Xenoblade: Second Impressions

First impressions can be found here.

I’ve been playing for about 30 hours now, which is to say I have completed two more areas!

My opinion is now: Holy shit if you have a Wii, buy this game.  If you don’t have a Wii, seriously consider buying a Wii and then buying this game.  If you have ever enjoyed a classic RPG (Final Fantasy, Xenogears/XenoSaga, Chrono Trigger…) you need to play this game.  It is everything that was ever good about those games.

My main complaint is still combat (and graphics.  Yes, yes we know.)  I’ve “gotten used” to the combat but I still feel proper turn based combat would be better in every way.  They’re trying to go for a more action-y combat style with positioning and shit, but you can only control one character and it’s easy to get lost in a more complicated battle, especially when you start throwing fucking status effects in there.  The NPCs are not good at controlling shit so you kinda have to set them up and then hope they do the right thing at the right time.

Probably the worst thing about combat, the most easily FIXED thing, is that when you fight Mechon, you need to use Shulk’s blade to buff everyone else so they can actually hit them.  This buff expires.  If you fight multiple groups, it seems to wipe all buffs as soon as combat ends, so the first thing you do upon engaging is buff everyone, even if you literally just buffed everyone. Often the buff expires before you are done the fight.  You can upgrade the buff by spending exp on it which makes it last longer, but even then, why have this arbitrary limitation?  There have been a few times where I got caught up trying to watch my positioning and didn’t notice either the icon disappearing, the constant stream of “1” damage numbers from my allies, or their constant whining about needing the power of the Monado (everyone yells repetitively in combat and I never listen to them anymore…) and it wasn’t until I realized our power meter wasn’t filling anymore (and/or we started losing…) that I figured out the buff had expired on me -.-.  It is so pointless and unnecessary to have to keep reapplying the buff…

The second worst thing is how much stuff there is to react to.  You need to position yourself, you need to apply debuffs in the correct order, you need to respond to debuffs on YOUR party with cures or counterbuffs, and then shulk will have visions about what is coming up next and you need to react pre-emptively to THOSE with buffs or heals.  And you also have to pay attention to your team mates to see if they need to focus on your target (there’s a whole extra set of team commands hidden under the right button…), if they need encouraging or warning or reviving, and once the party meter is filled you have to set off a combo attack, but make sure you’re targetting the right thing before you do it, and then decide which attacks should come in which order.  I feel like if this were turn based I would love it.  As a real-time system, I find it a bit overwhelming and I tend to go grind a bit just to make sure I’m over-levelled and don’t have to think too hard.

The third worst thing is if your character gets whacked, even if your teammates have some oomph left in them, it counts it as a party wipe.  This was especially infuriating when I was ONE HIT away from defeating a boss and he turned around and wouldn’t drop aggro on me.  I was like “It’s okay he’ll go down in this h…. NOOOO FUCK.”  And then I did it over again -.-

The GOOD thing about the combat – so far I don’t think there is a single thing in this game which actually punishes you.  Except possibly selling your items (turns out you need the random “junk” items a hell of a lot more than you need the cash, FYI.  Which makes having a limited inventory kind of a bitch… but it’s a pretty big inventory…) but that’s not really “punishing” so much as “why didn’t you fucking tell me and now I have to do it again GOD DAMN IT”.  Dying doesn’t cost anything – it just dumps you at the last landmark you were at, and you keep everything that was gained since.  At one point I charged headlong into a room of monsters and was involved in a fairly epic battle for the next several minutes, but eventually I was overcome.  Then I went back and tried luring them out and picking them off bit by bit and was fairly successful, until I got to the big guy at the end and he wiped the floor with me singlehandedly.  Turns out I wasn’t actually supposed to fight them at all and there was a sneakysneaky way of doing it, but I didn’t lose anything for trying.  In fact, I gained a level for killing off most of the room (twice) and all I lost was the time it took me to walk from the nearest landmark.  I had a bit of trouble with a boss that had a gimmick, too, because I charged him when I was a bit underlevelled for the encounter, so everyone kept getting their asses kicked before I got to the point where I could activate the ability that would advance the fight.  I died over and over and over again, but each time I gained some experience from the fight itself and eventually got to the point where I survived long enough to advance.  Inefficient grinding of levels, sure, but at least I wasn’t completely wasting my time trying it.

The story.  My first post was before I had really done much in the game.  I had met the major antagonists and seen what motivates our hero to get off his ass, and that was it.  I spent the rest of my time running around the colony collecting bugs for people.  Now I’ve gone a bit of the way along the story and I really want to know what happens next.  They’ve done a good job of making me care about these characters already, and I’ve still only scratched a tiny groove into the surface of this thing.  I’m horrified to report I’m even somewhat interested in unlocking the lame-ass “Heart to Heart” events and have been gifting items to party members to make them love me more.  I don’t think I’ve been this invested in character relationships since Chrono Trigger… maybe FFX.
[UPDATE] A quick amendment to say that the only thing that would make this game better would be a cannon to fire all of the Nopon into the stratosphere.  Melia is kind of a jerk too but I feel like her character has room to develop, at least.  Fucking Nopon really have nowhere to go but down…[/UPDATE]

The bad guys are a little cheesy so far.  I was all set to believe there was some sort of misunderstanding, but then they started talking and welp.  Turns out they’re just huge dicks.  Huge dicks with stereotypical UK accents.  Their motivations are extremely unclear at this point in the story, to the degree where it’s pretty much “They are evil so that is why they are dicks”.  I fully expect some reveals in the story later to show why they are dicks.  If there isn’t one it will actually be a pretty big knock on the writing… but I trust the writers so far.  And I’m avoiding the hell out of spoilers because I’m really enjoying the story.

