last time around, I decided to jump into the world of Norrath by way of EverQuest II and found the experience to be more than a little bit... mind-boggling, let's say. The game is so immense, in fact, that it couldn't be contained in a single feature, so I had to split it up into two parts. In part one, I took a look at some of the game's basic features and systems, such as progression, questing, and combat (which I thought were solid, lacking flow, and a bit clunky, respectively), but I didn't have the opportunity to tackle some of the game's deeper features, such as dungeons and crafting.

So now that everyone's up to speed, let's get down to business. I've spent a great deal of time in Norrath at this point, and I believe I'm finally starting to get a feel for the game. Of course, the fact that it's taken me this long to get to that point should tell you something, but I'll leave that for later. For now, how about jumping past the cut to find out what I've discovered during my recent adventures?

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Second Wind: Ultima Online

Fantasy, Screenshots, Business Models, Economy, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Endgame, Opinion, Ultima Online, Hands-On, Sandbox, Dungeons, Crafting, Housing, Second Wind, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

Ultima Online
When I (legally) sold my Ultima Online accounts in 2000 for the hefty sum of $1800, the game was already three years old and being challenged by the likes of EverQuest and Asheron's Call. I thought I was done forever. My guild was eyeing Dark Age of Camelot, and I wanted to cash out and rid myself of the chore of maintaining a dozen grandfathered houses on the dying half of a shard struggling to find its footing in a post-open-PvP ruleset.

I was wrong. A year later I was back in UO with a new account, prowling around Britannia. And the year after that. And every year since, only I never again made the mistake of selling my accounts even when I took extended breaks. It has a special magic that only a handful of MMOs have captured (let alone topped) since, and what it lacks in modern conveniences it often makes up for in unique features.

The granddaddy of MMORPGs and one of the only true sandboxes still standing turns 16 this autumn, having survived EverQuest, World of Warcraft, the internet bubble, EA's blundering, Mythic's takeover, layoffs, price hikes, a recession, and disastrous design shifts. But is it still worth playing?

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Second Wind: EverQuest II, part one

Fantasy, EverQuest II, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Second Wind

Screenshot -- EverQuest II
Oh, Norrath. I don't know what it is about you, but for some reason I just can't stay away. I probably fell in love with the setting in the early 2000s, when I took my first (somewhat) serious dive into the original EverQuest. In my eyes, it's the quintessential high-fantasy universe when it comes to MMOs, and every time I'm eyeing my bookcase and I catch sight of my Planes of Power instruction manual, I get this strange urge to have another visit. But for this edition of Second Wind, I figured I'd take a look at the other Norrath instead.

Let me tell you something about EverQuest II that I quickly discovered: It is absolutely immense. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's, in many ways, overwhelming. I imagine I could spend 25, 50, even 100 hours with this game and still feel as if I had only dipped my toes into the sea. That aside, I'm still brimming with things I'd like to talk about, so how about joining me after the cut?

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Second Wind: Returning to Wurm Online is a process

Fantasy, Video, Wurm Online, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Sandbox, Crafting, Second Wind

Second Wind Returning to Wurm Online is a process
After being away from Wurm Online for almost a year, I have to admit I was a bit scared to return. Anxiety levels are high as you log in and have a quick scan of the area to see if you're surrounded by something that will immediately eat your face. It's also fairly unsettling to see how much of your stuff has rotted or been stolen since you left.

In fact, once I determined that my house, my boat, and most of my possessions hadn't been taken by other players in my absence, I had to log back off. I just had to do something else offline for a bit while that anxiety flow slowed to a trickle.

But I soon answered that unexplainable call to log back in and start my new life as a reborn Wurmian. I've heard so many great things about the game's improvements over the last few months that I just had to check them out for myself.

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Second Wind Roundtable: Allods Online

Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Allods Online, Second Wind

Second Wind Roundtable Allods Online
Hello again, kind gentlefolk, and welcome to the latest installment of the Second Wind Roundtable. This time around, I coerced, extorted, and otherwise blackmailed the wonderful Bree and Eliot (and Lis, though she was unfortunately unable to join us for the Roundtable chat itself, but she was there too!) to join me in a few rousing sessions of gPotato's aether-sailing free-to-play title, Allods Online.

We laughed, we cried, we nearly died from rage-induced aneurysms. But despite all that, we all survived to tell the tale. So buckle your swashes, raise your sails, and join us past the cut, won't you?

