Finished my 3rd game of the blitz: Final Fantasy XIII-2 and had a lot of fun.
I know probably not many people will share my view on this but I think SE nailed the combat system in FF13, it's fast paced and while it's not nearly a requirement for most of the fights, switching paradigms and developing a strategy ends up being pretty fun and satisfying. I would even go as far as saying grinding for materials was not nearly as boring as it could entirely because the combat being a joy to play. The monster recruiting was pretty cool, even though I didn't exploit those mechanics fully, you get more than enough to take on any challenge efficiently and it adds a bit of variety to the party.
Regarding the overall game structure, FF13-2 goes the opposite direction of 13, the game is open ended from basically the start and while it's true you eventually get forced into the story path (be it because the monsters in a new area are too strong or because progress is blocked cause you need some key items) it's refreshing to be able to have that much choice after the first chapters of 13.
The story is the weakest point, some times being nonsensical and disjointed. It has some cool moments but didn't really feel compelled to experience it at any point. Feels like most stuff is there to get rid of pretty much the entire 13 cast for various reasons and force you to use new characters. At least the background of Caius was cool (somebody explain to me why he's in the wrong though).
I spent around 35 hours (50 in game) to get 100% with all fragments (which involves all superbosses, filling the bestiary, casino stuff and completing each map). Since the game allows backtracking to any point in the story, there's nothing missable so I was free to complete the story and come back later to get the rest of the stuff, which is another very cool feature (no need to constantly check if I'm missing something).
Regarding the DLCs, all of them were very mediocre imo. One involves playing poker, the second adds a couple coliseum fights and the last one (important for story reasons) consists on repeating a fight until you manage to 5 rank it and then beating the next fight, and it is pretty tedious. Advice to upcoming players: just lose on purpose until you level up enough, no need to spend 25 minutes winning the fight when the rewards are the same and you won't get 5 stars either way.
Another negative point was the PC performance. Firstly I had to disable Cloud saves to stop crashes. Then the loading screens take too long (specially when you move from the time map to an actual area, I'm talking about 30-45 seconds). I could literally enter some areas with enough time to get up and get a snack while the game loaded.
These inconveniences aside, I had a blast playing the game and can recommend it if solely for the gameplay. Some people might get enjoyment out of figuring out the story and all the motivations but that's not for me (at least for this game).
I'm currently playing Tengai Makyou Zero as the next game, but I'm looking forward to complete the Lightning trilogy.
Last weekend, I completed Zanki Zero: Last Beginning as part of RPG Blitz.
It's an interesting game from a mechanics perspective since there is a lot of obscure stuff in this game which didn't get explained very well. It can make the game very easy on some occasion, and needlessly hard on others. In this post, I'd like to talk a bit about it since I enjoyed my time with the game. There will be some light spoilers in regards to mechanics, and I'll talk about the story for a bit near the end of my post. The game itself is a real-time DRPG, with automapping, puzzles, and of course everyone's favourite: pit traps.
1. Risk and reward.
There are 5 difficulty levels to choose from, 3 of which are available from the start. The recommended difficulty is III, which provides a good balance between the number of enemies and the range of item drops. By increasing the difficulty, the number of enemies, spawn rate, hazards (traps and falling objects, for example), and boss drops or random drops increases. Also, the bosses from earlier stages (the game divides its chapters into stages, on which you'll fight a boss or more at the end of those stages) will start appearing. Drops are harder to come by in lower difficulty levels, but enemies won't respawn or they aren't very tough. I played with difficulty IV in my playthrough. I died a lot since the enemies are tough and they respawn really quickly. Sometimes, they respawn right in front of my party on a very narrow corridor leaving very little chance to escape. And sometimes, an escape will cost me. By a lot. Which brings us to the second item.
