This week I have been mostly playing...

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The Rocketeer

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby The Rocketeer » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:05 am

John wrote:...Zelda games now have plot and lore...
That's stretching the truth a bit, but—

John wrote:...these things somehow matter...
Whoooaaaa, let's not go crazy, here!

Zelda canon exists solely for the sake of convenience, to justify making more Zelda games, and there's absolutely no point in drawing any kind of continuity or theme between any of the games, even the ones supposedly directly following certain other ones. Which makes it especially embarrassing when the creators themselves try to do so.
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Humanoid

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Humanoid » Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:56 am

Well here's hoping Breath of the Wild becomes the first Zelda game I play for more than half an hour. Bought the game yesterday despite my lack of actual console, and shall try it over the Christmas holidays at my sister's place (though I suspect we'll spend most of the time with Mario Odyssey co-op). I'll then see if I can buy a console or two early next year. (There was a fantastic deal this past weekend for an OLED TV + XBoneX but unfortunately it was Sydney-only)

Petty as it is, I don't like any of the currently available pack-in controller colours for the Switch. I like the yellow ones available separately, and would take the Splatoon Pink+Green combo if offered (no interest in Splatoon itself though).

Meanwhile, I'm playing co-op Saints Row 3 as a filler before the holidays. Doubt we'll come anywhere near to finishing it, but didn't want a game with a large time investment this close to the holidays. Besides, the online co-op cupboard is pretty bare at the moment after DOS2 - the hit co-op games this year mostly feature local multiplayer only.
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SpammyV
Contact:

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby SpammyV » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:08 am

John wrote:Speaking as a man who hasn't played a Zelda game since the very first one, the idea that Zelda games now have plot and lore and that these things somehow matter is utterly baffling to me.


Lore matters less because of the LITERAL LEGEND HYPOTHESIS which states that any game that's not a direct sequel to another game is actually a separate legend with a different storyteller, thus explaining any differences in between games. The true story of Hyrule might never be known, it might be a Secondhand Lions deal where the truth of the matter means less than the impact the story makes on people's lives.
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The Rocketeer

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby The Rocketeer » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:52 am

You mean the way Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto always said they considered the games while swearing up and down that there was no unified timeline, and that trying to link the games into any sort of continuity would make no sense? Before they revealed that they had always planned the games as part of an explicit, unified timeline that makes no sense? Yes, that's obviously the superior perspective for considering the Zelda games.
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John

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby John » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:11 pm

Geez guys, all I meant was that the original Zelda was just a bunch of stuff to do presented with almost zero in-game context. It's been decades, but to the best of my recollection the names Link, Zelda, Ganon, and Tri-Force only ever appear in the manual. The only proper name I can recall appearing within the game itself is Dodongo (who hates smoke). I see you guys arguing about what the Tri-Force can do and I'm just surprised by the idea that it does anything at all.
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Trix2000
Location: California

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Trix2000 » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:25 pm

The Rocketeer wrote:You mean the way Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto always said they considered the games while swearing up and down that there was no unified timeline, and that trying to link the games into any sort of continuity would make no sense? Before they revealed that they had always planned the games as part of an explicit, unified timeline that makes no sense? Yes, that's obviously the superior perspective for considering the Zelda games.
I've long been of the opinion that the timeline is a bollocks red herring, used at best to give the series a feeling of progression and continuity but ultimately not actually relied on much, if at all.

I suspect if they use it at all, it's just for a bit of framing and guidance... not for actually keeping the specifics straight. To me, it seems obvious they create their stories such that they serve well individually, and they are willing to bend the rules and situation significantly for each game to serve the way they want things to feel (and whatever gameplay mechanics happen to be core). So any attempt to try to reconcile all the differences and see it for some grand over-aching design is grasping at straws, I feel.

It makes me kinda wonder why some people put so much focus on the timeline in the first place, because I have a sneaking suspicion they didn't bother with one for quite a while but changed their minds just to throw fans a bone (the result being sort-of hacked together in my mind). Did it all start because of Ocarina -> Majora? Because that is one of the few cases where there is actually explicit continuity.

John wrote:Geez guys, all I meant was that the original Zelda was just a bunch of stuff to do presented with almost zero in-game context. It's been decades, but to the best of my recollection the names Link, Zelda, Ganon, and Tri-Force only ever appear in the manual. The only proper name I can recall appearing within the game itself is Dodongo (who hates smoke). I see you guys arguing about what the Tri-Force can do and I'm just surprised by the idea that it does anything at all.
To be fair, that game was back on the original Nintendo, limiting how much could be stored/written... combined with much more old-fashioned game design paradigms. At the time, gameplay was pretty much 99% of game experiences with any 'stories' mostly made up of framing inside the game's manual. Original Zelda was ultimately just a "have an adventure!" game, with the Triforce/Zelda being more of an end goal macguffin (which I don't know if they even mention for most of the game).

Of course, as time passed and the standards for games rose, the series had to adapt to keep up... and actual writing has been a big part of that.

SpammyV wrote:Lore matters less because of the LITERAL LEGEND HYPOTHESIS which states that any game that's not a direct sequel to another game is actually a separate legend with a different storyteller, thus explaining any differences in between games. The true story of Hyrule might never be known, it might be a Secondhand Lions deal where the truth of the matter means less than the impact the story makes on people's lives.
I'd believe this, though to be honest I've otherwise not felt the need for an explanation. Zelda's never been that connected between games to begin with, so I've never felt like I needed anything to explain the differences.

Humanoid wrote:Well here's hoping Breath of the Wild becomes the first Zelda game I play for more than half an hour. Bought the game yesterday despite my lack of actual console, and shall try it over the Christmas holidays at my sister's place (though I suspect we'll spend most of the time with Mario Odyssey co-op). I'll then see if I can buy a console or two early next year. (There was a fantastic deal this past weekend for an OLED TV + XBoneX but unfortunately it was Sydney-only)
It's quite different from the normal Zelda formula, feeling a lot more like your average open-world game but with a lot of more interesting takes on the concept than I expected. They really melded the series well with the new format, which is good if you wanted something different from the series... though as a Zelda fan I can't say it was the most impactful game for me. Really fun, regardless.

SpammyV wrote:What are the rules of the Triforce?

The Rocketeer wrote:For the most part, I only really remember there being explicit rules for the Triforce in Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, and in neither one does it really make sense.
I mean, they've always been vague on specifics of what they do, but after Ocarina my impression was always that they just gave a significant boost in their stated title. Like, Ganon's got the Triforce of Power which is why he's got all the magic and can take over the kingdom all the time, Link's got Courage which is why he's so quick to throw himself in to saving everything, and Zelda's got Wisdom because... she's smart? I dunno, that one never felt as clear.

Granted, most of that only comes post-Ocarina, which to me feels like they made something of a break from the prior games in terms of the Triforce to begin with. Ocarina always felt to me like they were really trying to establish the Zelda lore properly for the first time (regardless of if it actually did this, I dunno), so it makes me kind-of want to write off a lot of the past content. Outside of that, though, the Triforce remains as just some nebulous object of power which I assume is why Ganon wants/wanted it.

