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Commander's Rounds Entry 17: Subject I

Entry 17: Subject I [Skk/Yuubari/?]
(Also readable here. The whole thing can be found here.)
It had been a job and a half to find this place.
Even before Azur Lane was established, there were other facilities working on the Siren problem and the technology they introduced into the world. And there was one which the commander was especially keen on finding. After going through numerous reports of transmissions, logistics manifests, and other key pieces of a long and arduous paper trail, he had finally found it.
Sector A-14.
He left with only a few other ships- Bismarck, Glorious, Yuubari, and Kashino to find that place, along with a group of fast transport ships.
It was on a remote island, and it took them some time to figure out what might even look like an entrance, mainly complicated by the fact that the place had been abandoned for many years. But he had some idea about how these fortified island bases worked, so he was able to narrow down where such entrances might be. Once he found the heavily armored door, he waited for Yuubari to figure out how to crack it open without having to blast through. Explosive force was not an option.
This was not a combat mission.
After using his clearance, the door opened, and fresh air rushed into the base for the first time in who knew how long. All they could see in front of them was a great, dark hallway with a few ominous blinking lights, daring them to plumb the installation's depths.
Bismarck hmmed. "There's still power, after all this time?
The commander nodded. "Yeah. This base was basically made to withstand a failure of civilization- it could operate on its own for many decades. In theory, anyway." He flipped on a lever, turning on the hallway lights, providing them a path to follow.
Yuubari looked in. "Commander, you told us this was a research base... For what, exactly?"
"All kinds of things- wild, experimental stuff, originally, but it was also the first place where serious research was done on the wisdom cubes." He began to walk in. "All right, let's go in and have a look."
The long, sterile, metal hallway only led them to what appeared to be a large freight elevator- the five of them entered, and it the commander pushed a button, causing the elevator to begin an uncomfortably long and dark descent. Bismarck had questions. "So, why was this place abandoned, anyway?"
He sighed. "Work on the cubes began here before we knew that there were human-type sirens, so we thought this was secure. But the place was infiltrated. One of them got in, and basically just pranked the people her by letting them know that the Sirens were always watching.
Glorious blinked. "Wow. Do we know who it was?"
The commander shrugged. "We don't have any hard proof, but think about who we know that would infiltrate a secure installation just to say 'boo'."
Bismarck's eyes narrowed. "Observer."
The commander stretched. "That's my guess, too. anyway, this place was abandoned in a hurry, so a lot of stuff was probably left behind. they may have discovered things that we haven't, so anything that stops us from having to re-invent the wheel will make this time well-spent."
After an uncomfortably long trip down, they emerged from the elevator. The commander had only the most vague idea of how a place like this was ventilated, but the presence of visitors seemed to have kicked things into gear. They passed by long-abandoned security checkpoints which held discarded magazines and stained coffee mugs that had been cast aside in the haste to pick up and leave. In their haste, some of the facility maps had been left behind, and the signage was still intact.
After some time, the five of them managed to get into the command center. Seeing as there were no guards to stop them, there was nothing to keep Bismarck from just pulling the door open. The commander and Yuubari got started on restoring full power to the rest of the complex. "Commander, you don't seem worried about any danger."
He started working on the instrument panels- the fact that the facility accepted his clearance was troubling, but something to worry about later. "While they were working on Wisdom Cubes, everyone who was here packed their bags and ran- I'm certain we won't encounter anyone else here. Shambling mutants were not this place's business."
Kashino looked quite troubled- being in such a place was a new experience. Bismarck noticed this, and put an arm around her shoulders to calm her down.
After a very careful hour spent in there, the commander needed to pause. Though he was mostly sure that hauntings weren't a thing, the sight of all of those empty stations combined with the silence meant that there was just something unsettling about this place, so he anchored himself by giving orders. "All right... this place has a functioning intercom system, so we can still communicate here even if our phones don't work this deep underground. Kashino, you and Bismarck check the cargo block, while Yuubari and Glorious search the research bay. I'll be up here trying to sort through the old logs. Call me up either here or in the commander's office if you find anything. We're going to limit our search to these areas- if we have to stay here overnight, we will, but I'd rather not."
Glorious smiled. "Oh, is the commander afraid of the dark?"
He shook his head. "I'd rather just not stay here. It's nothing specific, just general willies from being inside a vast and empty place without either the sun or the moon. It feels like a tomb in here."
Yuubari flicked an ear. "Still, it's going to be exciting to see what's buried here. Come on, Glorious, we have a lot of work to do."
"Fine~" Then the two of them left.
Bismarck kept an arm around Kashino. "...We should go, too. The commander has his own work to do."
Kashino nodded. "...You think things will be all right?"
Bismarck nodded. "This time, I will not fail."
And then they left as well.
The commander was left alone in the command center. Judging from the maps, the commander's office shouldn't be far, so he decided to go there, first, to see if there were any essential dispatches left behind.
The base commander's office room was as stark and utilitarian as could be- it far more resembled the captain's room on a warship than it did his own cozy, home-like office back at the port, what with the metal walls, and the fact that the commander's bed was also in the room. Here, he was left alone with his own thoughts and the occasional distant, muffled groans of the structure of the installation, a small reminder that even though the base was built solid, it wouldn't last forever. one of the things that moved him to action was that he wanted to spend as little time as possible down here.
Using some of the tools he found in the main command center, he worked to pry open and otherwise break into the cabinets in the commander's office, and he found that there were many folders and binders still present on various subjects. Some of these were essential manifests which were incomplete as some effort had been taken to destroy part of the records. there were a number of references to "Equipment for Subject I" and "Containment for Subject I". Aside from that, there was nothing intriguing there.
He also managed to find a set of essential dispatches from the research department as well, but those had been similarly compromised, and it felt like he was getting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle when he didn't know what the picture was supposed to be. Still, there were a number of statements that drew his attention.
"Expenditure of 20 cubes without result."
"Expenditure of 10 cubes plus supplemental power and resources without result."
"Cube expenditure attempts destroyed focusing pylons A and F- replacement under way."
There were dozens of statements like this, covering years of experiments with the cubes, and then he found the one that stood out.
"Expenditure of 30 cubes plus supplemental catalysts G and S with additional power has produced a stable and active result, designated Subject I."
As he spread out all of these papers in front of him, he heard something on the intercom. It was Bismarck, calling him at just the right time to distract him from his own thoughts. "Commander, we are now in the cargo sector- Kashino is easily opening up the containers here."
That was good news. "How many containers are down there?"
There was a delay. "Not a small number, commander, you see-"
He heard Kashino's voice. "Bismarck, you have to take a look at this!"
Bismarck spoke up. "Hold on, commander."
There was an uncomfortable silence, and then there was some indistinguishable chatter. In time Bismarck spoke up. "All right Kashino, tell the commander what you found."
