@angryjedi Bruh, just how many quests ARE THERE in Xenoblade’s first town and adjacent cave? This is fucking nuts. I’ve spent seven hours of the game just in the first general area, and WTF are level 30 and 70 enemies doing around here?!
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@angryjedi Well I’ve actually only played for like 30 minutes, but I’m getting the feeling that I’m probably not going to give a damn about the story/world.
The gameplay feels great – it basically feels like a western combat system properly written around a controller, but I have seen very little so far to convince me that the writing is any different than typical JRPG generic shonen writing. Same goes for the art style, but we’ll see.
The other part of the problem is that, since solving my computer’s heat issues, I can now play The Witcher 2 again since it no longer threatens to fry my GPU, and it’s starting to pull me back in. And that’s WITHOUT having upgraded to Enhanced Edition. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to do that though: Try to download the 12GB upgrade which has been failing for a lot of people, try to re-download the whole game on GOG which will take a 25GB bite out of my data cap, or re-buy it on a disc for $50.
PC games are getting too big. This is precisely why I bought the physical PC version of RAGE. Plus that game was Steamworks which meant I got all the benefits of Steam anyway. Same for Skyrim, Fallout New Vegas, and Deus Ex Human Revolution.
@redswir1 Your call — and it’s nice to have the option for once — but be aware you’ll be missing out on both some truly brilliant voice acting as well as a lot of the characterisation; a lot of speech comes during and after battle, and that stuff isn’t subtitled. The post-combat conversations between specific party lineups are a highlight, and you’ll miss out on that by playing in Japanese.
Just slammed in Xenoblade. I think I’m going to be playing this in Japanese. Sorry @angryjedi.
@cgrajko I personally will get back on New Vegas as soon as I’m done with Xenoblade, which has taken an entire week to ship to me. Pre-ordered from Nintendo and don’t even have the game in my hands yet.
@bowlisimo I am strange. I freely acknowledge this. There’s something about my brain that seems to operate in a very messy, lots-of-things-going-on way. Ask my high school biology teacher, who firmly believed I was sitting there in the back of the class screwing around and not learning a damned thing until I took the AP exam and was one of only two students that year to achieve a 4 or better.
I don’t quite read a book a day, but I do tend to work on several books at the same time rather than sequentially, unless one happens to really engage me in which case I will chew through it with the combined fury of Johnny 5 and a wood chipper. I devoured Erin Bow’s Plain Kate, which won last year’s TD Award (it’s a Canada thing). Young adult novel, yes, but I am in the camp that doesn’t give a damn if I am reading things that are “age appropriate” or not. The young adult space often cares a lot more about telling a good story than the adult fiction space does, and a lot of the people working in it feel more free to experiment and try interesting things. Plain Kate was really good – a fairly dark fantasy with a villain who is both interestingly sympathetic and prone to doing horrific things. Also, some positively searing treatments of grief. The author had recently experienced a death. It shows.
I finished it in well under 12 hours, even with a work day in the middle, and promptly pushed it on Mark. I don’t think he regrets letting me do it.
Actual game talk: Enjoying Xenoblade very much. Oh, story-laden adventures with piles of character-based stuff to do, how I love thee. I don’t even care that there’s grinding to do.
It’s very “classical” feeling somehow, Xenoblade. You have your Ancient Tech, you have your Organic/Inorganic Conflict, you have your Absolutely Not Elves, No Really, you have your Callow Youths and your People In Totally Implausible And Hilarious Clothes. (I admit it, I love the increasingly ridonkulous outfits. My healer is currently running around in some sort of bikini-and-hot-pants-with-feathers ensemble.) I have not yet had the Nuclear Stand-In Superweapon make an appearance, but am guessing it’s in there. A couple of instances of “What the Hell, Hero?” but so far nothing like the sheer levels of party stupidity we saw in Dragon Quest VIII (which was a fine game, but good lord did I want to smack those people upside the head the third or fourth time they let the MacGuffin fall into The Wrong Hands.)
I find I feel weirdly affectionate toward the title, foibles and all. It’s trope-tacular, but that’s just fine.
And I am positively dying to get my hands on a copy of Ni No Kuni. Level 5 + Studio Ghibli? YES PLEASE. Preferably immediately. The only things I might await with more slavering delight are a new Thief game or Persona 5. Or, you know, some goddamn resolution on the Gabriel Knight business, which may or may not ever happen.
@bluesforbuddha Re: North London villains — they kind of grow on you. I hated Metal Face’s voice when I first heard it, but it really does grow on you after a while. It’s certainly a far cry from the usual generic Alan Rickman accent we have for villains. “YOU ‘AVIN A LARRRRF, MONADO BOY?! BWAHAHAHA!” The Skeletor comparison is a good one.