Though interestingly enough, how many of the games is the Triforce actually anything of the end goal anyways? Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, but I think it's mostly just been functioning as a symbol more than anything people desire for... if it even shows up in one of the games. It comes up somewhat prominently in Twilight Princess (though again, already split among the trio) as the reason Ganon has to be sealed rather than killed (ignoring that he ends up dying at the end anyways, because the piece... abandoned him? I dunno), but beyond that I'm having trouble remembering too many other places post-Ocarina where it mattered.

Well, okay, it was in Wind Waker too, I suppose. I don't really know how to frame that game, though.

I've also never really had the impression that the Triforce had any real will of its own, though. To me it just felt like some nebulous super-powerful artifact that just kinda exists, and it doesn't really have a care for how it gets used or whatever. That... doesn't really seem to hold completely true when I look over the series (once again, Ganon in TP), but given how little faith I put into their devotion to continuity it's something I just end up ignoring.

Narratorway wrote:Y'know now that you mention it, I was always kinda mildly peeved they made the main antagonist of the series the wielder of one the pieces...but never actually did anything with that.
They kind-of do in Twilight Princess (prevents the sages from killing him), and to a lesser extent they use it to explain his power (because as I understand it, they frame him as just a normal(-ish) Gerudo in Oracina of time... before he gets the Triforce.

Doesn't explain Link to the Past or any of the other early games, but as I said above I feel like they made an attempt at a clean break from those with Ocarina... which they may or may not have gone back on.

The Rocketeer wrote:Point of order: I think about things exactly the right amount.
To be fair, I may have to claim some hypocrisy on my part given, uh... **Looks up at the rest of his post.**

The Rocketeer wrote:it isn't a bad game, but it wasn't by any means forty dollars good.
I can grant you that, certainly. Wasn't my feeling, but then I somehow had a lot of fun with the gameplay that seems to have papered over most of that game's faults for me so... YMMV obviously.

Can't help but feel that twinge of sadness now that Nintendo still refuses to mark down their prices over time. :/
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John

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby John » Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:04 pm

Trix2000 wrote:To be fair, [The Legend of Zelda] was back on the original Nintendo, limiting how much could be stored/written... combined with much more old-fashioned game design paradigms. At the time, gameplay was pretty much 99% of game experiences with any 'stories' mostly made up of framing inside the game's manual. Original Zelda was ultimately just a "have an adventure!" game, with the Triforce/Zelda being more of an end goal macguffin (which I don't know if they even mention for most of the game).

Of course, as time passed and the standards for games rose, the series had to adapt to keep up... and actual writing has been a big part of that.

Sure, sure. I could quibble and say that there were some RPGs and such on the NES which had a fair bit of writing and story to them, but the subtle underlying theme of my recent posts has been that I am an old man and have not kept up with the times. I've been out of the Zelda loop since roughly Zelda II--which, come to think of it, I did play a smidgen of once upon a time--so I have to wonder when exactly "here is a simple reason to go do a fun thing" stopped being sufficient, story-wise.
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Lachlan the Sane
Location: I come from the land down under, where women blow and men chunder

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Lachlan the Sane » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:46 am

I will throw my vote in for "the very concept of a unified Zelda timeline (or even three of them) is bullshit". It's all about reincarnation, parallel universes, mythic cycles, maybe even a touch of unreliable narration, whatever. The only games that are unified are the games which explicitly say so (so there's a straight line between Ocarina & Majora, and a wiggly line between Ocarina and Wind Waker for example).

Although, if we're talking about how the rules of the Triforce are completely arbitrary, Wind Waker has to take the cake. Ganon has the Triforce of Power; the Triforce of Wisdom has been split into two pieces, one of which belongs to the last King of Hyrule and the other to Tetra the last descendant of Zelda; and the Triforce of Courage has been split into eight pieces and just left to lie around wherever. Tetra gets the two pieces of Wisdom which immediately give her a pretty princess dress and rob her of all her plot agency, while Link quests around the place to find the Triforce of Courage because that's his job dammit (even though it's implied that the Link in this universe may not be an actual descendant of one of the previous Links? It could be just because he has really good facial animation and isn't just Captain Courageous all the time though).

So anyway, come the final confrontation, Ganon punches Link and Zelda out and nicks their Triforces while they're unconscious. The Triforce appears on the roof before him, he clearly enunciates his wish (to drain the oceans and rule the world), and then steps forward to touch the Triforce. Then the King of Hyrule teleports in and steals the fucking Triforce. If Ganon had touched the Triforce before making his wish, then everything would have been fucked, but no, apparently the Triforce runs off primary-school playground rules and whoever touches the damn thing first wins.
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Humanoid

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Humanoid » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:50 am

Disappointed to hear the addition of China in CK2 just amounts to more of the same AI spawning free, attritionless 70k doomstacks on the edge of the map and steamrolling everything. I've given up hope on them ever fixing the overreliance on this specific mechanic and have switched to hoping they'll at least attempt a more elegant solution in CK3 sometime in the next decade.

I bought Forza Horizon 3 as one of those cross-play PC/Xbone titles, where owning it digitally gives you access to it on both platforms. It's a neat idea and if it becomes widespread could become a killer feature for the console. After struggling to figure out how to redeem the game code (you have to log in to the Store app in Win10) and then struggling to figure out how to actually download the game, I got it running fine, though I've played less than an hour so far. I'm more investigating its viability as a co-op title (it has a co-op campaign mode) rather than it being something I'm interested in playing by myself.

Incidentally, I was a bit taken aback by the tutorial instructing me to drive along the Great Ocean Road to get to Byron Bay, given that those places are nowhere near each other (being some approximately 2000km apart). It likely wouldn't be an issue to non-Australians I guess, but I imagine it'd be like telling an American to take Highway 61 to Boston, or to take the Oregon Trail to Miami, or telling a Brit to take the M1 to Cornwall. Uh-huh.
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John

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby John » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:36 am

. . . Crusader Kings II. I was curious to see if the new patch would have the same impact as the Monks & Mystics patch did. It doesn't. Even if you didn't buy the Monks & Mystics expansion, the accompanying patch allowed your character to profess a secret religion and join a secret society based on that religion. It was a pretty big change. As far as I can determine, the new patch:

  • Resets your notification settings. (Again.)
  • Adds some playable counties in Tibet.
  • Changes the graphical representation of uninhabitable and inaccessible regions like the Sahara desert. (It looks like a desert now, instead of a vast, dark void.)
That's it. It seems that if you don't fork over for all of the China content, you don't get any of the China content. I think I'm okay with that.

And now back to my slow, methodical dismantling of the Byzantine Empire.
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Retsam

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Retsam » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:08 am

I finished Persona 4 Golden... quite a long time ago, at this point, and it's a game I had a lot of thoughts on, (which is in part, why it took so long to actually post them). On the whole, I really liked the game, but whenever I get into specifics there's a lot of bits that bothered me.