"Commander!" Then there was a pause. "...There's rigging down here?"
Now, that got his attention. "What kind? For what kind of ship?"
She spoke back immediately. "I don't know, probably a battleship or battlecruiser, though- the heavy guns are bigger than Nagato's!"
He spoke back. "All right, mark those containers, and also those that contain extra parts for that rigging. Everything else is your discretion. Commander out."
Combined with the research reports that he had already read, he had a clear picture- through some powerful brute-force effort, they may have managed to create a ship. But that added even scarier questions. Was that ship still here? Would she still be alive if she was? And if she wasn't here, then where was she?
The commander went to pry open the drawers of the desk back in the office. He found a journal of the commanding officer of the installation. It was written in a very terse but illuminating manner- whoever was in command of Sector A-14 knew how to get a lot across in as few words as possible. It would have made him smile, under different circumstances- long-winded superiors were the bane of his existence at the academy.
However, there weren't many references to Subject I in there- that seemed to be a matter left to the research department. However, there wasn't any mention of this subject escaping or anything of the sort. Partway through, however, he received a message from Yuubari.
"Commander, this is Yuubari."
The commander got back on his feet. "Got anything?"
"Yeah... While they destroyed some things, there are still a lot of research notes down here- it'll take some time to bring all of this stuff up, but it's things I'll want to take a look at back at the base. That's all for now."
"I see. Commander out."
He went back through the journal. There were plenty of mentions of other events, but almost nothing on Subject I. He even mentioned the impending evacuation, cursing that what was the most secure facility on the planet was so easily infiltrated, even somewhat despairing of humanity's chances against the invaders.
But then, he got another call from Yuubari.
"Commander... this is Yuubari. You... you should come down here and see this. Get the others, too."
The commander went to the main command room and started trying every intercom channel to the cargo area until he finally got a response. "This is Bismarck."
The commander wasn't about to waste time. "We're all going to the research bay to meet Yuubari. Get Kashino and go there, all ahead full. Commander out."
The commander was left with many questions about this "Subject I", and making his way down from the command center didn't banish his worries. During that long walk through the abandoned complex, he was left alone with his own thoughts, which, to put it mildly, were not always good company when faced with these sorts of uncertainties. The most he could hope for is that she would be alive and sane. Anything beyond that was up for negotiation.
He was at least glad to be heading towards the company of other ships.
The commander made it down into the research bay, which showed all the same signs of hurried evacuation- little bits of equipment and papers were scattered here and there across the experiment tables and work stations, and he was assaulted with the occasional whiff of some unknown substance- the fact that the place had been sealed off mean that some of the scents of unwashed lab tools and the ashen musk of burned-out wisdom cubes still lingered.
"Commander!"
The commander rushed to the sound of Yuubari's voice, and he was soon joined by Bismarck and Kashino, and then the joined Yuubari and Glorious to see what they had found.
The five of them stood in silence, just taking in what they saw in that vault.
The room in question seemed to be dedicated to one purpose and one alone. There was what looked like a large, black metal coffin, hooked up to a number of thick power cables and a bewildering array of monitoring equipment. Each terminal displayed an absurd amount of information concerning the vital statistics of whatever was in there, though he had no idea how to read any of them. the plate, however, told him all he needed to know.
"SUBJECT I"
The commander looked to Yuubari. "So... What is this?"
"It's a stasis unit. It may seem strange for this place to have one, but pursuing one scientific goal may require a great number of tangential inventions."
Bismarck had a look. "Then there's the next question. What's inside?"
Yuubari had a good look at the monitors. "It's not a what, but a who. Vestal will have to take a more thorough look at this herself, but there's definitely some kind of person in there, and they're most likely still alive."
The commander filled in the blanks. "...There's a ship in there."
Glorious blinked. "...Excuse me?"
"They made a ship down here..." He put his hand on the black coffin. "...But not the way we do it. They just threw dozens of cubes and other materials into just... brute-forcing a ship into being. They may have been trying to create one of the ships that never was. and by some miracle, they succeeded in bringing something into being." He closed his eyes. "She's been down here a long time... Well before I had ever even thought of joining the navy..."
There was a silence, and Kashino spoke up. "Well... Maybe we could wake her up?"
Yuubari spoke up. "As much as I'd like to, none of us here has the expertise to do so safely- we need Vestal for that. We're going to have to transport our sleeping beauty here back to base fi we want to do anything."
Glorious giggled. "Maybe the commander could wake her with a kiss?"
That snapped the commander out of his trance. "I prefer them to be aware and consenting."
Bismarck spoke up. "There is a possible danger- we have no idea what state she'll be in when she wakes up. If she's merely asleep, she will be fine, but if she has been both trapped and aware for all these long years..."
The commander understood. "Yeah, I'll make Seattle, Ibuki, and Saint Louis available in case she needs to be subdued." He straightened his cap. "...But there's no question. We're bringing her home, and I will take full responsibility for whatever happens."
The commander gave that high-tech "black coffin" one more long, lingering look, wondering just exactly he had asked to be brought into the middle of his command.
-------------------
On the way back, the commander had time to figure out what happened based on what he plundered from the Sector commander's office. Apparently she was sedated and put in stasis not long after being awakened, and it was only a matter of months after that when the base was abandoned. He had a few days to think about this, as well as that black coffin that had been hooked up to generators, plural, for transport.
In addition to that, they secured that rigging and some other materials- best not to leave behind anything they could use, and Yuubari looted a vast store of research notes that she was going to comb through with Akashi, probably as soon as they got back to base. He had a few days to think about their find.
He was glad to be back home, and a great many eyes fell on the black coffin that was carefully unloaded by Kashino and then immediately sent to the repair ward. He ordered the security detail that he had promised, and set Vestal on the task of figuring out how to awaken whoever was inside. Aside from that, he was hands-off on the whole affair- the point was to find things that his people could make use of. Besides, it might take time for Vestal to figure out what to do with their guest, and he didn't want to disturb her.
However, some days later, he eventually got a call in the wee hours. It was Vestal.
Before he could even say anything, she immediately spoke up. "Commander, we've managed to warm her up- our sleeping princess will be waking up soon."
He turned off the phone and got dressed immediately, making his way to the repair ward.
Vestal had actually dedicated one of the larger rooms to containing the Black Coffin, as it was now officially called, and he arrived, making sure his cap was on perfectly straight- even at this hour, and officer was supposed to put on his best face. He had to avoid dripping over the octopus of power lines that littered the floor as he approached the ship's new resting place. Vestal saluted. "She's moving around in there, commander... I think we can open it up. On your order, of course."
He took a deep breath. "...Proceed."
Vestal put in a few commands into one of the terminals, and the thick, heavy cover split open lengthwise, opening up both ways. the commander heard sharp, heavy breathing as whoever it was inside had to deal with the first truly fresh air she'd had in quite a long while, but he didn't get a good look at who was inside until she stepped out of her years-long bed and began to just immediately do stretches.
