Etrian Odyssey 2: Things From Which to Run Upon Encountering

From the desk of Hester, Medic of Guild Fenril.

  • Giant caterpillars; they may look weak but they’ll take your arms off in a snap.
  • Giant birds; like roadrunner except the spawn of evil.
  • Giant swarms of butterflies.
  • Anything with ‘lord’ in its name; these are bad.
  • Anything with ‘king’ in its name; these are worse.
  • Anything that burns perpetually. This probably caused all the rumours about the second stratum by itself.
  • Mushrooms with legs; no one likes having to fumigate their clothing.
  • Ladybirds; they’re all friends with carnivorous flowers.
  • Floating eyes; these are about as bad as anyone could expect.
  • Winged lizards; they stink.
  • Mismatched monstrosities; they may look pretty or they may look ugly, but they all have sharp claws and beaks… or teeth… or spines, or…
  • Living statues; these make non-living statues.
  • Blue pumpkins; these are tougher than the statues.
  • Deer. Or, well, stags. They look like stags, but everyone calls them deer…
  • Anything that looks like anything else you’ve encountered before; it’s probably much stronger than you expect.

—–

So, finally, examinations are over for the academic year, so long as I don’t have to take resits. With any luck I’ll be able to finish off a couple of pieces that have been waiting since summer, now, or at the very least complete a few games.

Miniview: MyBrute (Browser)

MyBrute.

I love:
…um. Hm. Nothing, honestly. It’s personal taste, but I don’t even think most of the graphics top even the Dino-RPG ones. I just don’t care for most of the style. The pet dog is okay, though, I suppose.
…how you don’t have to register to play the game. I knew there was something I thought nifty about it. You CAN register and add a password to ‘your’ Brute if you don’t want anyone else consuming all the day’s fights, all three of them, leaving you with nothing to watch in the evening, but you don’t have to.

I like:
…the totally interactionless fighting. I don’t love it as much as I did for Dino-RPG, though, as whilst there are many more options available to your little AI-controlled Brute, it seems completely random what it will do next. At least the dino doesn’t seem so much like wilful underperformance or the roll of a die. There just doesn’t seem to be much in the way of intelligence in that AI, and every so often you’ll see it do something stupid like… throw away its weapon in favour of something with worse accuracy when one more attack would kill the opponent, or throw a net on a target and then immediately attack it, breaking said net. But it’s still relaxing watching the Brute fight, incidents like that aside.

I loathe:
…the complete and utter randomness of it all. You don’t control the fights; it’s soothing to watch, though. Less soothing is the almost utter lack of interaction everywhere else. The only ways you can have any effect on your Brute are in choosing who to fight – based on very incomplete information – or through recruiting new players. Both of which give your Brute experience, win or lose in the case of a fight. You’ll lose a lot; the AI is dumb, as mentioned above, and you can’t choose what your Brute gets on level – if there’s any logic to what stats, weapons or bonuses you get when you gain a level, I can’t see it. If everything were fair and balanced, this would be a screensaver, and boring at that. However…
…the sheer unbalanced-ness of some of the level bonuses. Some of the things a Brute may get when they level are just plain unbalanced; take… the pet Bear, for example, essentially an ambulatory Club. Or the axe, which does close to one-hit kills on Brutes with normal HP for their level and only just edges out the Club. Or Pugilist, which lets you get a free hit much of the time after you’re attacked. Thankfully, due to the whole ‘randomness’ thing, you don’t face things with these or other broken stats all the time, but it also turns out very frustrating when you find your Brute facing any Brute that, by luck, got a Halberd at the same point yours got something like a fruit knife. You can guess that anyone without high stats or HP has weapons or pets or further invisible bonuses instead, but other than that, you’ve no idea what you’re getting into.

Verdict:
Well, it’s from the same people who brought us Dino-RPG. Still not quite as bad, though it’s still rather ‘meh’. It’s Progress Quest with graphics and a limit on how much you can do each day.

Miniview: Dino-RPG (Browser)

Dino-RPG

I love:
…interaction-void battles. They’re simplistic – you always know what attack your dino is going to do next, if you can remember the highest-strength to lowest-strength order of its elemental attacks – but they’re just nice to watch.

I like:
…the art. It’s cartoony, yes, but it looks like Pokemon bred with Jade Cocoon; there are races of monsters, and then there are monsters within the races that focus on different elements, and as such have different appearances. The map isn’t bad, either; visitable locations are obvious, even if the routes between locations aren’t always what you expect.