The best aspect for me is probably the story and the characters. The urban fantasy mystery premise is pretty cool and drives the plot pretty well, but it's the characters that really shine: they did a really good job having a main cast that's just entertaining: even when the story is just slice-of-life stuff in between story beats, it's a lot of fun watching these characters interact. They've got great camaraderie, and it's a nice change of pace from the stereotypical RPG party that would just as soon fight each other as the enemy. (Bioware RPGs seem particularly prone to this)

But then you take this cast of interesting and colorful characters, and you add the main character: Blankslate McBoringFace-senpai. While I think the pseudo-silent protagonist works well enough in a lot of games, I think it was a pretty bad choice in this game. It's always a bit jarring, as it creates a dissonance between how the main character is treated vs how they actually act, and in a heavily story-focused game, it's particularly noticeable. It makes sense in an open-ended RPG, but this is a railroad story straight through, despite the Virtual Novel staple three mostly meaningless dialogue choices, (which feels like being asked whether you want your house to be painted beige, cream, or off-white).

And I guess the pseudo-silent main character can work as the "straight man" to everyone else's antics in group settings... but it's especially egregious in the one-on-one social links. I liked the idea of social links in theory, but in practice they always felt one-sided to the point of being uncanny and jarring. Like this other person is baring their heart and soul to me, and the protagonist basically replies "That's rough, buddy.". And yet, I'm supposed to believe this emotionless rock of a protagonist is somehow forming deep (even potentially romantic) relationships via these one-sided conversations, even if I pick the "jerk" response (when it's occasionally offered). I'm told that some people have this thing called "imagination" in which they're able to pretend that the writing of these social-links is better than it actually is, but I think mine must be defective.

And getting into mechanics, social links feel pretty unrewarding, too, despite the emphasis the game puts on them. Other than the social links with your party, you just get a flat EXP bonus for 1/20th of the monster fusions. So a big aspect of the game is the managing your time in order to form as many social links as possible... but mechanically, it feels like you may as well not bother.

Which is a shame, because I really like the whole time management system. It's IMO a fairly underused RPG element, but I'm a pretty big fan of a lot of the games that use it. There's a nice cadence to the game when you're just moving through the days, it's makes for a pretty chill game, while fitting pretty naturally into the game's narrative and giving the game's overall plot a clear sense of time passing. I actually found I enjoyed the "real world" time management stuff more than the actual RPG dungeons.

Though that might be because the actual RPG dungeons were fairly weak. They were fairly long and repetitive and combat just wasn't particularly fun or interesting. It didn't help that, mechanically, the game incentivizes you to binge them: on the time-management side, it's pretty "expensive" to travel to the dungeon, so it's in your best interest to go as few times as possible. That could have made for an interesting dynamic, with either some soft or hard limits on how long you could spend in a dungeon - e.g. making MP scarcer would be a good soft limit, while a max step count (e.g. Digimon World 2) or a "hunger" mechanic (e.g. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon) or just a floor limit could have been a hard limit - but in practice it wasn't difficult to knock the dungeons out in one shot... it was just time-consuming and tedious.

The other real "mixed bag" for me was the Persona system itself. I'm a huge fan of "Mons" games (Pokemon, Digimon, DQM, Jade Cocoon, etc), and the Persona system is basically a mons game... it's just not a particularly good one, sadly. Mostly, it was too opaque: it just doesn't give the player enough information to make meaningful choices. Do the 20 different Arcanas mean anything mechanically, or are they just arbitrary labels? (I'd assume a "Strength" arcana would have most physical and a "Magician" would have stronger magic, but what does a "Empress", for example, imply?) There's a social link where you need to get specific skills on specific Personas... but there seems to be no way to know what Persona learns a particular skill, or how to get a particular Persona except blind chance or just looking it up.

And there's a lot of mechanics where you can spend time and resources painstakingly managing a particular persona: e.g. to teach it specific moves or increasing its stats... but when it's a lot easier just to mash random Personas together to get a higher leveled one, why bother with those systems? I ended up switching Personas so quickly that it all ends up feeling a bit meaningless. Investing more time (both in-game and just literal playtime) into the system didn't actually seem to yield a significantly better result than just fusing random personas when I ran out of open slots.

Also, while I'm griping about combat mechanics, geez, the constant support character chatter was annoying: virtually every time you dodge an attack, kill an enemy, miss an enemy, critical hit an enemy, get hit with an element you're weak to, hit the enemy with a an element they're weak to, get KO'd, get hit by a status effect, hit the enemy with a status effect, check an enemies weakness, start your turn with a status effect, start your turn when a party member has low health, and after every battle, the NPC "support" character will shout a line like "Hang in there, senpai!" or "So-and-so needs healing!" or "Respool the line before it’s too late" (...okay, wrong game on the last one). It's a bad combination of annoying and patronizing, and I get that's it's a trivial thing to complain about... but it sure stopped feeling trivial after the first 5 hours or so of listening to it.

Also, speaking of griping: ten-thousand curses on whoever decided to add agnsty-tsundere-poetry-chan to the Golden edition. I'm not even advancing her stupid social link, stop making me read her awful assaults on the English language, when I'm just trying to fuse monsters in peace. (I learned, after-the-fact, that there's an entire dungeon locked behind her social link, which is just insult to injury)

So, uhh, TL;DR, I really liked the game. 8.8/10.

---

Incidentally, my wife played all of Persona 5, while I was still in the last quarter or so of Persona 4. I watched her play, up until through the first major "reveal", and so, while I'm at it, I guess I can knock my thoughts on the sequel out too:

It looks like it improves a lot of the mechanical gripes I had about Persona 4: social links are more mechanically interesting and rewarding, dungeons look a ton better, combat looks somewhat better. (Couldn't tell if the Personas system is actually better. The support character is still obnoxious, but at least he's stopped no longer calling you "senpai!")

On the other hand, I don't care for the story of P5 as much, from what I as. And overall it's just a lot darker than P4: the characters lack P4's camaraderie and they're just not as much fun as their P4 counterparts, and the plot is rather dark as well. That really says more about P4 than it does P5 (I've heard P4 described as "the happiest M rated game ever"), I'm sure a lot of people prefer the darker game, but it's not my cup of tea.

Plus, Persona 5 also seems a lot edgier than Persona 4, and I'm allergic to edge. It's got this "anti-adults" vibe, where the game makes an oddly big deal about the villains being "adults", it goes beyond the usual Adults Are Useless trope, practically to the point of "Adults are Evil". It's the sort of juvenile stuff that I've never been able to take seriously, even when I was a teen. And it doesn't help that the villains (I've seen) are all puppy-kicking, mustache-twirling, card-carrying members of the Bad Guy Association.

I'll probably get around to playing it eventually, but I'm not really eager to dive right into the sequel, since these games are so long.
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Humanoid

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Humanoid » Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:42 am

John wrote:That's it. It seems that if you don't fork over for all of the China content, you don't get any of the China content. I think I'm okay with that.