2. The immortal crew society.
Without revealing too much of the plot, all of the playable characters in the game has accelerated aging and will die within days. Luckily, there's a system in place to revive your characters each time they died, without any significant cost involved. In fact, the fastest way to get stronger is by dying (more on this later). Like normal humans, our characters will undergo growth stages. Each time a character revives, they will revive as children, become adults, then middle-aged, seniors and then died. As adults, they'll operate at their peak performance, and less when they are children since they'll suffer a penalty. The game didn't explain this part very well, compounded with the fact that the character sheet didn't have any stats on it. Furthermore, as you advance through many of the dungeon floors, the character will also advance in age as you moved up or down a floor, which makes escaping a sticky situation by moving floors very costly because you potentially will lose your party's peak potential.
3. What I do have are a very particular set of skills.
The game doesn't have classic stats (STR, DEF, DEX, etc.) written in the character sheet. Instead, we have a skill sheet. A character still gains XP like any RPG, and they'll also gain a skill point (SP) every level. There are 99 levels for each character, but there are not enough skill points available to purchase every skill available, and there is a cost associated with respeccing a character, which involves dying. Also, some skills are inherently better to be assigned to certain characters. You can also mitigate the performance penalty a character would have at their children growth stage by purchasing a skill, for example. Now, since you can't see your characters' stats, how do we know they got stronger?
4. What does kill you makes you stronger?
This is another part of the game which is pretty simple to understand, but it doesn't explain it very well for min-maxers. Basically, "Shigabane" is a system where a character will gain resistance or ability simply by dying and reviving. For example, if a character of old age, then they will have a day added into their lifespan upon reviving. However, this condition applies just once. If they died of old age the second time, they won't get another day added to their lifespan. Since the post-apocalyptic world of Zanki Zero is a dangerous one, there are plenty of these causes of death, ranging from natural causes (If dying within a fortnight can be described as natural), food poisoning, environmental hazards, from enemies and so on. There are dozens of Shigabanes and each come with a cute (or disturbing) card illustrating the causes. In this way, I make it a habit of having each member of my party die every so often (yes, that was a weird sentence to type) so they'll get stronger.
5. When nature calls.
Not enough with managing your health and stamina, there are a couple of other gauges we need to manage in this game: Stress and Bladder. A character may be more prone to stress during their children and adult growth stages, but less on middle-aged and senior stages. They might be stressing out if they got hit by enemies, or eating food they didn't like. By eating food to restore stamina, bladder level will increase and our characters will need to use the
facilities to relieve themselves. If the toilets are dirty, their stress level will increase. There is a performance penalty when their stress levels are high. To relieve stress, drinking tea or water will help them, or use a clean toilet. Now, spending a lot of time in the dungeon will deplete stamina, and by eating food, stamina will be restored, but bladder level will increase. You ever saw a toilet in the dungeons? Well, there are some toilets in there, but they're fucking filthy -- because the apocalypse happened. Cleaning toilets are the least of everyone's worries.
6. I love me some tentacles.
This is yet another aspect which is kind of obscure and the game only touches briefly without much explanation. By killing bosses at the end of each stage, a rare drop called "Clione" can sometimes be found. Without revealing too much of the story, suffice to say that these drops resemble tentacles of some kind, is rather powerful and can be transplanted into any of the playable characters, with various effects. However, their usage is limited, since it will corrupt the character each time it gets used and it can lead to imminent death. There are a lot of these to be found in every stage, and combining certain Clione can result in a powerful "Compound" effect. Think of it like "magic charges" in classic RPGs. Personally, I didn't use Clione that much since the damage output from high-level weapons are much higher and not limited by usage (apart from projectile weapons). Additionally, there is a special skill which is tied into a Clione usage on the final day of a character's lifespan. The character will die immediately when this skill is used.
7. Top bunk, or bottom bunk?
Weirdly enough, there is no real way to buff your characters in the dungeons. You can rest to restore your health and eat foodstuffs to restore stamina at any time, but improving character stats and abilities is something which needs to be done on the home base. One of the base facilities which can be built is Bedrooms. There are 8 bedrooms in total, one for each character. Sleeping in one for a night will restore their health and stamina to full. However, you can also bunk them in pairs for the night, for a penalty in stamina (which can easily be restored by eating food). By bunking them together, they'll gain various status effects which will help dungeon exploration. Additionally, it will improve their bond levels (Although I'm not sure if improving bond level also improve their hidden stats). I find it's beneficial to always bunking them together since the stamina penalty isn't significant.