Having been playing a ton of SD titles recently, I realised that I’m not really missing HD. Shadow Hearts, Xenoblade, The Last Story; all of them look just fine in the resolution they run at — good, even. If you don’t believe me, wait until you see Satorl Marsh or the massive Makna Forest waterfall in Xenoblade, or any scene that involves the sun being out in The Last Story — that game has fricking incredible lighting.
I’m not saying they wouldn’t be better in glorious high resolution-o-vision, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the experience. And as we discussed on the JRPG episode, doing high-res assets would likely make them prohibitively expensive — I’d rather be able to play these games in SD than not at all.
10 hours in to The Last Story, and I have another status report for you that will likely be another wall of text. (@shingro, buddy, worry not about posting walls of text — we made our name with massive walls of text, after all. So long as you continue to use paragraph breaks, we’re all good. )
Bold statement: The Last Story is the Uncharted of JRPGs.
Let me clarify that statement somewhat, as it most certainly is somewhat bold. The comparisons are apt though, in several important areas.
Firstly, the characters and their chemistry. The Last Story has a great cast made all the more distinctive by their regional British accents. We have a feisty Lancashire lass who enjoys drinking and fighting (much like real Lancashire lasses), a softly-spoken Ewan MacGregor-style Scot who enjoys chasing the ladies, a dreamy-voiced hippy chick who comes out with some of the most hilarious deadpan dialogue in the whole game and numerous others. Probably the least interesting character voice-wise is Our Hero, but this makes him somewhat easier for the player to stamp their own identity on, particularly as, unusually for a JRPG, you often get to choose what he says.
The characters by themselves aren’t what gives this game Uncharted levels of charm, however. It’s the banter between them during combat, the incidental conversations during downtime, and the way they respond to one another. You get a very firm sense of who these people are, and while there’s your fair share of standard RPG tropes (killed parents, burned down villages, mysterious dark pasts) they take a backseat to how these characters are with each other. Over the course of the game, rather than sticking with the same party lineup, you’re often thrown into situations where you’re given the opportunity to spend some more intimate time with one or two of them, and in the process you get to find out what makes them tick and what makes them the person they are.
This leads on to the second point: structure and pacing. Many JRPGs are guilty of having so much content that they drag on and on and on. In some cases (Xenoblade and Persona spring immediately to mind) the 100 hours is very welcome, because there’s plenty of stuff to do and the world is just simply an enjoyable place to hang out. But in others (FFXIII, FFXIII-2) there’s a sense that you’re simply running around doing stuff that just plain doesn’t matter in an attempt to ensure you’re badass enough to take down the final boss.
This doesn’t happen at all in The Last Story. You’re constantly moving forward from plot point to plot point, rarely getting bogged down in exploration or level grinding. The plot’s pace isn’t artificially stalled by reams of sidequests for you to complete before you move on. It’s split into Uncharted-like “chapters”, each based around a specific location for you to work your way through in a mostly linear fashion, and each incorporating a number of battle scenarios which must be beaten in order to move on, much like how Naughty Dog’s opus leaps from “talky bit” to “explorey bit” to “shooty bit” and then back again.
Like Uncharted mixes things up in its shooty bits, though, so too does The Last Story with its battle sequences. The basic mechanics are rather simple and don’t change a huge amount over the course of the game, but the application thereof changes a huge amount. In one scenario you might be hiding behind a wall, firing crossbow bolts at skeletons to lure them away from their compatriots, before leaping out and hitting them with a powerful “Slash” attack that shatters them into pieces. In another, you might be accompanied by six or seven other people and tasked with ensuring that everyone knows their place and does the right thing. In boss fights, you may find yourself tanking, or running up a wall to leap down onto an enemy’s head, or riding atop a giant monster and stabbing it repeatedly in the head Colossus-style. Couple this with the destructible scenery which can often be used to your advantage, the third person shooter mechanics, the “Gathering” system which draws aggro onto your character and allows mages to cast their spells quicker, and you have a system quite unlike any other JRPG you’ve ever played.
The game’s linearity works in its favour by ensuring that the game is always moving. You never feel obliged to simply run around in circles in an area level grinding. It’s the polar opposite of Xenoblade in many ways — short (about 20 hours, from what I have heard), scripted, linear and setpiece-based vs. Xenoblade’s lengthy (100+ hours), sprawling, open world and quest-based nature — but the two games do what they do exceedingly well. Both tell interesting stories in very different ways. Both have casts of memorable characters. Both offer extremely convincing examples of how and why the JRPG could and should adapt.
