Status Report: Videogames, too many videogames!

Sorry, haha! This blog hasn’t been active in the nice, casual but reliable way that I’d hoped for. Life got in the way of blogging, and even more importantly, videogames. Last week, I became aware that Octopath Traveler was drawing close but I hadn’t finished The Alliance Alive yet – the game everyone said was so short and small, the game I thouht wouldn’t last me the entire time until Octo’s release. Turns out I am a very slow player, not because I’m dedicated to 100% runs and doing everything there is to do, but because I’m someone who plays for fun and distraction instead of results. The Alliance Alive rewards exploration and repeatedly talking to the same NPCs – exactly how I like it. It was easy to stall, run around the world map and do anything but proceed with the story! I played TAA for 70+ hours, no regrets.

But it also meant that yesterday, I took a dep breath and went past the point of no return, and rushed through the final section of the game in order to reach the end boss asap. It was a strange experience. I’ve never done it like this, I’ve never tried to finish a JRPG quickly, and I realised that I wasn’t actually ready to stop playing. I would have liked to update my equipment one last time, bring the last character to 500 HP and experiment some more with formations. Instead, I beat the end boss on my second attempt and then enjoyed the game’s cute but strangely slow-paced ending. The whole thing had taken me … two hours?

I am so excited for Octopath Traveler, though! I can spend the remaining time until it’s in my hand deciding which character I will choose as my protagonist. I haven’t played the recent demo – I didn’t want to start playing the game and then be forced to take a break from it until the full release!

But … I don’t know who to pick. :( I am still drawn to Primrose, but also find Cyrus really interesting.

But the past few weeks … months, really … following the news and witnessing the selfishness, the gleeful viciousness coming from politicians, the fearmongering and whining, the way that the simplest acts of kindness got reinterpreted into stupidity and dangers … Fuck this shit. I want to play as Alfyn now: the guy who was rescued by a stranger as a child, and who was inspired to travel the world to help people. Just help people.

When Final Fantasy IX came out, there was an ad poster or something that featured Zidane and his motto: You don’t need a reason to help people.

In videogames, the gritty and dark, the morally grey, the assholish characters get frequently praised as “complex” and “realistic”. But I’ve always had a fondness for characters who, even admidst the most complicated politics and difficult choices, don’t lose sight of the most important thing: kindness, and human dignity.

In the end, I’ll probably pick a character on a whim, though. I shouldn’t overthink the decision, but just go with whatever comes most natural in the moment. :)

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The Alliance Alive: Everything is better with penguins …

Just now I was playing The Alliance Alive and fooling around with battle formation. There is the option to have the game suggest formation names for you, which I did because I am uncreative like that. Now, the game kept giving me fish names! At first, this confused me. Then I realised I had put Robbins in the lead, and he is a penguin. Aw, penguins love fish! Of course we’re going to fight in the Mackerel position!! It’s neat little details like this that make the game feel so deep and rich! It’s technically superfluous, but it brings me great joy – and that’s the point, right? This is why I play games: fun!

I had been reluctant to give TAA a try. After all, I had tired of Legend of Legacy quickly, and it hadn’t just been the lack of a storyline that put me off that game. It had been the dull, uninspired design of the starting town. It was just a very meh place. Why go there. But when I saw the first town of The Alliance Alive, and it was an atmospheric place with interesting NPCs, I was won over. And yes, of course it also helped that TAA kept Legend’s battle system, but was clearly also a story-heavy game full of quirky characters and well-written dialogue! Yay!

The reviews I’ve read didn’t always do the game justice, I think It was almost as if people were holding Legend of Legacy’s failures against this other game. Whatever problems some reviewers appeared to have with the characters or the story or the battle system … I don’t see it. To me, so far, this is a great game and I am glad I checked it out.

I really appreciate that the game feels so open most of the time. You can explore the world, which is full of little mysteries that you might miss if you just blindly rush through things. You can spend hours just exploring the world map!