8. I can't handle all these inventory slots.
If you hate limited inventory slots in RPG or if they have weight/carry capacity, then chances are you'll hate inventory management in this game. With only 11 inventory slots (4 for equipable + 7 other items) for each character, you'll be juggling inventory items on every dungeon floor, especially on higher difficulties where there are a lot of drops. Furthermore, each time a character dies, their inventory items will spill out to the floor and the remaining party members will need to pick up the pieces. Sometimes I was forced to leave all the treasure I gathered to avoid getting mobbed by enemies or bosses alike. It's kind of a nightmare at times because of each character's carry capacity is different, and they changed in size as they go into different growth stages. As children, they won't be able to carry much and will get weighed down really quickly, even when only their equipable are equipped. As adults, they'll be able to carry their maximum weight, and less so when they become seniors. Luckily, there is persistence in the way items are stored in the game. The dropped inventory items will remain in the dungeon if you return to its location after an emergency fast-travel to base, for example.
9. Night Trap
Warning: light spoilers regarding bonding events and character relationships.
I mentioned previously that by bunking your characters together, you can improve their bond level. Now, upon reaching certain bonding levels, you will be rewarded (if you can call it that) by gravure shots of each character in their undies (or lack thereof) . Now, I don't have a problem with it mostly -- except for a certain younger character, not only because of her age but also because she's bunking with her adopted brother , which weirded me out because the dialogue and scenario in their bonding event is almost sexually charged in nature. I think in retrospect, the censored stuff by that one platform holder makes sense in this case.
10. Glorious Nippon steel folded over 1000 times.
There is only one way to improve existing gear and weapons, that is by applying a certain item called "Strengthener" (how original). For weapons, they will boost the ATK stat and DEF for equipment. There are plenty of these Strengtheners to be found in every dungeon, but not nearly enough to enhance every piece of equipment. Furthermore, there's a limited number of upgrades per item. There's not much depth in this particular aspect, although you do need a few of the characters to have enough skill points in order to upgrade high-level gear.
Warning: spoilers on themes, main story arc.
There are other small aspects of the game I didn't elaborate, such as dungeon bonding events, food affinity, or hunting and gathering for example. But these aspects are small enough that it didn't make any significant impact on the gameplay. One last thing to mention: The Story. While the game's presentation is bright and cheerful and its characters are likable and seem well-adjusted, the game carries heavy undertones with some disturbing themes blackmail, bullying, abuse, incest, assult, and of course murder (maybe genocide is apter). Each character has their own story arc, with the main story tying the experiences of individual characters. I find the personal stories are more poignant and relevant, while the overarching main story has a decent ending, although it's riddled with the kind of arse-pulling plotlines often found in SUNRISE's mecha anime.
Still, the game is enjoyable enough, and I recommend it for blobber fans who like challenges and anime (in no particular order).
I finally started Elex today but only got about an hour and a half in. My early impressions:
+ The game so far runs amazingly well, far better than I could have anticipated given that we're talking a budget euro RPG here. It had all the hallmarks of being a buggy unoptimized mess and granted it could still turn out that way, but right now I'm able to run it maxed out at 1440p and get 90-100fps constantly. It doesn't look all that bad either!
+ This somewhat ties into the first point but I wanted to also say that I'm impressed with how fast everything loads. Even launching the game it only takes a couple of seconds before the logos start appearing. The actual game loading is mere seconds as well. Since the last few games I played on PC were Metro Exodus and AC Odyssey DLC I've gotten used to overly demanding and slow loading games.
+ The ranged combat appears to be pretty good. We all know combat is not piranha bytes' strong suit (I will come back to this soon....) so I was surprised when I tested a basic bow that the aiming is fairly normal, as if it was a shooter. I can see myself going this route as I get further and I'm anxious to get a hold of my first guns.