In short, both are essential plays for any RPG fan. And yes, they’re worth acquiring a Wii for.
Pandora’s Tower has a lot to live up to.
Good morning all! Hope you’re well. I am super-busy but I have been lurking and reading. Very interested by all the Dark Souls talk, though I sort of feel I should beat Demon’s Souls first. Maybe. Glad to see you on the console train too, Bowls — add me on PSN when you get a chance, Angry_Jedi. You’ll probably only see me “playing” EA Sports Active 2 on there at the moment as my primary gaming focus is — sorry, Mark — Xenoblade Chronicles.
I’m about 60something hours in and the game is continuing to surprise and delight me. I finally have my full party now (no spoilers) and by far the best thing is the fact that you can play each and every party member whenever you want (assuming the story dictates they’re all together, which is the vast majority of the time). The cool thing about this is that they all play differently, meaning if you’re getting bored of playing one particular character all you have to do is switch to someone else and be able to play in a very different style. The fact none of them quite fall into your usual RPG archetypes helps, too.
To give you an idea (without names, as those could be spoilers) — you have a roguey-type, who specialises in debuffing enemies and backstabbing them; a tanky type who soaks up damage and manages aggro; a healer type who also specialises in ranged attacks; a magey type who either buffs the party with summoned elementals or fires said elementals at enemies to cause damage; another aggro-management type, but rather than being a tank, he has super-high agility so dodges a lot of the attacks; a strong character with bizarre skills; and a customizable character where the gear you equip determines the “role” they’ll take in the party. Then you have the “premonition” system, where occasionally you’ll get advance warning of an incoming special attack and will have a matter of seconds to do something about it, either by doing something yourself or warning one of your other party members (which allows you to trigger one of their abilities). And on top of that, you have the “affinity” system, where characters who like each other more will work better together in combat and even shout different things at one another while fighting.
So that’s all good. No idea how far through I am in terms of the whole thing yet.
Alongside that, I’ve been playing Edmund “Super Meat Boy” McMillen’s new title The Binding of Isaac, which @cptcarnage mentioned below. It’s both horrifying and darkly hilarious, and strangely addictive. I haven’t beaten it yet, but it has that quality that makes you want to try again and again and again — helped hugely by the fact that the mix of items you get on each playthrough is completely different, and the effects of certain items are randomised, too. There’s some nice references to other games in there (the whole game is a Zelda 1 parody) and if you can stomach some really quite distasteful humour then there’s a lot to like. Check it out.
Finally, I find myself strongly drawn towards Bohemia Interactive’s upcoming Take On Helicopters — a helicopter game without any shooting in it. It’s a civil aviation sim, but in an unusual twist it has a story mode, too. Also, rather than simply flying around aimlessly as in Microsoft Flight Simulator (incidentally, one of the most poorly-optimised games I’ve ever seen — despite being a few years old it still runs like a dog on my new rig) you have actual missions to do, a number of which are procedurally-generated. I’m getting SimCopter flashbacks — and, man, I loved that game.
@unmanneddrone Funnily enough, I made the exact Daytona comparison in my mind earlier — particularly on the more “sensible” speed-type tracks. It felt like a Sega racer in the best possible way. I’m enjoying the new focus on drift-driving, too — reminds me of Ridge Racer. Looking forward to getting stuck in — it seems noticeably more difficult than past TM titles. Getting gold on the first track took a LOT of effort!
@bluesforbuddha Don’t forget that The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower are set to come to Europe, too, I believe — so if you mod your Wii for Xenoblade and don’t destroy it you’ll be able to play those when the European editions come out, too. The Wii, she has plenty of life in her yet. I’ve actually been planning on modding my Wii at some point for the express purpose of playing Trauma Team, but haven’t had the guts to do it as yet.
Hello all. I’m moved in to my new place, though I haven’t finished unpacking as yet — and no Internet yet, so I’m writing this from my girlfriend’s mother’s house, who kindly offered to let me come and leech her Wi-Fi to come and do my work when the coffee shops weren’t really an option. (They were today, but it’s a bank holiday, so they close early and I didn’t have much change for parking.)
Glad to see some chin-stroking over Deus Ex. I’m avoiding all spoilers and discussion until I get a chance to get to it, which likely won’t be some time as I’m having a lot of fun with Xenoblade Chronicles. Sure, the resolution of the graphics stinks and the lipsyncing is FFX-bad, but the game itself is A1-quality gold. I realise I mixed metaphors there but balls to it I say. BALLS.