Thank goodness for that, the more I read up on the details of the implementation of the new content, the more horrific it gets. China's military strength is always scaled to approximately 125-150% of yours, no matter if you're a lowly duke or you've painted the entire map. And their diplomatic behaviour is pretty arbitrary and almost immediately gets involved in places as far as central Europe. CK2's active development has been on autopilot for some time now and they really need a circuitbreaker, ideally in a fully-fledged sequel.
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Trix2000
Location: California

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Trix2000 » Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:54 am

Apologies in advance for length - the Persona games (4 and 5 mostly, but also 3) are my favorite RPGs so I pretty much HAVE to comment. I'll try my best to keep my bias in-check, though. :P

Also curious... did you get the True Ending? It's not too hard to get but can be subtle if you aren't aware it exists.

Retsam wrote:The best aspect for me is probably the story and the characters. The urban fantasy mystery premise is pretty cool and drives the plot pretty well, but it's the characters that really shine: they did a really good job having a main cast that's just entertaining: even when the story is just slice-of-life stuff in between story beats, it's a lot of fun watching these characters interact. They've got great camaraderie, and it's a nice change of pace from the stereotypical RPG party that would just as soon fight each other as the enemy. (Bioware RPGs seem particularly prone to this)
Definitely. I don't think the game would actually work at all if it couldn't write them well, since so much depends on getting invested in them.

But then you take this cast of interesting and colorful characters, and you add the main character: Blankslate McBoringFace-senpai. While I think the pseudo-silent protagonist works well enough in a lot of games, I think it was a pretty bad choice in this game. It's always a bit jarring, as it creates a dissonance between how the main character is treated vs how they actually act, and in a heavily story-focused game, it's particularly noticeable. It makes sense in an open-ended RPG, but this is a railroad story straight through, despite the Virtual Novel staple three mostly meaningless dialogue choices, (which feels like being asked whether you want your house to be painted beige, cream, or off-white).
I think the main idea is for it to be a player-insert, or at least as best of a player insert as you can manage with a more restricted story/character. It IS still a JRPG in the end, but at least you have plenty of options on how you handle each day, and while many of the dialog options are 'fake' (not all are, technically) they at least grant a level of interaction you otherwise wouldn't have. It's a way to apply your influence and personality into conversations that would otherwise be nigh-impossible to allow player freedom.

Maybe how well it works depends on how well you connect with the protag, though. He does tend to have some of his own personality quirks if you think about it - like the fact that he cooks, manages to have time to interact and listen to everyone (...sorta), can be great in school (or terrible), etc etc. There's at least a lot more freedom with how to take him than any other JRPG (not that that says a whole ton).

In my case I didn't have too much difficulty immersing myself in the character, but it's not hard to see that might not work for everyone. Can't deny he's crafted to be fairly non-descript.

And I guess the pseudo-silent main character can work as the "straight man" to everyone else's antics in group settings... but it's especially egregious in the one-on-one social links. I liked the idea of social links in theory, but in practice they always felt one-sided to the point of being uncanny and jarring. Like this other person is baring their heart and soul to me, and the protagonist basically replies "That's rough, buddy.". And yet, I'm supposed to believe this emotionless rock of a protagonist is somehow forming deep (even potentially romantic) relationships via these one-sided conversations, even if I pick the "jerk" response (when it's occasionally offered). I'm told that some people have this thing called "imagination" in which they're able to pretend that the writing of these social-links is better than it actually is, but I think mine must be defective.
The responses DO have an impact, though, because certain responses will generate points towards the next rank (anytime you see the notes, those are the points). It's fairly forgiving, I suppose, since there are few if any ways to completely destroy a relationship (though one or two DO have a couple "reverse" options that basically act as such).

Personally, though, I liked to think the protagonist was just a good listener, and a lot of the stuff you actually DO with them is off-camera. Maybe much of this was my own mind filling in the blanks, though.

And getting into mechanics, social links feel pretty unrewarding, too, despite the emphasis the game puts on them. Other than the social links with your party, you just get a flat EXP bonus for 1/20th of the monster fusions. So a big aspect of the game is the managing your time in order to form as many social links as possible... but mechanically, it feels like you may as well not bother.
The extra levels can actually help a lot, since because of that bonus experience you can craft personas greater than your own level. Stats do have some significant impact in the long run.

That said, it's not the most tangible benefit and I can agree that it doesn't feel so amazing for each rank up. It's nice when you get the final fusions from them at the end (and the abilities for party members), but otherwise doesn't feel that impactful as you say.

Which is a shame, because I really like the whole time management system. It's IMO a fairly underused RPG element, but I'm a pretty big fan of a lot of the games that use it. There's a nice cadence to the game when you're just moving through the days, it's makes for a pretty chill game, while fitting pretty naturally into the game's narrative and giving the game's overall plot a clear sense of time passing. I actually found I enjoyed the "real world" time management stuff more than the actual RPG dungeons.
Good, considering it's half or more of the game anyways. :P

Though that might be because the actual RPG dungeons were fairly weak. They were fairly long and repetitive and combat just wasn't particularly fun or interesting. It didn't help that, mechanically, the game incentivizes you to binge them: on the time-management side, it's pretty "expensive" to travel to the dungeon, so it's in your best interest to go as few times as possible. That could have made for an interesting dynamic, with either some soft or hard limits on how long you could spend in a dungeon - e.g. making MP scarcer would be a good soft limit, while a max step count (e.g. Digimon World 2) or a "hunger" mechanic (e.g. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon) or just a floor limit could have been a hard limit - but in practice it wasn't difficult to knock the dungeons out in one shot... it was just time-consuming and tedious.
Definitely one of the weakest points of the game was the dungeon mechanics. I liked the combat, but it does tend to get a bit samey once you've seen the same enemies for a while and there's not enough variation or distinct visuals once you've gotten into the dungeon itself. It's so obviously a proc-gen maze.

They at least do a pretty good job with the design and themeing for them, so it's not completely terrible to look at for those long periods... but it does get old by the time you're in the mid/upper floors. Thankfully, something that was well-addressed in the sequel.

The other real "mixed bag" for me was the Persona system itself. I'm a huge fan of "Mons" games (Pokemon, Digimon, DQM, Jade Cocoon, etc), and the Persona system is basically a mons game... it's just not a particularly good one, sadly.
I... wouldn't really consider it a "mons" game, even though it has some aspects of it. You're not really meant to get attached to personas (not that that stopped me from liking a few in particular >.>), and your character's main strength is in having a variety of them at his disposal so he can make decisions about what skills he needs to have and use, what weaknesses/strengths to work with, etc.

Fusing higher level things is also your main form of strength, though there's a lot of leeway with levels there - you can feasibly use things significantly below your level provided they have a skill or two you find useful (like hitting certain weaknesses).