The tall woman wore a long, blue navy coat, which was left unbuttoned and open. Under that, she wore a black vest over a white button-down shirt. There was a pocketwatch in one of the vest pockets, attached to the vest by a gold chain. She wore an adventurously short pleated skirt with thigh-high dark stockings, a seemingly common sort of combination for Royal capital ships, and a pair of black shoes. On her left hand, she wore a ring that had a miniature sundial. She sported the long, blonde hair that was common to Royal and Union ships, and had also accessorized that with a miniature bridge tower in the manner of Royal Battlecruisers like Renown and Repulse. She had green eyes, and also the generous proportions on par with Hood.
He decided to let her dictate her own pace, and she finished off her routine by stopping to wind her pocketwatch. She only noticed the commander after she did that. "Hmmm...? So, where am I...?"
The commander stepped in. "Good evening. This is the combined strategic naval headquarters of the international combined naval peacekeeping force known as Azur Lane. I am the commander of this base and its total forces."
She leaned over a bit to have a closer look. "Commander...?" She needed a minute to take stock of him. "Seems rather young..." But then she had a big, broad smile, and stood up straight. "Not that it means anything. the only thing that matters on the ocean your ability- if you're a blowhard on land but go to pieces at sea, then you're no use anyways. I wonder which you are...?"
He maintained composure. This was pretty common. "I guess you'll just have to find out for yourself. May I have your name?"
She saluted. "I'm HMS Incomparable, Royal Navy! If you're a skilled commander, then I'll be a most able ship."
She was one of the ships that never was. How did they make her on accident? "That's going to be something we can settle later. I'd like you to get some rest and have Vestal here give you a checkup- I'll introduce you to the rest of the royal navy contingent in the morning. There will probably be some people you recognize there."
She blinked. "Oh, are Invincible and Indomitable around?"
Oof. "Er... Not as of yet, but Warspite and Valiant are."
She smiled. "Splendid! I could go and meet them right now, but I suppose it might be too early in the day, if you can even call it day right now!"
The commander gave her a nod. "We also recovered your equipment, and are having it fixed up, so we'll be able to run your trials."
"Good!" She said. "I'll want to do all of this as soon as possible, so I'll be ready whenever you are, commander."
"I will be seeing you then." He left the room. She was certainly energetic, like most battlecruisers.
--------------------
Before he went to bed in the wee hours, he sent a message to Warspite telling them to expect a visit from their new comrade at any and all times, and it was something he had made sure to also address to himself. It was a proper warning, because he had just finished breakfast when-
DING DONG WHAM BAM
Using the doorbell and knocking. Well, more like battering, in this case.
He opened the door, and Incomparable was right there, impatiently bouncing on her heels- at times, she felt like a destroyer in a battlecruiser's body, always in a hurry to go and see and do things. "Commander! Vestal says that I'm good to be out and around, so there's no reason not to meet some of the rest of the Royals, is there?"
The queen might object to being awake at breakfast time, but besides that... "Yeah, I think we can just head over there. I'll show you where the dorms are." He sent a quick message to Belfast- if anyone could organize a polite reception quickly, it would be her.
As they arrived, he tipped his hat to Curlew, and there was a glimmer of recognition there- as one of the C-class, Incomparable would have known her line, if not this specific ship.
The commander had become quite familiar with the royal gardens at this point, and so he had no trouble leading her to where Belfast usually held tea. The maid had somehow managed to set up breakfast between the time he had messaged her and the time when they had arrived, and Belfast had arranged for a comforting set of guests to help ease Incomparable into her life at port- She had managed to secure Warspite, as well as Hood and Glorious- the lattermost of which was important, as she was someone who Incomparable would be aware of, and was also an aircraft carrier.
Belfast gave a bow. "Good morning, master. As you can see, we are ready to receive you."
"A good job as always, Belfast." The commander took his own seat at the table. "I'm glad you all were able to meet on such short notice. Anyway, this is the newest addition to the Royal Navy, Incomparable. Incomparable, you already know of Warspite and Glorious, and the other lady in blue is Hood, who is chief of the Royal Navy Battlecruisers."
Warspite immediately stood up. "Good morning, it is a pleasure to finally meet you. Unfortunately, her majesty is currently indisposed, but she will be pleased to have a new addition to the fleet."
She gave a small bow back. "Excellent- I look forward to serving alongside you- after all, great expectations have been placed on both of us." She looked to Hood and Glorious. "And I'm glad that there's still room for Battlecruisers to show their quality."
Hood had a giggle. "Indeed... However, miss Glorious over there is an airplane carrier, these days- she's a sort of ship you ought to become familiar with during your time with us."
"Airplane carrier...?" She snapped her fingers. "Oh, of course! The whole play with Ark Royal must have paid off, then."
Glorious spoke up. "Yes, they're important part of naval operations, these days. We do have an Ark Royal here, but she's not the one you know- just a newer ship with the same name."
Incomparable shook her head as she tried to process that. "Either way, I'm sure that miss Ark Royal carries her name with dignity, and will do nothing to shame her lineage or the Royal Navy."
Warspite sputtered a bit on her tea. The commander knew that while their Ark Royal was a very dependable and skilled carrier, she had interests that could very easily lead to a bad look. The commander knew that Ark Royal was harmless, but... Warspite spoke up. "Yes, well, I'm sure you'll meet her for yourself in due time. Anyway, please have a seat."
She did, and as soon as she was ready, Belfast produced tea and a place setting for their new visitor. One of the things that the commander noticed about Belfast is that when she served new arrivals, she did it as though they had been expected for a very long time.
The commander didn't really intervene any further, preferring to enjoy his breakfast instead. Warspite spent her time bringing Incomparable up to speed on the status of the Royal Navy, and in forming her that they working hand-in-gauntlet with the forces of other nations to suppress a powerful enemy. While Warspite was explaining that they were fighting against man's most dangerous foe, Incomparable didn't seem to shrink from it, but actually grew a bit twitchy, as though eager to challenge them herself.
There were always off and on skirmishes with Siren probe forces, so she might just get that chance sooner than she realized.
After Warspite helped Incomparable understand the current strategic situation, she decided to turn things over to him. "...With all that said, we aren't just all about fighting. There's plenty of opportunity for leisure with your fellows, and everyone has their own festival which they throw now and again. Our royal balls, Eastern spring festivals, and many more besides- out commander arranged a cooking competition in which one of our own took honors."
The commander spoke up. "This isn't really a normal sort of fleet. The expectations are different when your command consists of people who are ship, crew and captain all in one- I wouldn't call myself Arthur, but it does feel more like a Round Table that's run more through mutual respect and trust rather than simple authority."
Incomparable tapped her chin. "Well, once we can put me through some trials, I'll be eager to show you that I am worthy of both. Do you think we could accomplish that sort of thing this afternoon?"
That was sudden, and it seemed as though Incomparable was always in some sort of subconscious hurry. The commander sent a message out to Amazon and Kashino to get the course ready in double time. "...I think it can be done. Besides, I'm sure her majesty would like to see you in action after missing you this morning."
"Excellent!" She put her hands together. "Until then, I shall remain here, and meet as many of my new companions as possible, so they aren't surprised when I fight alongside them later."
The commander left her to it- with those three, she was in good hands.

