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Second Wind

Second Wind: Final Fantasy XI

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Hands-On, Consoles, Hands-On (Massively's), Second Wind

Screenshot -- Final Fantasy XI
Here's a fun fact about me: Final Fantasy XI was one of the first MMOs I ever played. I had dabbled in Ultima Online and EverQuest before it, but at the time those games came out, I was but a wee lad of nine or so, and I truly had no idea what I was doing in either of them. What I did know was that I was in love with the idea of sharing a massive, persistent world with thousands of friends (and enemies) waiting to be made.

So when Final Fantasy XI came out stateside in late 2003 (it launched in Japan in 2002), I was firmly in the grip of some kind of JRPG mania thanks to Final Fantasy IX, Legend of Dragoon, and others of that ilk. Naturally I took to the notion of a massively multiplayer Final Fantasy game like a Black Mage to a comically oversized hat. I was a devout player of FFXI for a couple of years after that, before all of my FFXI-playing friends decided to jump ship to some uppity little newcomer called World of Warcraft, and I've had an on-again, off-again (mostly the latter) relationship with FFXI ever since.

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Second Wind: The Old Republic at the 15-month mark

Sci-Fi, Classes, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On (Massively's), Star Wars: The Old Republic, Second Wind

SWTOR - This dude is no longer carbon-frozen
A long time ago, I previewed Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was a beta build, and a limited press preview to boot, so it's fair to say that I didn't have the full measure of BioWare's latest Star Wars opus. Even so, it exceeded my expectations in some respects, and despite the reams of hate fan mail I received for being Massively's leering, anti-SWTOR Sith villain, the truth of the matter is that I love Star Wars and video games to such a degree that it's impossible to stay away from any product that marries them.

I own Super Bombad Racing, for funk's sake.

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Second Wind Roundtable: Torchlight II

Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, PvE, Opinion, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Humor, Hands-On (Massively's), Second Wind

Screenshot -- Torchlight II
Welcome to the first ever installment of this "roundtable" edition of Second Wind, where the best and brightest (or barring that, whoever's available) here at Massively get together for an evening to act stupid in video games and then talk about it. For our first trip down the rabbit hole, Bree, Eliot, Lis, and I decided to give our mouse-clickin'-fingers a workout by way of Runic Games' Torchlight II.

Our intrepid party of fearless adventurers was made up of Viase the Engineer (played by Eliot), ZERKIN the Berserker (played by Bree, and yes the caps are necessary), and a pair of Embermages played by Lis and me because it was the only class neither of us had played yet. We spent a few hours hacking and slashing our way through the first couple of zones of TL2's campaign, and much hilarity ensued. Click on past the cut for our full, insanity-fueled conversation on the ups and downs of our joint Torchlight II experience.

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Second Wind: World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Lore, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, Races, Hands-On (Massively's), Dungeons, Second Wind

World of Warcraft
When I originally started playing World of Warcraft, things were different. Priests were still waiting on their first big class patch. Regular mounts required level 40; most players couldn't afford the 100ish gold fee without a loan from their guild. Epic mounts were so prohibitively expensive as to be considered rare. Raids required the dedication and skill of 40 players, and only a couple of guilds per realm actually even bothered to run high-end content. WoW was, as they say, srs bsns.

But that was eight years ago. Since then, World of Warcraft has seen four enormous expansions (Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria) and countless minor content updates. Edges have been softened, skills refined, classes reinvented. Subs have ballooned to a peak of over 12 million, waffled up and down for a few years, then fallen most recently to 9.6 million.

Some would argue that the World of Warcraft of 2013 bears only a passing resemblance to the one we played in 2005. Others would claim it's still the same excellent/terrible game, just gussied up with fresh paint.

As a longtime WoW lover but recently lapsed subscriber, I ventured into Mists of Pandaria to sort it out for myself.

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Second Wind: RIFT's Storm Legion

Fantasy, Opinion, RIFT, Second Wind

Screenshot -- RIFT
Trion Worlds' RIFT is still a relative newcomer to the MMO space, released a mere two years ago in March 2011, but in that time it's made quite a name for itself as one of the premier AAA titles on the market today. Since the game's release, Trion has built a reputation for putting out frequent, quality updates, and in the time since launch, RIFT has continued to grow with the addition of new features and content.

Last November, Trion released Storm Legion, the game's first expansion pack, which bumped the level cap up to 60, tripled the size of the in-game world, and brought player housing to the masses in the form of dimensions. For my part, I used to be an avid RIFT player, but despite the game's unique soul system, there just wasn't enough to differentiate itself from the myriad other similar MMOs on the market, and I never managed to make it to max-level before I let my subscription lapse out of boredom. So for this edition of Second Wind, I picked myself up a copy of Storm Legion and jumped back into the world of Telara once again to see just how far it has come.

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Second Wind: Taking another look at TERA

Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, TERA, Second Wind

TERA Header
I am beautiful. Seriously, I'm the best-looking game character that has ever pretended to live. Not only am I gorgeous, I'm lethal. With my massive lance, heavy shield, and ridiculously tight dress, I can make short work of pretty much any foe with the stones to come at me. I am as dangerous as I am attractive, and that is saying quite a bit.

This is TERA. Launched in the west by En Masse Entertainment back in May, the fantasy MMO promised gorgeous graphics, fast-paced action combat and a different way to experience a now-familiar formula. Lured in by pretty trailers and compelling class descriptions, I picked up the collector's edition of the game just before release. I played for a few weeks, streamed it a couple of times, and promptly forgot it existed. When my initial 30 days expired, I never subscribed for more.

But now TERA is going free-to-play. And since En Masse was kind enough to give me (and everyone else) a couple of free weeks of playtime before the F2P transition, I figured now was as good a time as any to revisit the title and see if removing my wallet from the equation would be enough to keep me engaged.

The answer? Perhaps.

Gallery: TERA PAX 2012

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Second Wind: Vanguard

Fantasy, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Second Wind

Second Wind Vanguard
Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and small, furry creatures from Alpha Centauri to the premiere edition of Second Wind, where we'll be taking you through the annals of time to revisit some of the past's greatest (and not-so-greatest) MMOs to see how they hold up today. In this installment, we'll be checking in on Sony Online Entertainment's Vanguard.

Here's a quick backstory for you: Vanguard originally launched in January of 2007 when Massively was still months away from its inception, and it was a mess. Bugs as far as the eye could see! Believe me -- I know because I was there. I played Vanguard at launch and lasted about a month before I grew tired of the never-ending parade of bugs and glitches and left. In the six years since Vanguard's launch, it's been sort of the red-headed stepchild of SOE's stable of MMOs. Content updates have been few and far between, and most patches the game has received have been (sorely needed) bug fixes. And of course, the game ended up going free-to-play back in August of last year.

Now, six years after my first foray into Telon, I decided to jump back into Vanguard to give the game a fresh look. Did I find a diamond in the rough or just a big lump of neglected coal? There's only one way to find out: Follow me past the cut!

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