Mostly, it was too opaque: it just doesn't give the player enough information to make meaningful choices. Do the 20 different Arcanas mean anything mechanically, or are they just arbitrary labels? (I'd assume a "Strength" arcana would have most physical and a "Magician" would have stronger magic, but what does a "Empress", for example, imply?) There's a social link where you need to get specific skills on specific Personas... but there seems to be no way to know what Persona learns a particular skill, or how to get a particular Persona except blind chance or just looking it up.
The arcanas are what determine fusion results - a certain pair of arcanas will always produce a certain other arcana for the product, with the exact persona determined by the levels of the ingredients (so you get low level stuff with low level materials and such). It's something that can be learned, but it's much easier to manipulate if you just look up the fusion arcana tables.

Beyond that, the personas themselves are all unique in their own ways, so it's really more about experimenting and working with what you find useful from it all. Generally for me, that just means fusing up a bunch of higher level things of varying elements (fusion search helps on this... I think it was in Golden?) to have a variety of potential skills available.

You can really break the game if you know the ins and outs of fusion, though. It's entirely predictable (excluding fusion accidents, which are so rare I can count the number I've had on one hand, in ALL the Persona games I've played). Golden even made it easier by allowing you to choose skills you pass on (original it was random) and adding skill cards.


And there's a lot of mechanics where you can spend time and resources painstakingly managing a particular persona: e.g. to teach it specific moves or increasing its stats... but when it's a lot easier just to mash random Personas together to get a higher leveled one, why bother with those systems? I ended up switching Personas so quickly that it all ends up feeling a bit meaningless. Investing more time (both in-game and just literal playtime) into the system didn't actually seem to yield a significantly better result than just fusing random personas when I ran out of open slots.
Again, that's kind-of the point - you're meant to be fusing personas throughout the game as your main means for power. That's part of why the social links are important, because you get better results from fusion with ranks in them.

P4 didn't originally have the cards after battle that let you level up and boost the stats of personas - that's new for Golden. So you actually HAVE to fuse because leveling up a persona takes a lot longer than leveling yourself. Golden's additions actually made it possible to use any persona as long as you want - I actually ended up having a level 99 Yatsufusa because I liked the design and felt like it... but to some extent it kinda breaks the game a little.

Also, while I'm griping about combat mechanics, geez, the constant support character chatter was annoying: virtually every time you dodge an attack, kill an enemy, miss an enemy, critical hit an enemy, get hit with an element you're weak to, hit the enemy with a an element they're weak to, get KO'd, get hit by a status effect, hit the enemy with a status effect, check an enemies weakness, start your turn with a status effect, start your turn when a party member has low health, and after every battle, the NPC "support" character will shout a line like "Hang in there, senpai!" or "So-and-so needs healing!" or "Respool the line before it’s too late" (...okay, wrong game on the last one). It's a bad combination of annoying and patronizing, and I get that's it's a trivial thing to complain about... but it sure stopped feeling trivial after the first 5 hours or so of listening to it.
Yeah, P4 really went overboard with it. I like the idea of battle chatter a lot, but they didn't need to announce EVERY little thing... and I could have done without some of the more obvious ones ("X needs healing!" I KNOW).

I think 5 was better on this... maybe. At least, I didn't get the same level of "stop saying that" I did in P4.

Also, speaking of griping: ten-thousand curses on whoever decided to add agnsty-tsundere-poetry-chan to the Golden edition. I'm not even advancing her stupid social link, stop making me read her awful assaults on the English language, when I'm just trying to fuse monsters in peace. (I learned, after-the-fact, that there's an entire dungeon locked behind her social link, which is just insult to injury)
She's actually kind-of an interesting character once you get to know her, though she... uh... isn't the most approachable. I wouldn't say she's my favorite at all, but she gets a bit better once you have some ranks in her (though never completely loses her tsun).

The dungeon is... unique, and arguably interesting. But I wouldn't say you're missing too much by skipping it. A good chunk of its appeal depends on connecting with her in the first place anyways.

Incidentally, my wife played all of Persona 5, while I was still in the last quarter or so of Persona 4. I watched her play, up until through the first major "reveal", and so, while I'm at it, I guess I can knock my thoughts on the sequel out too:
Which one? What composes a 'major reveal' to me in that game could be a few things.

It looks like it improves a lot of the mechanical gripes I had about Persona 4: social links are more mechanically interesting and rewarding, dungeons look a ton better, combat looks somewhat better. (Couldn't tell if the Personas system is actually better. The support character is still obnoxious, but at least he's stopped no longer calling you "senpai!")
The confidants are definitely a huge improvement on the social link rewards - pretty much every one of them is useful, and it feels a bit more in-tune with the theme. They otherwise don't operate all that differently from P4 (or 3), though they do add some additional ways of gaining points to rank (like gifts).

Dungeons are miles better, not least of which because they're not proc-gen anymore (barring Mementos, but that's a notable exception). Felt much more like actual RPG dungeons with distinct progression and interesting setpieces that were decidedly lacking in the prior games.

Combat is both very similar but with a few nice things added (GUNZ). Definitely improved, but still a very familiar system underneath.

Can't... completely disagree on the support, though I thought it was better done overall.

On the other hand, I don't care for the story of P5 as much, from what I as. And overall it's just a lot darker than P4: the characters lack P4's camaraderie and they're just not as much fun as their P4 counterparts, and the plot is rather dark as well. That really says more about P4 than it does P5 (I've heard P4 described as "the happiest M rated game ever"), I'm sure a lot of people prefer the darker game, but it's not my cup of tea.
In the long run it's... surprisingly not that dark. I mean, it has its moments, but the only time it really feels actively more oppressive to me is the very beginning (when people are still rumoring about what you did). Beyond that, it plays out a lot like the prior games in terms of how you live life and interact with characters (with the exception of a period towards the end of the game, but for good reasons then...). I actually think I got a better sense of camaraderie from the characters in 5 than I did in 4, and that's saying something given I long held 4 as having the best.

Granted, I'll also say it takes some real time and investment to get to that point in 5, whereas 4 I think it's a bit more immediately apparent.

Plus, Persona 5 also seems a lot edgier than Persona 4, and I'm allergic to edge. It's got this "anti-adults" vibe, where the game makes an oddly big deal about the villains being "adults", it goes beyond the usual Adults Are Useless trope, practically to the point of "Adults are Evil". It's the sort of juvenile stuff that I've never been able to take seriously, even when I was a teen. And it doesn't help that the villains (I've seen) are all puppy-kicking, mustache-twirling, card-carrying members of the Bad Guy Association.
That's definitely one part that I was confused they focused on a lot, but in the long run it's more of a side thing that doesn't truly impact the plot I think... at least, the fact that they were adults and not children didn't factor in too much.

I won't speak too much of the villains because I'm not sure how much exposure you've gotten from them yet... but suffice to say their stories are a bit more complicated than it might look. Especially if you focus only on their shadows, which are by design very open and flagrant about their villainy because that is what shadows tend to do.

Also, depending on how far in you've seen... the game has some BIG twists in it, some you can see coming and a few that absolutely don't. They really impact the mid/lategame more than anything.