Later that Afternoon, though, they had actually managed to set up the trial course for Incomparable's initial evaluation. The commander had a fair idea what to expect, thanks to Yuubari's preliminary reports on her rigging and make, now was just the matter of seeing her in action. The commander put on his ear protection- ships didn't need these, as their ears were sturdy enough to not go deaf from firing their own guns. Sitting at the edge of the dock was Queen Elizabeth, who was being served tea by Belfast, while Hood, Renown, and Repulse were also there in a sort of battlecruiser solidarity. Repulse was getting her phone ready to record the whole thing.
Yuubari and Amazon were on the course, ready to take notes.
Incomparable showed up on the water in her rigging, which had been fixed up by Akashi and Yuubari, the main feature being its six massive guns in twin mounts. Incomparable was a natural on the water, which was a universal feature of the living ships- they just knew how to deal with the ocean. "I'm ready when you are!"
The commander looked to Queen Elizabeth, who took a sip from her cup. "Come now, commander, you know that neither of us like to be kept waiting."
The commander raised his hand, and then lowered it, starting with the speed trials.
And she was damnably fast. A ship of her size and armament left a powerful wake as she dashed off through the course from one end to the other. Her speed was something else even for a ship of her nature. She wasn't really maneuverable, but the point of battlecruisers was to catch things and shoot them, not board them or do delicate things.
They had her run the course a few times, and he could see Amazon pull along side and give her pointers on how to manage her turns. Even though he was too far away to hear it, he could tell that was the case, as she learned to execute turns better with each round of advice. She was still shaky on the subject, though, as she seemed reluctant to slow down.
After a few rounds of that, though, she returned to the spot in front of Commander and the rest. It was time for gun trials. Akashi had set up targets many miles away, ready to receive whatever she might care to bring to bear. Akashi quickly got out of the way before the commander could order the next phase to commence. He gave the order.
And repulse decided to butt in. "Incomparable, show them what a battlecruiser does!"
"Indeed!" She shouted back, and all six of her guns went into firing position for a full salvo.
The commander dropped to the ground.
While most people understood recoil, some didn't really grasp the level of outward force exerted by firing capital-scale guns. This included a great deal of downward force as well. When talking about naval weapons, this force was exerted on water, and the blast of such powerful weapons could create a great spray as well. this spray ended up soaking the commander, but Belfast had thought ahead and managed to protect Queen Elizabeth with an umbrella.
Amazon came by and had Incomparable move further out onto the water for further tests.
Incomparable was eager to get to the shooting, and while her shooting had potential, Amazon had to help her use her targeting equipment correctly and also learn to manage the spread of her guns. Those were very heavy weapons, and so it took a bit of doing. Still, she was a quick learner, and started achieving satisfactory results.
The soaked and dripping commander sat up as she watched the trials for her secondary guns begin. While Hood was wringing out her skirt, the commander looked to Queen Elizabeth, who gave him a big smile. "The Royal Navy never disappoints, right commander?"
"Indeed." Incomparable's secondary armament was... adequate, but nothing special- but there was always room to tinker with equipment. Though she didn't really seem to have any anti-air weapons to speak of, which would have to be fixed. As impressive as her main battery was, there was still room for improvement in other areas. Out on the course, Amazon was teaching her how to move and fire at speed.
However, she was fast in refining her skills, meaning she had at least the same capacity for combat learning as other ships.
Once those trials were over, she came back in front of the commander, and did a little twirl in place, her coat swirling around her before she settled down. "You see, commander? I told you I was both ready and able."
"Looks like a good start to me." It was, but just a start. "We're going to have to run more trials over the next few days to work out any kinks and get an overall view of your full capabilities."
She smiled, and gave him a salute. "Commander, I'll show you what I can do as many times as you need!"
And then she moved off to explore more of the port for herself.
It'd probably be better if she had turned in her rigging first, though.
--------------------
The other trials continued, and so the commander could attend to other business. After a few more days, Yuubari made an urgent appointment to see him, and she usually discovered valuable things. They met in his office.
She held her reports in her hands. "We've continued Incomparable's sea trials, and it has shaken out as well as we expect. Those main guns of hers have firepower equivalent to theoretical 20-inch guns, and she's about as fast as many of our destroyers. While her guns have a higher load time than most, it's not unworkable, based on our experience developing Georgia's current armament."
"All right, sounds good."
She flipped the paper. "Her secondary armament requires some modernization to account for threats like aircraft. She will also need training to help her understand the threat that aircraft pose. All in all, though, she is a powerful ship."
And then there was a silence, until Yuubari flipped the next page. then more silence. "...Yuubari, I feel like there's a 'but' in there."
"I was collecting my thoughts, commander. As impressive as she is, she is not perfect, thanks to the methods of her construction." She flipped the page again. "However, as you asked me to conduct these trials, I am obligated to give you the truth."
He braced himself. "Which is?"
She went right to it. "This requires some context. Those of us who were once real ships are stable by default- all that is required is for the wisdom cubes to give us form. However, when building what you call the "ships that never were", it requires a careful and laborious process to assemble them into our existence."
He didn't like where this was going. "...Continue."
Neither did Yuubari, as she paused a bit before delivering the next part. "...However, Incomparable is the result of neither of those things. She was never made in the old days, and the process used to create her was not taken with care- it was the result of brute force, blind guesswork, and wishful thinking. So, her existence is... Flawed."
"...How flawed."
She sighed. "Based on what me and Vestal have uncovered, She's only going to live about ten years."
There was a silence for a long while. The commander eventually broke it. "And I assume you're telling me this because there's nothing which can be done about it."
"Yes."
He remained quiet for some time. "I see..."
She went on, however. "So, this leaves us with a few options, the first of which you will immediately reject. The first is that we put her back in stasis and only take her out when needed-"
"Which is not something we're ever going to do, of course, I'm not shackling her to that box."
She didn't even flinch at that. "So we can also choose to use her, or just forbid her from the fleet and allow her to live out her days in peace."
The commander rubbed his forehead. "...I won't make that choice for her. We are all defined by our ability to choose, and it's not something I'm going to take away from any of you, and I won't let anyone else take that away from you, either."
Yuubari put away her reports. "So, would you like me to tell her?"
The commander shook his head. "No, I'll do it. This is my responsibility, and a commander that doesn't take responsibility is one that's not worthy of the title. I'll bring her in."
He did find out that she had acquired a phone and a username (FisherQueen) so he sent a quick text to her. And he got a quick response. She showed up in the office at great speed, with Yuubari politely stepping out of the room. "Yes, commander?"
He looked to Incomparable. "Well, we've put you through trials and examinations, and we have some news for you." He stood up. "You have performed well in your sea trials, so we have no real doubts of your ability in the field."
Incomparable smiled- a bright one. "Commander, I will be glad to put my abilities to the service of your mission- I'm ready to go whenever you need me."
"I'm not finished."
She paused. "...Is there some other problem?"
"I'm afraid there is." He needed time to figure out how to put this, his mind racing to figure out how he could tell both her and himself that he was more than likely going to outlive her. "As splendid as you might be, it was a miracle you were made, and it turns out that you were not made well."
Her smile faded. "...How so?"
He took a quick, but deep breath. "Not much care was put into your making, and so your construction is flawed. This happens occasionally- Amagi is a bit sickly, for instance. But for you, the problem is somewhat more severe, and we can't really fix it."
She nodded. "I see... What flaw?"
He jumped right in to spare himself the prolonged agony of trying to cushion the truth. "You're only going to live for about ten years."
"Oh..." She began to tug at the sleeves of her coat.
He forged ahead- to hesitate would be to fall. "So, seeing as your life is cut short, I'm giving you a choice. I'm not going to force you to fight for us, and I'm not going to put you back in the box. I'd be perfectly fine letting you live out a peaceful life in port with the others, but..." He looked to the side. "...It's your life, so I want you to make this choice for yourself."
"Commander!"
He looked to her, and she was saluting him, looking determined, though her saluting hand was shaking a bit. He couldn't be sure that she wasn't simply putting on a brave face for either his sake or hers. "Commander... When I was given my rigging and allowed to show my prowess, I felt that I was given such strength and speed because I was meant to accomplish a great mission. And after hearing from the others that our enemy is one that holds our very oceans hostage, what better foe is there for me to fight? I won't stand by, and I won't be put to pasture. A ship in a harbor is safer than at sea, but port is not where a ship is meant to stay."
He nodded. "...So you're committed to fighting?"
She give him a quick nod. "I was made for this moment, and this moment was made for me. Once our foe is broken, and the vast oceans made free, my name will live forever, no matter how short my life is. And besides, I won't let the work be done by others while I can carry guns for the blessed isles."
He stayed silent. But this was the price of allowing others their own choice- they may not make one that you're comfortable with. "All right, we'll organize you into one of the ready forces."
She gave a small bow to him. "Thank you, commander. I will live more of life in my ten years than most people live in a hundred, just you watch me!" And then she left.
The commander watched her leave, and then he looked out the window to see her go. Outside, Incomparable was stopped by Littorio, who offered her a rose and a cocky smile. Incomparable responded by putting her arms around Littorio's waist, and giving her a deep, deep makeout session that bent her backwards. After Incomparable was done and had gone on her way, Littorio was left stunned, confused, but not really displeased.
The commander was left alone with himself for a while, and then Bismarck arrived. "...I see you had a talk with Incomparable."
He gave a quiet nod. "I did."
She nodded. "Is there anything you require?"
There was a pause before he could speak again. "I'd like to be left alone for a while. I know that I'm not good company for myself, but..."
Bismarck understood. "...Understood, commander. We have all had these moments, at times." and so she left him.
The commander was left to himself, and then took a combat knife to etch something into the wood of his desk.
"ATLANTIS OR BUST"
If she could only find peace when the invaders were defeated, then he'd defeat them as quickly as he was able.
submitted by ArchiveSlave to AzureLane