Sometimes, NPCs react differently depending on which character is in the lead. Which means that not only do I try to track down and talk to every NPCs, but I try to talk to them repeatedly. =D

I encourage everyone to give The Alliance Alive a try, especially if you’ve been avoiding it because of Legend of Legacy. :3 This is not a final verdict, since I am still playing the game, and I hope it will keep me occupied for the next month or two. Until Octopath Traveler, ideally.

Ever Oasis, late final thoughts

I finally finished Ever Oasis. I’d had the feeling that I was close to the end for a while now, but had chosen to flop around and do subquests instead of anything resembling to finishing the game. In a way, it felt like that’s what the game kind of wanted me to do, anyway. But after a while – and that is the biggest flaw that I see in this game – the oasis management became boring and just a tad tedious. Oh my god, guys, can’t you do anything by yourself!!?? With no new travelers arriving and every shop either maxed out or close to getting maxed out, the game felt like it had no surprises left. It just becomes a chore of supplying good, tending gardens, sending out expedition teams, then getting annoyed that you sent the person you wanted in your party out with an expedition team! Ever Oasis is cute and original, I love the design and the atmosphere and the entire idea of its setting and the characters, creatures and so on … but in the end, I decided to go to the end boss out of boredom. And we’d run out of parsley and I didn’t remember where to get more.

I really wouldn’t mind some sort of sequel that was, perhaps, set 1000 years later so that the events of this game can be treated like legend, but any city management aspects would have to be overhauled so that they don’t become less fun and less important-feeling as the game progresses.

The desert setting was lovely, but the world itself was pretty small after all. I’m in the mood for something more VAST.

Speaking of JRPG deserts … The one in Secret of Evermore remains one of my favourites. It’s just a bg stretch of sand and because it is so hot, you gradually lose HP. I’d really love to see something like this done again in an game, so that travelling through the desert feels like an actual daunting task that you need to plan properly. I know we live in the time of fast travel where “back-tracking” is reviled and people get bord quickly … but I’d love to play a game where distances matter and travelling long distances actually takes time and makes you get a proper sense of the size of the world.

But that’s neither here nor there. My eyes are on Octopath Traveler now.

Erh, anyway, Ever Oasis: another annoying flaw was the camera during some of the more challenging fights. Whenever I was too far away from the boss, the boss was moving and I was trying to lock onto the enemy, the camera just switched to my character’s viewing direction instead, VERY annoying. And really not what you need during fighting.

I beat the end boss with Isa and Ida, and I have to admit that I spent a lot of time playing it ultra-save on the other side of the screen, biding my time for some well-timed slashing. Ida kept landing the finishing blows. Every. Time. Good girl.

Octopath Traveler … :o Four months left.

This week, I stayed up to watch the Nintendo Direct because I am a nerd like that and because I was hoping for Octopath Traveler news. I was rewarded for my fannishness! Tantalising gameplay details, information about two more playable characters, and a release date: July 13. Yay!

I am in a bit of a dilemma because a part of me thinks that it would be best to avoid all further Octopath news, in order to experience the game as unspoilt, as fresh as possible. The other part of me, of course, is a giddily excited fangirl who just spent an hour looking at the various maps shown in-game, in trailers and on the official website, trying to guess the eventual size of the gaming world. (The original trailer called it “vast”, and it better be!)

Yeah, I’ll probably lick up every morsel of information until July.

Meanwhile, I am torturing myself already over the protagonist choice. I tended toward Primrose after playing the demo. But Alfyn appeals to me … I think I just like characters who are uncomplicatedly nice people who want to help others. Tortured anti-heroes are fine, of course, but I think I’d rather want to be the idealistic, straight-forward good guy. So … who knows what I’ll end up picking? Why am I already angsting about this??? XD

 

 

Octopath Traveler demo impressions: Primrose >>> Olberic

I might blog more in the coming weeks. I’m kind of in the mood, but I make no promises. It took me a long time to type up this post, haha. Totally need to get back into the groove. Anyway, I really can’t not talk about the demo of Project Octopath Traveler, the Switch-exclusive neo-retro JRPG that Square Enix is going to bless us with next year. When a trailer for the game popped up in the Switch presentation at the start of this year, I was immediately in love with it. Visually it was amazing. Not just nostalgic, but atmospheric and full of detail. The soundtrack was excellent. The trailer also promised a large world and nonlinear gameplay – which made Octopath Traveler sound like the game of my dreams, more or less.