I'll probably get around to playing it eventually, but I'm not really eager to dive right into the sequel, since these games are so long.
As much as I heartly recommend 5, I would have to agree with you on this one. I love the games a lot, but they are REALLY long and dense. I always come out of one feeling like I need to wind down on less daunting things.

That and 5 is somehow LONGER than 4, which was an already 80+ hour game. Unless you're ready to binge 100+ hours of more JRPG, I recommend waiting a while... but do consider it someday. :)
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John

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby John » Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:04 pm

Humanoid wrote:
John wrote:That's it. It seems that if you don't fork over for all of the China content, you don't get any of the China content. I think I'm okay with that.

Thank goodness for that, the more I read up on the details of the implementation of the new content, the more horrific it gets. China's military strength is always scaled to approximately 125-150% of yours, no matter if you're a lowly duke or you've painted the entire map. And their diplomatic behaviour is pretty arbitrary and almost immediately gets involved in places as far as central Europe. CK2's active development has been on autopilot for some time now and they really need a circuitbreaker, ideally in a fully-fledged sequel.

The number one thing on my wishlist for Crusader Kings III is more plausible diplomacy. For example, obscure Irish dukes should not be in diplomatic contact with the Byzantine empire, let alone be able to marry Byzantine princesses. As for Crusader Kings II, I am pleased that I can (a) not buy the DLC that I don't want and (b) usually disable things I don't like (secret societies) before I start a new game.
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JadedDM

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby JadedDM » Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:10 pm

Plus, Persona 5 also seems a lot edgier than Persona 4, and I'm allergic to edge. It's got this "anti-adults" vibe, where the game makes an oddly big deal about the villains being "adults", it goes beyond the usual Adults Are Useless trope, practically to the point of "Adults are Evil". It's the sort of juvenile stuff that I've never been able to take seriously, even when I was a teen. And it doesn't help that the villains (I've seen) are all puppy-kicking, mustache-twirling, card-carrying members of the Bad Guy Association.

The thing to keep in mind is that in Japan, children are conditioned from a very young age to not rebel, not speak out, not cause a scene. And many adults do, very much, take advantage of this. And there's really nothing the youth can do about it. Thus, Persona 5 is sort of the ultimate power fantasy for Japanese youth. Having the ability to change an adult's heart, to stop their bad behavior, without causing a scene or even having it traced back to you.

Take Kamoshida, the game's first boss--the gym coach. He basically abuses his male students physically, leaving them with broken bones or scars and he abuses his female students sexually. He's a real grade A asshole. And here in the west, someone like that would not last long. As soon as word got out what he was doing, he'd be fired in a heartbeat. But in Japan, nobody wants to be the one to make a scene, or cause drama. So they all quietly just try and grin and bear it. There's no real recourse. Some dialogue even suggests the students' parents know what Kamoshida is doing, but they still don't do anything about it.

I feel like this is basically the whole theme of the game. Everyone one of the playable characters has had some great injustice done to them, and they were powerless to stop it or undo it. At least, until they become Phantom Thieves. Only then are they granted the power to right the wrongs of the corrupted adults.
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Ringwraith

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Ringwraith » Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:30 pm

Persona 5 is seething with anger at complacency of society; of people knowing ills exist and just turning a blind eye.
It's not just wholly applicable to Japan either, only have to be aware of some of the latest news to see that, aptly enough.
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The Rocketeer

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby The Rocketeer » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:12 pm

Geez, do yer fingers not get sore or what?

Retsam wrote:But then you take this cast of interesting and colorful characters, and you add the main character: Blankslate McBoringFace-senpai. While I think the pseudo-silent protagonist works well enough in a lot of games, I think it was a pretty bad choice in this game.
I'm generally not a big fan of these either, but I ended up really appreciating the silent protagonist in Persona 3, for thematic reasons particular to that game. I thought I'd written a post about it, but I couldn't find it when I searched, so I guess I didn't. :/

But without that peculiar leg-up, I can definitely see it lacking something. And even in P3, it was especially awkward during romances.

Retsam wrote:Mechanically, the game incentivizes you to binge [the dungeons]...
I also complained about this particular design foible, though I'm not sure I'd like any of your suggested fixes much better. I really don't know how you'd fix this problem without redesigning pretty much the entire rest of the game, which creates that incentive to binge whenever you dungeon dive.

Don't know how 4 might differ from 3, but it sounds pretty similar. I'd be interested to see what, or how much, P5 switches up.
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Ringwraith

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Ringwraith » Thu Nov 23, 2017 12:50 am

4's dungeon segments are shorter, and have more actually hand-crafted stuff in, rather than being solely randomly-generated things to just skip through. Though it very much shows how it was built on the same engine, being simply a bit more varied, with some good music and some actual visual variety for it at least.
Though binging dungeons early is making up for the fact you're not going to have as strong a persona roster/gear setup for its later sections, and if you're smart, you can definitely get by without that. 4 forces you to have sell random materials monsters drop to unlock more equipment to purchase in the shop for example, so you can't get new gear without leaving the dungeon entirely.

5 has a number of systems in place to try and discourage marathoning dungeons (though particularly later on, this is entirely possible with planning and patience), firstly, those dungeons are long, so you're probably just going to run dry before you hit the end.
Second, you have to leave the dungeon before you face the final fight anyway, and when you go in for that, that is all you will be doing, so boss fights you go in fresh for, and possibly some days later.
Third, you just have to leave some dungeons early due to some sort of obstacle that needs to be bypassed and can't be done there and then. It doesn't crop up all the time, but it sometimes does.
There's also if you get seen too much by the shadow guards, gradually raising the security level to maximum, they just forcibly boot you out.

Though, even on the time management side, 5 gives you a lot more leeway than previous games to max out everything, I had most of about a fortnight to spare after befriending everyone I could to maximum, when normally such a feat is nigh-impossible and requires a guide previously due to the strictness required.
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Trix2000
Location: California

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Trix2000 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:50 am

Ringwraith wrote:4's dungeon segments are shorter, and have more actually hand-crafted stuff in, rather than being solely randomly-generated things to just skip through. Though it very much shows how it was built on the same engine, being simply a bit more varied, with some good music and some actual visual variety for it at least.
Though binging dungeons early is making up for the fact you're not going to have as strong a persona roster/gear setup for its later sections, and if you're smart, you can definitely get by without that.
Yeah, 4 is definitely better than 3 in the dungeon design department, if only because there's some actual variety in the design of different sections (not like Tartarus and its mostly pallet-swapping). It's still obvious proc-gen, but at least each dungeon has its own unique feel and look that makes them more tolerable to delve in (at least for the first few floors). Then 5 decided to splurge and make each dungeon a unique actual dungeon, which basically puts both 3 and 4 to shame (well, except Mementos, which is basically Tartarus Mk2).

I always preferred to binge in 4 because it doesn't give you a lot of extra time, and it's not too difficult to press through each dungeon in one go (heck, my pattern was usually to do two per run in - repeat the last for quests and bonus boss, then the current one) provided you know how to manage your resources (the fox helps tons, even when he's still horribly expensive it's worth it). Admittedly I think the only reason I can manage to push myself through all that is because the environment changes between dungeons, because I get real tired of seeing the same stuff after floor 7 or so.