My Beef with Bozja: The Good and the Bad (Mostly the Bad)

My Beef with Bozja: The Good and the Bad (Mostly the Bad)

TLDR

Bozjan Southern Front is an attempt to not only remedy the mistakes of Eureka and Diadem, but also strives to provide unique challenges and opportunities to help improve player performance and cooperation; however, the noble intentions of the developers have been marred by poor implementation and a system that, in its current iteration, is designed to be unfun to play.
I have taken the time to methodically list all of the design choices I feel are counter-intuitive not because I am ungrateful, but because I adore this game and I want to see Bozja thrive. The last thing I want is to see it become another failed experiment. So please brace yourself, this is going to be one heck an extremely long-winded post I can sum up in one sentence:
“We’re all waiting to have fun, but aren’t having fun while we’re waiting.”
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Skirmishes

On paper, the design choice is clear. Generate Skirmishes, which are essentially FATEs; encourage players to field themselves throughout the zone; inevitably spawn a Critical Engagement in response to a number of participants within a given Region.
Yet the execution doesn’t quite work in practice. Players quickly realized that most Skirmishes are not actually factored in toward zone behavior. They are merely bait, and frankly, poor bait at that. Granted, many players do use Bozja to level jobs under 80, and Skirmishes provide experience points. Furthermore, Skirmishes are a good source of Mettle toward your Resistance Rank.
However, players discovered that their time is best spent farming Clusters and Fragments. Skirmishes are only a means an end, and once players have reached a certain level, Skirmishes are no longer viable and are (almost) entirely ignored. This is a fundamental flaw when you factor in how Skirmishes are balanced.
But that doesn’t mean Players are the problem. Skirmishes just aren’t a very good idea, and no matter how many coats of paint you give it; FATEs themselves have never been a good idea. Players participate out of necessity, not joy. They are a task. They have always been a task, and they will forever be a task. But, there is one notable exception.
Of Steel and Flame
One Skirmish in particular, called Of Steel and Flame, should arguably be the blue print for all FATEs moving forward. The FATE is mechanically engaging, it requires on the fly teamwork with total strangers, and it feels like it’s part of a bigger narrative. Heck, I’d say it’s even more entertaining and more mechanically intense that the Critical Engagement that immediately follows it. In my opinion, it’s actually fun to play.
But the true shame is that Bozja’s own Skirmish System frequently undermines this FATE, making it difficult for many players to experience it in full. So while I may be of the opinion that it’s a great piece of work, other players may have had a vastly different experience. And where is why…

Proximity Based Difficulty

For those not aware, Bozjan Southern Front introduced a new way of handling FATE scaling. Everywhere other than Bojza, FATEs scale to all players present zone-wide — whether they choose to participate in the FATE or not was never factored in. One must give the developers credit for trying something new with Bojza, for when a Skirmish spawns it now only factors in the players in direct proximity of it. I have yet to work out the exact radius, but a rough guess is about three to four times the size of the FATE circle itself. But once the Skirmish has spawned, it locks it at that difficulty even if all of the players have moved to a different destination.
Once again, a great idea on paper does have some issues when put to practice — in fact, two massive ones.
  • One, since Cluster Farms are so popular, they often consist of two or more parties. These parties are entirely absorbed in their pursuit of Clusters and care little for anything else, which includes any Skirmishes that are a stone’s throw away. The result can be a Skirmish balanced for at least two or more parties, but only has two or three actual participants. This frequently up scales Skirmishes like All Pets Are Off, which is actually a special kind of Critical Engagement Trigger-FATE, or “Trigger-FATE” for short. Since no other CEs spawn when one of these are present, this can and often does drive the momentum of a zone to a screeching halt.
  • Two, isolated Skirmishes that spawn where there is little player activity are scaled to one player by default. Ever wonder why certain Skirmishes always melt so quickly even though they just spawned, resulting in rarely anything better than a Silver Metal? Well this is why. There are several examples throughout the zone of Skirmishes that are never, and will never be, properly tuned. Simply because there is nothing in those regions for players to actually do to keep them occupied enough for a Skirmish to scale to them when it spawns.
Again, the developers do deserve credit. But that system just doesn’t factor in enough variables. I personally feel it should continuously re-adjust itself every 60 seconds, re-evaluating its own difficulty based on how many people are actually take part, rather than a presumed allotment.
But I also understand this would require a massive redesign and is actually a lot more complicated than even I let on. As it’d have to constantly tweak the scaling, stats and HP of bosses already present in the world — among other factors. But having something that’d first scale to the total number of people in a given Region and then work its way down based on how many people actually come to take part would be an extremely welcome improvement.