Questing sort of unravelled itself as I got used to it… every area loads you up with tons of little “kill X of these” “collect X of those” quests, but you can just collect them and hope it happens at some point.  I don’t think I’ve ever had to actually seek out any of those things, they just sort of come as I play (but I spend a lot of time exploring to finish my collectables!).  Then occasionally you will come across a bigger quest which has more specific goals and better rewards.  This is when the ability to fast jump to any landmark you’ve seen starts to come in really handy.  I really love that the game is sort of “chill”, like “okay do whatever you want”.  There’s no consequence for dicking around, there’s no consequence for rushing forward (unless you get really underlevelled… but even then you get experience for failing, so…), there’s no consequence for jumping all over the map, there’s no consequence for skipping quests (most of them you can go back and do anyway.  There are a few points of no return that will cut off some quests, but there are SO MANY quests that even I am not compelled to do all of them…), there’s no consequence for just fucking trying something ridiculous to see what happens. I don’t even think there’s a consequence for not using certain party members – they still gain exp if they’re on the shelf. I guess they might not gain affinity though.  Not only are there no consequences for dying, but often there are achievements (which award exp) for dying in particularly horrible ways.  I even got an achievement for using the fast travel to move like two feet to the left (something about being lazy.  Hrrmph!).  It’s like the game is “Cool, you’re still playing.  Have a cookie!”

I’m currently on my way allllllll the way back to the starting area because I have a fuckload of gems I should try crafting, and I have a couple quests to return back there, and I have a couple items that are needed to rebuild the city that I think I can gather near there.  The main quest is sort of sitting there waiting for me but I’m just too busy right now dammit!

Xenoblade: First Impressions

I say First Impressions because, despite putting 6 hours into it so far, I haven’t actually left the first town and have barely started the story.  But I can certainly comment on some of the mechanics!  And when I’m done, 200 hours from now, I’ll have forgotten everything I was going to say anyway, so I may as well start now.

I was in the mood for something RPGish and needed something engaging to do while using the recumbent bike, so a console RPG seemed like a perfect fit.  Our Wii library is pretty anemic, and Xenoblade has been coming up in a lot of conversations, so it seemed like a safe bet.  So far it was the correct choice – my hour on the bike disappears, and then I just keep going to finish up whatever I was doing.  If only my butt didn’t go numb, I’d be in amazing shape by the end of this game…

Despite putting only 6 hours into it, I seem to have a lot to say

Legend of Fae

One of my intended purposes for this blog was to bring some attention to the quality of smaller, little known things that might otherwise get overlooked.  I feel like Legend of Fae deserves some attention.

It’s a typical match three game, but it’s got a lot of unique elements to it which really make it stand out.

For one, the graphics are decent.Legend of Fae 1

For two, it’s an RPG, and it actually has good writing.  The story is keeping me interested and I want to know what happens next.

The gist of it is that shit is happening and our protagonist sets out to locate her missing family member.  Along the way, she runs into some friendly elementals who help her out.

Gameplay has a lot of simple elemental matching: fire beats grass, water beats fire… etc. etc.  In the mix are some other elements though.  For one, there are “walk” tiles which make you… well… walk… and get to the next story element.  While in combat, those tiles also make you dodge.  There are also some other action tiles that do various things.

The game includes a combat element.  You match tiles to power up your elemental friends, then click up on the battle screen to direct them to attack things.  This is where your matching kicks in – send your fire guy to attack the grass dudes, water guy to attack fire dudes… you’ll figure it out.  So each game involves a lot of swapping between the two game boards, which I wasn’t too keen on at first but I got used to it.


The battle board


Properly matched elements result in huge bonuses







Monsters can drop items, which you can click on to collect.  I could really do without this.  Why do we have to CLICK on it to collect it?  Just pick that shit up automatically.  It’s busywork that can end up being a bit tedious.  The items they drop can result in fleshing out your story tome though which is nice.  I love collection elements in games.

The real RPG aspects come into play when clearing a stage can result in you collecting some upgrade items which you can use to make your elemental friends more powerful 2013-02-09_00004

Save up to make one super powerful, or upgrade all of them equally?  HMMM.

For the competitive streak in people, there are time attack options for getting through the stages.  Getting a good time requires efficient matching and proper elemental attacks in order to take things out in the fastest possible manner.  Fortunately, for people like me, it’s completely optional and you can just enjoy the game and story without worrying about the clock.

It’s a great little timewaster with much deeper elements than your typical match three, and I highly recommend checking it out.