4 forces you to have sell random materials monsters drop to unlock more equipment to purchase in the shop for example, so you can't get new gear without leaving the dungeon entirely.
Eh, it's not a huge motivation since gear's not of prime importance in these games. Not that it should be ignored, but most attacks don't care about your weapon strength and armor only affects physical hits. Important to not get too far behind the curve in equipment, but not too crucial to have maxxed equipment in any of the games.

Some of the stats they provide are really nice, though.

5 has a number of systems in place to try and discourage marathoning dungeons (though particularly later on, this is entirely possible with planning and patience), firstly, those dungeons are long, so you're probably just going to run dry before you hit the end.
I ran dry twice in the first real dungeon, which was quite a surprise. I was hoping with good conservation I could run through the whole thing in one (or two) shot, but they really tuned the place into quite the endurance run (though later dungeons weren't nearly as bad, with more options).

It's theoretically possible to run the whole length in one day, but from what I hear it takes a lot of luck AND burning pretty much everything you have to stretch the distance. Doesn't help you have to fight a couple mini-bosses on the way too.

Second, you have to leave the dungeon before you face the final fight anyway, and when you go in for that, that is all you will be doing, so boss fights you go in fresh for, and possibly some days later.
You can actually still run around the dungeon and do stuff once you enter the final time, including fighting enemies. It's just maybe not the best idea to use up too much SP in the process given the bosses can be just as tricky as they've always been in the series.

Third, you just have to leave some dungeons early due to some sort of obstacle that needs to be bypassed and can't be done there and then. It doesn't crop up all the time, but it sometimes does.
Think it only comes up... three times? Still, a pretty obvious "you should go take a break" point.

There's also if you get seen too much by the shadow guards, gradually raising the security level to maximum, they just forcibly boot you out.
If you're doing it right, this should never happen. I don't think I ever had security above 50% excluding after the calling cards when it forces it to 99%. It's REALLY easy to ambush 95% of enemies if you're smart and careful... and you kind-of need to to succeed, because ambushes are about the only way to really avoid taking too much damage.

Though, even on the time management side, 5 gives you a lot more leeway than previous games to max out everything, I had most of about a fortnight to spare after befriending everyone I could to maximum, when normally such a feat is nigh-impossible and requires a guide previously due to the strictness required.
Yeah, only reason I didn't max out everyone is because I sort-of deliberately skipped one or two links thinking I wouldn't have time... and it turned out one of those links was crucial to SAVING time. Figures. >.>

I did it again with a guide, and not only was there enough time to max everyone out, but I also did every achievement in the process... including reading all books, beating all games, etc etc. There was even room left for the gym at the end. So it's WAY more forgiving on time than the prior games (I mean, I didn't have to spend a bunch of time save-scumming temple fortunes again like in 4 >.>).
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Ringwraith

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Ringwraith » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:18 am

Trix2000 wrote:
4 forces you to have sell random materials monsters drop to unlock more equipment to purchase in the shop for example, so you can't get new gear without leaving the dungeon entirely.
Eh, it's not a huge motivation since gear's not of prime importance in these games. Not that it should be ignored, but most attacks don't care about your weapon strength and armor only affects physical hits. Important to not get too far behind the curve in equipment, but not too crucial to have maxxed equipment in any of the games.

Some of the stats they provide are really nice, though.

Normal attacks do you care your weapon strength, as do all-out attacks, and you're definitely using the latter.
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Trix2000
Location: California

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Trix2000 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:08 pm

Ringwraith wrote:Normal attacks do you care your weapon strength, as do all-out attacks, and you're definitely using the latter.
True, which is why it's still important not to ignore upgrades entirely, but neither case really necessitates top-of-the-line equipment all the time (ideally, you hit weaknesses with spells or use physical skills to drop foes quickly). AOAs are probably the best argument for stronger weapons, but they do enough damage anyways that you may not notice the difference of lower-tier gear until you hit bosses/high level mobs which don't drop in a single AOA. You can make do with last dungeon's weapons for much of the game.

Which is good, because equipment can get really expensive early on when money is limited and the fox charges you an arm and a leg to heal.
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Humanoid

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Humanoid » Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:28 am

Second game of CK2 in a long time, I'm basically playing Conclave, Reaper's Due and Monks and Mystics for the first time. The first game was a 1066 Apulia start, which went well until the Seljuk Jihaded for Sicily which I had just formed and no one in the world except the Doge of Pisa came to my aid, RIP in pepperonis.

So I decided to dodge the Jihad by going back to the 769 start, despite my traditional dislike of it. I once again started in the south of Italy, and am doing reasonably well (ruling most of the peninsula proper including taking Rome as my capital). Catholicism, however, isn't. I guess crushing the Pope militarily contributed somewhat.

Image


So, uh, time to pick my heresy? This wasn't how I'd planned it, my intention was to expand south and east from my start, to avoid the same old Western Europe conquest I usually get myself stuck with. But Byzantium has proved resilient and the Abbasids are as blobby as ever, so I only have one direction to go.
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John

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby John » Sun Nov 26, 2017 5:24 pm

Humanoid wrote:The first game was a 1066 Apulia start, which went well until the Seljuk Jihaded for Sicily which I had just formed and no one in the world except the Doge of Pisa came to my aid, RIP in pepperonis.

I played a game from that start a while back, but I had much better luck than you. After acquiring Sicily and the various independent Italian duchies, I expanded into north Africa. It's not so much that I particularly wanted Africa, but more that it was the easiest way to get bodies to put between myself and the Byzantines or to throw at the Holy Roman Emperor when the time came to take northern Italy. Also, it was the only way to stop the constant Muslim raids on Sicily. I ended the game controlling all of Africa west of Egypt and almost all of de jure Italia.

The proverbial monkey wrench in my plans was that the Monks & Mystic patch came out half-way into the campaign. Suddenly, everyone was a secret Waldensian. By the 1400s, most of my vassal Kings had decided to be non-secret Waldensians and would not convert to Catholicism for love or money. Holding the realm together was a huge challenge. I managed to hang on until the end, but I imagine that sometime shortly after 1453 there was an apocalyptic civil war.

Otherwise, the difficulty in an Italian campaign is that it's a little harder to form the Empire of Italia than it is in most starts. Most of the time you just need two kingdom titles and 80% of the empire's de jure territory. With Italia, assuming I remember this all correctly, you need three kingdom titles for some reason.
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Humanoid

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby Humanoid » Mon Nov 27, 2017 12:59 am

Chance of converting counties back to Catholicism is about 1% given the zero or near-zero Moral Authority, so it's not even worth trying. But I can't yet convert to a heresy because a Crusade would then fire against me. One of the hidden game mechanics is that the Crusades/Jihads unlock early if key sites fall out of their "rightful" holders' hands. https://ck2.paradoxwikis.com/Crusades,_ ... _holy_wars

It'd be gamey as hell to give away and then grant independence to the county of Rome by itself before converting in order to dodge the Crusade. So it's just a case of quietly expanding and hoping Catholicism remains weak so I can eventually overpower all the remaining realms should they come after me.