+ The jetpack. Such a simple idea and yet it dramatically changes how loot is placed in the world and how exploration is handled. I've already run into a couple of instances where using it got me to some unreachable areas.
- The melee combat. Oh dear god the melee combat is terrible... Granted it's probably an improvement over PB's past games but if it is it's improved by the barest minimum amount possible. It's so bad that I'm likely going to deviate from my normal RPG class and go for a magic character or a thief but one that specs in ranged combat. Anything to do the least amount of melee as possible lol. I really hope now that THQ owns them they'll get some more resources to improve on this front.
- This is a minor issue but there appears to be very little hit detection with ranged combat. When I was testing that bow I couldn't tell if I hit the enemy at all other than looking at their health bar. There was no visual indication like a tiny blood splatter appearing or the enemy flinching and there wasn't any other kind of feedback that I could see either like the controller doing a small rumble on a hit or the enemy screeching. Like I said it's a minor gripe and one I'll probably adjust to with enough practice.
So yeah Elex makes a very solid first impression. I'm looking forward to diving into it more.
I think I'm close to the end of the 4th "chapter" in Pathfinder The Bloom. Just have to finish off this area for the story stuff, then run out the clock for the side missions. I'm still enjoying it a lot though, even if the side stuff gets pretty repetitive
So I'm 42 hours in, and probably around 40% done with the game now.
I like my halfing sorcerer MC, charisma out the wazoo so whenever there's a diplomacy or persuasion option in the dialogue I take it. But all my damn good actions have shifted me from Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Good. I only want to help my people out of my own self-interest, I can't rule an effective kingdom if my subjects are dead.
Finished my 4th game of the blitz, Tengai Makyou Zero. A translation patch is needed (or knowing japanese of course) and luckily one has been released a couple of years ago.
Long story short, it's great, and I think if it came out in the west at its time with a translation and proper marketing it would've been recognized as one of the greatest games of the SNES. Tengai Makyou is a series with quite a few games on it (I believe most of them are not translated), but you don't need to have played any previous one to enjoy this game.
The general gameplay is pretty normal by JRPG standards, you have a 3-member party and can swap the 3rd member for another one at will in the second half of the game. There's an overhead map with towns and of course, random battles (with a pretty high frequency, it gets a bit annoying at some points). The difficulty is a bit unbalanced in general, I felt like the first few "chapters" were hard while at the end you get really overpowered because of some items you get and the game gets extremely easy, to the point I removed a few of those in order to feel like I was actually being challenged.
The story of the game is kinda cliche (you are the chosen one and the only one who can defeat the ancient evil that has come back to the world) but nonetheless it holds a few surprises and interesting twists. There's a certain interaction in the later part of the game that was surprising and I felt moved by it. The premise is that you have to travel through 6 kingdoms and rescue the god of each kingdom that's been sealed by the evil forces. There is a pretty good amount of optional stuff on each kingdom if you stray away from the main path, in fact you can finish the game without most of the magic/techniques if you don't take the time to explore.
A very particular thing about the game is that it uses a real time clock via a special chip in the system or something like that. This influences certain events in the game, most importantly certain shops availability (and prices) and where some characters appear. For example, you learn magic through interacting with hermits, one of them likes to talk with a fellow hermit during "work hours" and you won't get him to teach you during that time, you have to find him after those hours in another place and only then he'll help. There're also some festivals on certain dates (one per month). I didn't get the chance to experience myself but saw some footage and it looks cool.
As another side-effect of the use of this chip, the graphics are really gorgeous. I usually don't pay attention to graphics on games but I was surprised by how well it looked and some of the animations the game was capable of rendering.
The only (minor) thing I can complain about besides the uneven difficulty is a section in one of the last kingdoms where the game switches genre to a fighting game and it felt awful. The controls are awkward and poorly explained, and it feels unfair at some points. Didn't really see a point to it besides just throwing an odd ball at the player.