Last month’s demo shed some light on how this is going to work out, although I suspect that there are still things we don’t know for sure. There are going to be eight playable characters, each with their own backstory, starting location and reason to go on an epic journey. The other seven characters can be recruited into the party during the story, but the demo does not answer how exactly this aspect is going to be handled. For the most part, the demo shows off two of the eight characters, and demonstrates how their unique abilities influence both the battles and the exploration portions of the game.

The warrior Olberic can challenge NPCs to a duel, with different results: defeating an NPC in battle might get you access to a door they were blocking, or it might be the solution to a sidequest where they need to have some sense knocked into them.

The dancer Primrose has the ability “Allure”, where she seduces NPCs into going with her. You can have these characters help you in battles, or you can take specific NPCs to specific places as part of a sidequest.

Interestingly, the demo contained a few sidequests that could be solved with either of these abilities, but with different outcomes. I got the vague feeling that these different outcomes might have further consequences later on, although that may just be wishful thinking on my part. It would certainly result in every player getting a somewhat different experience, just as advertised! Especially if we assume that everyone is going to be using different characters and thus have different abilities at their disposal to solve sidequests.

But now I must talk a little bit about why Primrose >>>> Olberic.

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The fun I had last week: RPG Maker Fes!!

OK, to be honest, the past week was … too hot, exhausting, and all I did was work and sleep. Friday, of course, saw the release of Ever Oasis and RPG Maker Fes. I have not played Ever Oasis yet, but RPG Maker is a lot of fun!

RPG Maker Fes has its limitations, compared to the PC versions, which allow for a lot of customization. But that’s understandable, isn’t it? After all, you can share your games online, so there probably needs to be a limit to file sizes and a way to make sure no one contributes inappropriate or copyrighted images, sound files etc. Limitations are also good for creativity, because they make you try to figure out what you can do with the things you have at your disposal. And let’s not underestimate the following factor: Since there’s no option of custom graphics or sound, there is no pressure to use them. You fall into this trap where you think you have to create unique graphics before you can actually start making the game, and don’t end up stuck in the planning phase. Well, at least that’s what I imagine it’s like for many people, especially those that do not have an actual talent for pixel art …

I’ve been surprisingly productive with RPG Maker Fes over the weekend, although I started without a plan. Not that I don’t have game ideas, but I let myself be inspired by the available character designs and chipsets and came up with a completely different idea. And … I don’t really have a proper plan for the game. Right now, I am stuffing a small town full of details and interaction possibilities. I made a first little “sidequest” which took hours and was really complicated because it required several switches and I am easily confused!

There seem to be a lot of RPG Maker veterans who are disappointed by the limits of this version of the program, but it’s probably a really good RPG Maker for beginners, exactly because of these limitations. Obviously, you have to look for tutorials elsewhere, since the program itself contains no detailed explainations, but you can build a nice little game without getting bogged down with the pressure to avoid standard chipsets and use custom scripts and all sorts of fancy things.

I hope this first game turns out well, because I’d really like it to be good enough to share online. After all, I am curious to know what other people think. But first things first. I must figure out the structure of this game. It shouldn’t be too long, but it needs to be able to tell some kind of story. Tricky, tricky. I have not really done anything with battle yet. It’s all town exploration so far. And one pretty elaborate cut scene, which I am very proud of.

 

 

Regarding the Bravely Second sidequest changes

Another sort-of-addendum to the old post about ethical choices in videogames, where I talked about the Bravely Second sidequests. You probably remember that Bravely Second‘s release in the west was met with some backlash due to several localisation changes. One job outfit was changed to avoid racist stereotyping, a few other outfits were slightly modified to show less skin, but most importantly: the way that the sidequests worked was amended.

Spoilers!

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