180 Minutes Isn’t Enough

Do not be mistaken, three hours is an incredibly long time. This point of feedback does not advocate a longer timer, but rather highlights the humongous flaw with Critical Engagements. But to better illuminate the issue I feel I need to explain Critical Engagements in greater detail; how they function, how they spawn, what they do, etc. These details are crucial towards understanding feedback I’m going to provide.
For those not familiar with Critical Engagements, they are unique encounters similar to Boss FATEs that can often accommodate up to 48 players. What makes them unique is that players throughout the entire zone are invited to participate and are subsequently moved to the location of the fight once activated. At that point they may prepare for the encounter, form parties, buff, etc. I reiterate for emphasis, players are physically moved to the location of the arena, this is a crucial detail I’ll refer to again later.
Furthermore, the requirements to spawn them are so surprisingly underwhelming that many players actually over-complicate it in the vane hope that there is more to the process. Bozjan Southern Front has three Regions: South, Middle, and North. The region with the most number of players outside of camp gets the Critical Engagement. That’s it. There are no other requirements. Killing enemies and Skirmishes are not factored in. Players simply just need to be in the area and outside of camp, even if they are just AFK.
Critical Engagements emerge in three forms: for the sake of this post I’m going to coin a few of terms to identify them: Trigger-FATE CE, Force-Pop CE, and Duel-FATE CE. I explained the prior already, but let’s cover the other two. Force-Pop CE refers to the type of Critical Engagement that requires no perquisite Skirmish to spawn — it just pops.

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Duel-FATE CEs are unique creatures in their own right. Each Region has one of these. When you look at the bigger picture, one could easily look at Force-POP CEs as “One Step” CEs, they just appear. Trigger-FATE CEs are “Two Step” CEs as they require you to complete a specific Skirmish in order to spawn. Following that logic, Duel-FATE CEs are “Multi-Step” CEs, as they require a long chain of perquisites.
Keep in mind that other CEs (excluding Castrum) are not permitted to spawn while any of these three are present in the zone in any form. Technically, this is to ensure that there is almost always a Critical Engagement happening or on the verge of happening at any given time. And for the most part the system does actually succeed, but to a point.
Once a Critical Engagement has been completed it goes in a solid, unwavering, sixty minute cool-down. This puts them on par with Notorious Monsters in Eureka, which required players put together Third-Party Trackers to actually keep tabs on these things so people were not wasting time trying to spawn something that wasn’t going to spawn.

Eureka Tracker Pyros
So now that we’ve covered that, let’s get into the meat and bones — and more accurately — the blaring flaw of this system: It strives to please everyone; literally. That’s actually the problem, it’s a system that has been literally designed to try and please everyone. The system is currently trying the ‘Appeal to the Needs of the Many’ sort of approach to things, and while admirable — is found to be counter-intuitive toward promoting an atmosphere that is fun and engaging.
Remember how I mentioned before that CEs spawn based on how many people are within a Region? Do you also remember how I highlighted that CEs physically move players to the location of the area? If you put two and two together, you can see how this can create an almost unstoppable chain of events that is beyond the control of the average player.
For example, let’s presume All Pets Are Off was finally dealt with. This would result in the Kill it with Fire CE spawning in the south. If all CEs are available in south and not on Cool-down, and if Kill it with Fire fills at the maximum of 48 people — this will immediately force pop another CE in the South. This can potentially continue until all four CEs in the south are resolved.

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If every available player slot fills, the System will presume that players want to do CEs in the south, because everyone applied for the CE in the south. So it’ll just keep spawning them all until there are no more to spawn. There are only two circumstances in which the system will pause to recalculate Player activity in the zone:
  1. The CE doesn’t fill 48/48
  2. All CEs in that region are on cooldown.
So if you don’t actually want to take part in CEs in the south, you have little choice in the matter. And if you want to try and encourage the system to pop the ones you want, you have to abstain from joining the CE so you can hope the system will recalculate. So while a great number of people are being appealed to, the system doesn’t exactly benefit everyone. It just works, but not particularly very well.
I understand the 60-minute cool-down as a stop-gap to ensure that all the CEs spawn throughout the zone in a timely fashion, but at the same time it feels like it’s merely a system designed with function rather than form in mind. When you begin to look at the bigger picture, you quickly start to realize there isn’t enough time for everything. And re-instancing stands to cause additional headaches, more we’ll cover later in this post.

Duels Promote Toxic Behavior

Gabriel, the Southern Duel CE
So, I love Final Fantasy XIV. But never have I hated it more than I do right now. I’m one of those people trying to get their Sword of the South title, and while you may feel like you immediately know where this is going — buckle up, because things are going to get interesting. Additionally, I have some constructive critiques on how I feel this system can be vastly improved.
I feel Duels worked as intended; on day one. But after that point, they quickly devolved into something else entirely. To the point where they are now mostly a farce, a demoralizing parody of what they could be. While a fantastic idea in concept, the execution is by far one of the poorest I’ve ever witnessed since Diadem. I have no qualms stating that their current implementation is just straight up bad design.
First, they depend far too heavily on a sense of morality. To better clarify, there are way too many factors in which the developers decided that the “Players will handle it from here” as it were. The whole concept is for players to allow what they feel is the “best among them” to rise up and take down a very challenging boss for the “benefit of everyone”. Yet, let’s face it — this is a very Japanese design choice.
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Second, as proven time and again, Western players are not too keen on allowing others to benefit. What the developers likely did not factor in that certain players exist — certain players that would rather no one benefit at all, if they themselves cannot exclusively benefit. The biggest issue is derived from people accepting the Duel but ultimately declining to enter and letting them time out on purpose. Mostly because they don’t want anyone else to win, which is brutal and demoralizing for a lot people.
Let’s not forget that it takes a lot of time to spawn a Duel-FATE CE. Aside from the fact it may have been on cool-down, it also takes time to encourage a CE to spawn in a Region. Once it has worked through the other CEs to get to that one, then you have to do the prerequisite Skirmishes, only to finally do the CE itself, and on top of that avoid damage and take no Vulnerability Stacks just to get a CHANCE to get in. Let’s also consider that maybe you want to do Castrum, and based on pure RNG, Castrum may overlap with the Duel-FATE CE itself and you’ll miss your window entirely.
But making it through all of that, you still have to battle a harsh queue-boss of everyone and their mama registering for the Duel — only to discover the one person to get chosen doesn’t even show up! Ouch. But let’s push it further. Let’s say you didn’t even want that duel, well you’ll still have to wait for the ENTIRE CE chain to finish, as no other CE will pop until the Duel is complete. Even then, it may not even be in the region you want! So you’d have to wait for the unstoppable CE chain to work its way around to the Region you want, only to THEN go back up prior paragraph about perquisites.
I can tell from experience that it’s the insanely long grind to get to what is ultimately a fruitless waste of time that is encouraging hateful behaviors to one another. It’s just way, WAY too much work to do what is supposed to be a fun show of skill. Because let’s face it, the Livestream and the Patch Notes made it sound like SKILL would play a huge factor into getting into the duel — but it doesn’t. Almost no skill is required, just avoiding easy-to-dodge mechanics is the only requirement to get in: nothing else. And that is where I feel the issue resides, there is no other way.