I loathe:
…the slow-as-molasses and/or expensive recovery of HP. Okay. My one dino has 100 HP maximum. It is currently at 10 HP. Recovering to maximum without spending extra gold requires doing nothing for ninety hours. Because you only recover one point an hour. As for the ‘expensive’ part, you get around… 200 to 300 gold for a fight, and healing items cost 700 gold minimum… which gets you 10 HP, and you probably took damage in that fight, too. Apparently eventually you can find an item that lets you recover 5HP at midnight in a specific location. Wow. [/sarcasm]
…the inherent slowness of the game in general, come to think of it. Sure, you could buy extra dinos – at between 16000 and 20000 gold – to direct around, but it’s still only one action – one fight, one movement – every… five hours, now, and still ramping up. I think it’s eventually supposed to plateau around one action every twenty-four hours, barring buying an expensive item that gives you one extra action. From here, we leap to…
…how the game is seemingly designed to make you pay real money to get anywhere in any decently-quick length of time. The three ever-present labelled links on the left bar of the UI? The highest one is ‘Get Coins’, which takes you to a screen where you can spend real money. People moaned about how the Zork online game seemed made to take your money, but this one is worse. Zork, at least, grew on me and became soothing, even if I still can’t decipher how your chance of winning is calculated for a fight. Decent online games allow more than a single action a day – Legends of Zork allows 25 to 30 turns, stacking to somewhere around 99 if you don’t spend them. Kingdom of Loathing offers 30 to 50, unspent turns collecting up to 200 total. Billy vs SNAKEMAN depends on your rank, but can give you over 50 if you plan things well, but they don’t rollover. This game gives you one and one only, unless you buy those potions.

Verdict:
…meh. Initially promising in concept, but the incredibly-low limit on how many things you can do in the day is a real turn-off. Nice art will never save you from that. Go play Jade Cocoon, Azure Dreams or absolutely any other monster-raising game instead; nice art and good gameplay.

Miniview: Time Hollow (DS)

I love:
…seeing things change as you mess around with the past. Time Hollow takes a stance similar to that of Shadow of Memories, where whilst the present changes with the alterations you make in the past, the protagonist – the character making the changes – remains mostly untouched; he has flashbacks of the new present’s ‘memories’, which serve to tell you how and why the new present differs from the old one, but otherwise is the same person he was before the change happened.

I like:
…visual novels, in general. This is one of the odd genre of games that sits somewhere between pure visual novels and proper point-and-click style games, filled with puzzles; I uneasily class it as an adventure game, but it has far less puzzles than a game like Another Code, Hotel Dusk, or Flower, Sun and Rain contains. At times I found myself wishing for ‘better puzzles’, or a protagonist as quick on the uptake as the player, but Time Hollow focuses on telling a good story, to great effect.

I loathe:
…a few, nagging loose ends. On the whole, Time Hollow does a very good job of dealing with these, even if you’d need to make a diagram to keep everything straight, but there are a few points that are never really answered, or weren’t in the playthrough I just completed. They kind of stand out.

Verdict:
A pretty good game, though any ‘challenge’ involved is fairly non-challenging. It’s similar to games like this one or the Fedora Spade games, where you just need to make sure to examine everything and talk to everyone, and make a few deductions yourself, to move the plot on. That said, it – and those others – tell very good stories, and are all worth checking out if you enjoy that kind of thing.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia and Equipment

You know, I’m fairly certain the previous Castlevania RPG-platformers had more equipment available for their protagonists than this one.
I’m not talking about glyphs or weapons, though those surely make up a large segment of variety in equipment; they’re the most visible aspects of how you equip your characters, and have the greatest impact – each weapon/glyph has a different strength, element, area-of-effect, speed and appearance. I’m talking about defensive gear; armour, boots, hat and accessory.

I’m fairly late into the game, now, after a really long break spent playing other games; the Big Plot Twist – visible from miles away – has happened, and I’m finally wandering around a castle, having spent the rest of the game in forests, monasteries, mountain passes and wherever else the game took me through to increase playtime.
I have five hats, seven pieces of armour – mostly dresses – four boots, and fifteen different accessories. I don’t know whether it’s the game’s utterly abysmal normal droprate even for so-called ‘common’ items, or whether they really did skimp on the non-Glyph equipment, but even Soma had a better selection than this.