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Second Wind: Age of Conan

Fantasy, Screenshots, Video, Age of Conan, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Humor, Livestream, Second Wind

Age of Conan screenshot
I remember playing Age of Conan when it first came out; it seems like an eternity ago. So many titles have been released and failed since then that it's easy to get it all mixed up, and it doesn't help when many of those titles are sub-par or just plain boring and forgettable. Age of Conan sort of messed with my head with its insistent instancing and odd combat mechanics. I just couldn't wrap my head around what the game was trying to do.

Is it a hardcore PvP-centric MMO? Many would say so. Is it a grand, single-player adventure? In some ways. Is it an immersive romp through the long-lived lore of Conan the Barbarian? I guess so. It's a bit of all of these but does none of them perfectly. I decided to jump back into the game because the last time I played it was when it switched over to its odd freemium model that is all-too-common in Western MMOs these days.

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Second Wind: All Points Bulletin Reloaded

Screenshots, Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Races, All Points Bulletin, Crime, MMOFPS, Humor, Livestream, Second Wind, Player-Generated Content

APB reloaded screenshot
I could make this a very short piece by saying that APB: Reloaded is simply as fun now as it has ever been. The game is a blast in more ways than one. Heck, I could close it right now by telling you that not only was my return to the game well worth the effort but also that it also served to slap me on the side of the head to say, "Hey, dummy, remember how fun it is to run over people?" I'd rather give you more details, though, especially for those of you who might not have played the game or haven't played it in a long time.

APB: Reloaded is essentially a lobby-based shooter. The lobby -- or social district, as it is called -- and the instanced battle arenas are massive places. While I livestreamed the game last week (you can watch the embedded video after the cut), someone accurately commented that watching it was like watching "GTA Online." I agree, but it's also so much more than that. Join me past the cut and I promise not to run you over.

(EDIT: I was able to order an APB: Reloaded box from Newegg.com for $7.99 USD which contains "over $50 value" like a permanent Magnum gun, a Cisco car, 500 G1 credits and 30 days of premium. I paid no shipping fees at all and received it within three days of ordering, but after this article went live.)

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Second Wind Roundtable: NSFW edition

Sci-Fi, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Humor, Second Wind

Yes, we know it's spelled
For this edition of the Second Wind Roundtable, I thought it'd be a funny little prank to coerce a couple of my colleagues into playing Scarlet Blade with me. I was wrong. I was so, so very wrong. We lost some good men in there, but those of us who survived to talk about it gathered 'round for some group therapy over hard whiskey and mind-bleach.

Coincidentally, we also transcribed it so that you can learn from our mistakes. Be warned, many screenshots below the cut are explicit, though some have been tastefully censored for the sake of all things holy and sacred. No, really, we are not kidding: This post is not safe for work/children/anyone with a sense of common decency. That being said, you can join us after the cut.

I'm so, so sorry.

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Second Wind: Spiral Knights

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Second Wind

Spiral Knights
There's something to be said for the rise of browser-based games. What once was an elephant graveyard of bad ideas, low-res graphics, and trite or incomplete game mechanics has now evolved into a veritable playground of new ideas and fun casual titles. Games like City of Steam and Drakensang Online continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in a browser window, delivering engaging experiences with depth and high fidelity.

Browser game represent some of the coolest technological innovations in the MMO niche. They also, often, represent the very worst in predatory monetization schemes and "pay-to-win" exploitation.

Spiral Knights does both. And it does both well.

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Second Wind: Champions Online

Super-hero, Galleries, Screenshots, Video, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Casual, Humor, Champions Online, Livestream, Second Wind, Subscription

Champions Online screenshot
I remember playing and disliking Champions Online when it first came out. My wife and I had the same reaction when we both thought it looked funky and played oddly. It was as though the game was attempting to be some sort of kitschy '60s-inspired comic book game, so it was hard to take it seriously. It just wasn't that much fun. Granted, that was a long time ago, and since then the title has changed hands, been patched up, and been smoothed over. I've played it off and on since my first experience but always felt it lacked... something.

I knew I needed to give it a second chance, and what better avenue to do it in than this very column? I've been really diving into it over the past few weeks, and I've discovered that the game is actually really good. And really fun. And that it looks good! I streamed it live just to double check, and sure enough, the game holds up well and made me so happy that I continued to try it out. I even subscribed! (Will wonders never cease?) So today, I want to tackle the game from a fresh, newbier perspective than the one taken in our weekly superhero column, A Mild-Mannered Reporter, where Eliot has been chronicling the playerbase's frustration with the game's content-update shortcomings.

Be sure to check out the embedded livestream later in the article. It really shows off how fun the game can be, as well as covers some of its finer details.

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