100 Clusters For Duels Please

I think I have, what I feel, is the most viable solution to this problem. A new Priority Buff. I feel 100 Clusters is a very reasonable cost. There are those people who put a lot of pride and effort into their Clusters and they wouldn’t be so willing to throw them away to deny people a title. Additionally, new players coming into the zone will not immediately have access to 100 Clusters, and if they managed to happened by them, if they chose to spend them on a chance a Duel — well, more power to them. It’s their time and their Clusters.
But let’s say someone like myself, someone who has no need for Clusters anymore, is busting my buns constantly trying to get the Duels to pop, and just wants my title, and is very exhausted of constantly trying and failing to get chosen. I’d love to just sit back, farm Clusters, and get my win. Heck, it’d allow me to even plan ahead and collect 100 Clusters later to get the Mettle Buff for my friends! I’d be willing to do that.
On top of that, because it’d be such a huge cost — there should be some sort of signal, some sort alert to inform other players that ‘Hey this person has a very expensive buff’. Like a special icon on the Player List so you could perhaps open a conversation with them and may coordinate which duels you want so you don’t blow your buff trying to compete for a 50/50 chance.
Finally, an expensive buff like that should last 180 minutes to ensure you don’t waste it while the duel you want is on cool-down.
This suggestion would encourage preparation, put a value on the Duel itself, and give the opportunity for new players to see how the fight is done. Furthermore, it doesn’t change the current system either. It just adds a new layer to promote a bit more cooperation. Something I think we could really use in Bozja.

Castrum’s 60 Minute Spawn Timer

Castrum Lacus Litore stands as the main thing to do within Bozjan Southern Front, but most of the people I’ve spoken to who looked forward to the content have found it to be surprisingly disappointing. From a design prospective, it is understandable. They may have wished to avoid overwhelming people and took into consideration that not everyone had a chance to truly soak in and experience Eureka. But those measures disregard one of the core features of Bozja: Lost Actions.
The truth is Castrum is so simple to complete that Lost Actions only serve to continuously break it and make it even easier — to the point where people can clear it in just under twenty minutes. While it was wise to avoid remaking the Baldesion Arsenal, I find it deeply disappointing to provided players with so many robust tools but absolutely nothing to use them on. Lost Actions are a wasted opportunity that only stand to tease what is potentially around the corner.
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Those familiar with Eureka have already identified them designed Logograms, complete with a variety of tweaks, improvements, and massive nerfs to make them a little bit more fair. But the difference between Logograms and Lost Actions are simple. When Eureka was current, they were needed. And now Bozja is current, but they are not needed at all.
For instance, there are a handful of Lost Actions that look to be incredibly fun; however, they exclusively come from Castrum. Their drop rare is so incredibly rare that you’d be lucky to get two in a single run. This extreme rarity means they should be coveted and not consumed. Besides, Castrum is so simple, why waste good Lost Actions on easy content? This results in Lost Actions that remain entirely unused. Aside from having nothing to use them on, we just don’t know if they’ll ever not be rare. Will they drop more frequently in future content? Will there be a reason to even justify using them? We just don’t know. And not knowing is why we don’t use them.
So we’ve kind of cut ourselves in the foot here. We see the potential to have fun, but as a result we are not actually having fun while we wait for the chance to have fun. And that is what I feel is the core problem with Castrum as a whole. We’re all waiting to have fun, but aren’t having fun while we’re waiting. This is first wave Blue Mage all over again.
The problem extends to how Castrum itself is introduced to the zone. Despite being easier than the current NieR Raid, it requires a tremendous amount of time to enter. Not effort, just time. Organized groups still run the content in order to get their achievements and their “precious” augmentations. Many of which consist of more than thirty people, and since so many of them enter an instance at once, it often generates a brand new instance to host them. By default, Castrum spawns exactly sixty minutes after the zone has been generated. Otherwise there is no visible timer, so joining an older instance results in something of a crap shoot to guess on when it spawns, which makes gauging what to do to kill time a tricky task indeed.
While the recent hotfix does try to address the issue of giving people a grace window of completing any CEs that are currently underway, it doesn’t exactly resolve the unease of not knowing when it will emerge. While Lost Actions aren’t necessary for the content, there are those players who know how to farm them and put to effective use between Castrum runs. But some Lost Actions are extremely costly and may not match a particularly useful in Castrum build.
This leaves the player in a state of anxiety. Do they invest in the build they use for farming, knowing full well that Castrum could literally pop any moment — or — do they prepare for Castrum and just sort of sit around and wait so they don’t waste any Lost Actions? This sense of unknowing personally bothers me, and makes it difficult to ascertain what it is I actually want to do in the zone. As I don’t truly know what there is to, and I feel leaning entirely on Third-Party Trackers this time isn’t going to cut it. We need some sort of in-instance timer or record keeper, if not for Castrum then at least for the bloody weather for crying out loud.
For example, if I’m seeking a particular duel, I have no way of knowing if that CE is on cool down. Trusting my fellow players to keep track of that sort of information is absolutely laughable. At present we have people coming into a zone always asking some variation of “When is Castrum?”, and the response they got is generally haphazard at best. Don’t even try to ask for a specific timer on a CE either. Absolutely no one will give you even a remotely accurate time of completion.
So now we have the issue of people at Rank 15 with a potential shopping list of things to do: Wait for Castrum, Farm CEs, Farm Clusters, Farm Fragments, etc — but have no true idea which of those things they should do as almost all of have conflicting Lost Action builds. This enigmatic approach is actually proving to humongous thorn in one’s side, especially if you feel you should be leaving the instance and jumping to a new one for better opportunities; as items and essences do not carry with you upon leaving said instance.