The game takes the cool stuff about FFXII — exploring, sidequests, buffing up characters — and turns everything up to the max. So instead of straight “go kill this big thing” quests, you get a nice mix of “kill [x] amount of this specific enemy”, “find me [x] of this shiny thing lying around in the field or by trading with other characters”, “talk to these people and sort out their interpersonal dilemmas” and, of course “go kill this big tough thing”. The plot makes surprisingly few compromises for typical JRPG tropes, too — 5 hours in and one of the main characters is already apparently permadead — in a surprisingly gruesome fashion, too.
As for character development, you have a nice amount of control, though it’s not quite as freeform as FFXII. Characters have “Arts” and “Skills”. Arts are active abilities and can be levelled up by spending Arts Points, acquired after battle. Skills are passive abilities learned from one of three linear paths which can be switched at any time, each offering a passive bonus and a gradually-increasing number of additional effects. Equipment can also be augmented with gemstones which you plug in, and which can be crafted by using crystals acquired from enemies. Then there’s plenty of equipment which, unusually for a JRPG, actually affects the appearance of your characters. And on top of THAT, you have the “Affinity” system, where party members who like each other offer buff-providing words of support to each other in battle, helping to increase their morale, which in turn increases their likelihood to hit and score criticals.
For all the complex systems going on at once, it plays beautifully smoothly and simply, and the interface is straightforward to navigate and use. The camera’s a bit crap at times but since this isn’t an action game, it won’t kill you.
In short, it’s a very good game. It’s something of a mystery as to why it’s on the Wii, but you (Jeff) shouldn’t let that put you off — assuming you still have one, of course.
@angryjedi Shit. Why does the one JRPG that sounds like it was made for westerners not get released in the biggest western territory?! Whenever people talk about this I have visions of some other publisher picking it up for a PS3/360 version in a massive “fuck Nintendo” move. Now when I say that I don’t mean Nintendo the company as a whole, mainly just NOA (Nintendo of America). This ain’t the first time we got ignored like this. The Mother franchise, all the surprisingly good wargames (I use that term loosely) they made between 1988 and 2001, etc.
I mean I understand that North America is probably the most expensive territory in which to release games, but Nintendo’s problem is that they rarely, if ever, do ANYTHING for the niche, to the point where I wonder if they even know how. The only example I can think of off the top of my head is even allowing a Sin & Punishment 2 to exist. Unless your RPG is Dragon Quest, don’t get Nintendo to publish it if you want to release it in North America.
Anyway, I’m gonna go ahead and label Deus Ex here as a GOTY contender. I know fall season just got started, but this is literally the best game I’ve played all year, and quite a bit has already come out. I haven’t felt like this about anything that’s come out this year except possibly The Witcher 2.
This game’s only fault, as you guys no doubt know now, is the shitty engine it was built on. Square Enix – on both sides of the Pacific, has just been plagued with really terrible tech this generation. This game is actually running on a modified Tomb Raider Underworld engine. Similarly, Square Enix is only just now figuring out what to do with middleware this generation.
Many of Final Fantasy XIII’s problems stemming from SE’s old style of rebuilding their Crystal Tools engine for individual projects, they’re now scrapping the toolset entirely when they release XIII-2 and Versus XIII – whenever the fuck that is. They are replacing it with a combination of their own tech and what Eidos had Kane & Lynch 2 running on. The only props I can give SE tech-wise right now are that 1) FFXIII has some of the best IQ on the PS3, and 2) all of their PSP games look beautiful.
Oh, and swirving back to the games at-hand, the guys who made Human Revolution are basically the same team doing Thi4f. Think about that.
@unmanneddrone I was worried about the same thing, actually, but I was still curious what all the fuss was about. Turns out it was warranted.
What we have is an enormously deep RPG blending Western and Eastern mechanics together into one happy whole with a bitchin’ soundtrack. You like FFXI-style real time combat? Check. Persona-style social links (here called “Affinities”?) Check. Star Ocean-style party members yelling stuff at each other and having conversations in combat? Check. A billion collectibles? Check. Lots and lots of non-linear quests that you can feel free to ignore if you want? Check. The ability to predict (and defy) the future using a big red electric sword thing? Checkarrific. ENGLISH ACCENTS THROUGHOUT? GOOD SHOW!
@angryjedi That’s good to hear. I was curious as to whether, on account of the hoo-ha about it not getting a North American release, the talk surrounding Xenoblade was slightly inflated. Which is a ludicrous proposition upon retrospect.
I am forgoing Deus Ex in favour of Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s not often I get to play a game that you guys don’t so I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. And it looks like being an excellent game in the FFXII mould, too. More as it happens.