Haste Isn’t Enough

Let’s put this on the table. The Haste Augmentations for the Castrum gear are just not worth the effort and price. Their drop rate is either so insanely random or rare, or there some silly enigmatic little puzzle that the players haven’t discovered yet. Regardless, it doesn’t matter. They aren’t worth the effort. It costs 999 coins for a single major augmentation. You barely get 30 coints per run, and many players trying to collect these are trying to acquire them for SEVERAL classes, not just one. When you math it out, it’s absolutely mind numbing.
We have people who have spent literally 70 hours exclusively running Castrum and only acquire one Augmentation drop. Pride and accomplish indeed! There really is almost no true incentive to acquire these augmentations. For many players, all that drives them is speculation. Will the gear require augmenting so that it can be transformed into something more powerful later? We do not know. Will the coins drop more frequently later and therefore be spent as soon as possible? We do not know. Will the same augmentations be available for cheaper or easier to acquire in future content? Again, we just do not know.
And that sense of unknowing is what leads to a lot of frustration. We do not know if we need the gear, but feel we should acquire it “just in case” — and that is again, part of the whole ‘not having fun while waiting’ thing.
For many who’ve done Eureka, they quickly found that the gear in Castrum requires vastly more work to acquire than that of Elemental +2 from BA, but offers almost none of the benefits. Haste ultimately just makes the Global Cool Down shorter, and not every job can actually benefit from that. Heck, some jobs are actively harmed by it. The gear provides almost nothing else. It’s the exact same gear, with the exact same stats, with the exact same dyables, no glows, no nothing; just Haste. And Bozjan Southern Front is so mind-numbingly easy much of the time, that admittedly even Haste is overkill.
There is no reasonable carrot at the end of the stick, merely the promise of more to come, which renders the current content something of a slap in the face to players. It promises “There will be fun later” without actually making what is there, at present, truly enjoyable.

Indigo Stars

Perhaps the most painful experience in Bozjan Southern Front is approaching the Lock-Pick NPC and taking your shot at winning another handful of Indigo Stars. Lock Boxes have often been seen as something of a ‘Consolation Prize’, something to feel you’ve won so you don’t feel like you’ve wasted all of your time. But in Bozja, the drop rate for these are surprisingly stingy. Indeed, you can convert items into lock boxes, or win duels for an injection of 99 — but they aren’t particularly rewarding.
I believe I’ve opened more than 300 lock boxes myself, but as a result I have over 200 Indigo Stars in my inventory now. They are trash. Their drop rate is 9 out of 10, and I swear I’m not exaggerating. Again, it feels like another slap in the face. Like “Ha! I bet you thought you got something this time. Nope!” — heck there drop rates are right on par with something as toxically villainous as a straight up Loot Box. And really don’t feel they should be tuned this way at all. That seriously needs to be addressed.

Star Mobs

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My final topic may perhaps be the most controversial, Star Mobs. For those not aware, Bozjan Southern Front has nine very powerful monsters — three per region. A while ago on Reddit you may have seen a post which conveyed how easy it was to just use Lost Death on them and profit. But my beef with them is not necessarily that. It’s their purpose, their true purpose.
We’ve proven time and again through rigorous testing that Star Mobs provide some sort of enigmatic, hidden, latent buff. And this is what bothers me. I’m tired of the old design philosophy of hiding “Secrets” within a system while failing to communicate to the players what is actually going on. If you’re going to put a Secret in there, please for the love of god, communicate to the player that they’ve received it.
So what is this “Secret” that Star Mobs do exactly? Well they provide a Critical Engagement Priority Buff. Does it overwrite the 5 Cluster Marching Orders for buff or the Preparation Marching Order Buff? Heck if I know. I’ve been trying to test that, but finding THREE parties of players willing to give a damn enough to test it is currently beyond me.
  • (How to Test it: Basically you have three parties of eight players all buy the 5 Cluster Marching Orders buff and send them into a 24-man CE. You after garnered sole credit for killing the Star Mobs of that region, solo queue, wearing no Marching Orders and see if you bump someone off the list.)
We KNOW the Star Mobs offer a Priority Buff in the first place because we’ve had whole parties of eight players, having absolutely no Priority Buffs what so ever (Purchased or Earned) — register for a CE well beyond the maximum and still manage to not only get in with the WHOLE party, but also bump off another whole party not wearing any Buffs that registered the instant the CE was available.
If you’re going to put something like that out there, please provide some sort of icon or buff timer to convey to the players what they have. I’d greatly appreciate that.
As for the Lost Death part, well — I understand why they can be Deathed in the first place. It is to make the content a bit more Future Proof. Without Death, they’d be pretty impossible to kill going toe to toe with them in a very small party at a later date. While I appreciate this hindsight, I also feel it’s a very poor design choice. This is because of how Death actually works. If you have a large number of parties going up against a Star Mob, someone in the fray will likely cast Death. What they fail to realize is that credit for the kill will only go to the party that claimed it on the pull. All other parties will be denied credit.
Because of this oversight I feel that Death is more of a hindrance than a blessing. Indeed, the Star Mobs do respawn at a timely fashion (30 minutes on the dot), but it does create quite a bit of hassle. Star Mobs have now simply lost all of their value. Since you need to kill all three of them in a region to get the enigmatic “Buff”, it can be a huge waste of time going around trying to claim them only to find that someone else already ran through and cast death on them before you.
People who killed them for Fragments tend to avoid doing so now, as those Fragments have almost much of their overall value. There is almost a universal belief that they are just always ‘dead’ now, or at least one of the three in a given region is, making going around to collect them all more of a hassle than a true reward.

Conclusions

I like Bozja, I do. But it’s got a lot of problems. It’s two steps forward, but two steps back. It tries to be the next Eureka, but it doesn’t commit. It’s too afraid of Lost Actions and doesn’t provide enough flexibility. The content is too easy and doesn’t provide enough challenge to even warrant the use of Lost Actions in the first place. It wants to be new player friendly, but pretends to be more difficult than it really is. The system strives to appeal to everyone, but underwhelms universally in the process. It’s trying to be too much, but at the same time not enough.
Again, I’m getting original Blue Mage vibes from this content. As though the right hand wasn’t talking to the left, and the conception didn’t quite develop well into execution. Which is truly a shame; because it’s clear they looked at Eureka and tried to improve upon it. But ultimately it fell into the trap I feared it would all along — far too much course correction for content that didn’t need that much course correction. By the time Eureka got to Hydatos, it started to finally find its footing. But what good came of Hydatos did not make its way into Bozjan Southern Front.
At end game we need a challenge. We hoped Bozjan would offer us something to do for us to do long time. We still go back and run The Baldesion Arsenal, we still find it a fun and enjoyable experience. We enjoyed the restrictions it put on us, we enjoyed having to make special and specific builds to make things new and interesting. We enjoyed the cooperation and the team work it required to make it all come together. We hoped Bozjan Southern Front would give us something to do. It didn’t have to be the Baldesion Arsenal 2.0, we just wanted it to be something.
At present, Bozjan Southern Front is just a huge zone to farm stuff in preparation for content that isn’t even out yet. We’re all waiting to have fun, but aren’t having fun while we’re waiting.
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