P.S. The Basileus was unreformed Suomenusko for a while, but I suspect that was just shenanigans with either education or physician nonsense.
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The Rocketeer

Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby The Rocketeer » Mon Nov 27, 2017 1:01 am

So I have played two of the games I got from the still-ongoing Steam sale.

First up is The Witness. I like puzzle games, but aside from Picross, I don't really play that many. I was interested in The Witness since it was announced, but the $40 price point kept me away until the present. Positives first: the game is extraordinarily elegant, wordlessly delivering a mechanical brilliance quite unlike anything else out there. The puzzles themselves follow a long and steep difficulty curve starting with the elementary and ending with some seriously devious problems that will have you leaving faceprints in your wall. I managed to complete the game without looking up any solutions, so I've got that going for me, but a day after finishing it my brain still kinda feels like it was stomped through a shower drain. Also, one thing I find puzzle games frequently lack— or, I guess I should say, something I like that puzzles themselves tend not to incorporate— is some sort of tangible, observable goal outside of the completion of the puzzle itself. This is kinda core to why I've never liked Sudoku, despite the game being much similar in nature to Picross, which I love; Sudoku leaves you with a grid of numbers, Picross gives you a completed picture. Thus, the presentation and environment of The Witness contributes a lot to a feeling of satisfaction for me, with each puzzle lighting up one of those meaty fiber-optic cables and unlocking the next puzzle or opening a door or accomplishing some task in the physical world. By far, the most satisfying puzzles for me were the ones which tangibly affected the world or physically opened some path in this way, and gives value to the game that it would have lacked were it simply a succession of puzzles accessed through a menu. The world itself is also rather pretty, and the game uses its varied environments and vibrant palette to denote the segregation of conceptually-like puzzles into intuitive sets.

Now, the big drawback. There isn't a diplomatic way to say this, so I'll just be as blunt as I can. I think Jonathan Blow's writing is some of the worst I've ever seen, and all the worse for its outrageously disproportionate sense of self-regard. The nauseating pretentiousness of his trademark theme-via-allusion is gravely exacerbated by how sophomoric and trite it is, never rising above my lowest expectations of presentation or content for the least echelon of stereotypical indie would-be philosophers. More than anything, it's the manifestly unwarranted affectation of gravitas, bordering on— and, in this case, I would say deliberately flaunting— a secular holiness, that drives The Witness far from the league of the merely tedious into the offensive.

I've been banging my spoon on my high chair so long, so consistently, and so unabashedly about searching for themes in games, even when probably not necessary and more suggestive of personal obsession, that I hope I can claim with some credibility that I'm not just put off by the specter of the thematic in what might other be light entertainment. And I wanna at least try and claim that it's not the content of The Witness' thematic flailings that makes me so acutely dislike its methods in attempting to convey them; three of my favorite games, thematically speaking, are about nihilism, absurdism, and existentialism respectively (the Golden Triangle of Weltshchmerz!), and I certainly don't count myself as a nihilist, an absurdist, or an existentialist, nor even particularly sympathetic with any of those philosophies. I really do attribute my total dissatisfaction to the shockingly amateurish, played out, and insufferably self-unaware methods of the game's entire writing component. My contempt for it is so complete and thorough that I have no interest in the 3300-word analysis of why it doesn't work, in the large nor in any particular, that I'm sure at least one of you was dreading with bated breath. (Fun fact: the IGN wiki for The Witness has a page entitled, "What is 'The Witness' About?" The page is blank. I can't even gild that lily.)

Finally, for me and myself, there's an important question hanging over The Witness: is it better than Antichamber? No.

Secondly (actually this was earlier than I played The Witness), I played a little bit of Slime Rancher. Slime Rancher is pure light fun, but I have to say I think there's a lot of unused potential sitting there. The wonderfully fun and adorable little slimes make the game a joy just to run around in, but once I had three pens of largo slimes pooping out plorts for me, I kinda realized there wasn't anything left in the game for me to accomplish. There isn't any big goal in the game to work toward, and the meat of ranching slimes— that is, capturing them and safely containing and feeding them— is pretty trivial. There's plenty in the game to buy that I'd have to save up for, but nothing pressing my wallet in the meantime to defer those goals other than just waiting for my wallet to fill. There's no real time management aspect to the game other than feeding your slimes periodically, but there's also no real drawback to not feeding them. The main danger in the game is losing containment for your slimes and having them convert into/be eaten by Tarr, but even if that happens, replacing those slimes is a single day's work and hardly a noticeable dent in your revenue stream; there's no "investment" in your slimes that makes them more valuable in the longer term that makes losing them and immediately replacing them less preferable than keeping them safe, other than the busy work of having to corral them or replace them. Please also not that corralling slimes is the only gameplay, so obviating that mechanic isn't really the greatest development for your playthrough.

Each slime has some sort of quirk that theoretically makes it a unique challenge to contain, but aside from the quantum slimes, there doesn't seem to be any slime or hybrid in the game that isn't reasonably contained by higher walls and an air net, which is a paltry investment. At most, you'll want to keep certain slimes distant from other slime pens or food sources, but you have no shortage of space or plots for outbuildings, so there's no real space management metagame. The big drain on your resources, both in terms of cash and needing both quantity and variety of plorts, is Slime Science, which I admittedly just barely unlocked and haven't done any of before setting the game down to play The Witness. But I can't really see the point of investing in Slime Science, since the only obvious benefits of investing in it would be gaining more resources to invest in Slime Science. It doesn't actually seem to offer anything that's going to change how I manage, contain, or profit from my slimes, all of which are basically already optimized. And already, even though I only have a grand total of 30 slimes across 5 corrals, not even half of what I could theoretically support, the daily labor of picking and distributing food and harvesting plorts is already a grind I've started to tire of.

Without some sort of time management aspect and without certain dilemmas or long-term goals for running a safe and profitable farm, Slime Rancher is basically a clicker game. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. It's a light, mostly stress-free experience, a good thing to noodle around with while listening to a podcast. I know trading away that mostly stress-free framework in exchange for a longer, more depthful metagame would make the game less enjoyable for the game's fanbase, so I can't really hold any sort of grudge against it.

Oh, and I think it's kinda strange that the game focuses so sharply on BEATRIX LEBEAU, PLAYER CHARACTER, even though you're a stereotypical camera on wheels with no actual identity that never interacts with another person. It's bizarre how invested the game seems to be in trying to establish, as some sort of iconic and particular character, a content-free cipher that cannot meaningfully develop or benefit from any sort of characterization. The game would have been better off leaving all that aside and just relying on the peripheral characters (especially the slimes!) to lend the game a personal touch; the periodic letters from an old friend you receive (and the implication that you're sending unseen replies to these letters) just comes off as awkward and clumsy. I don't know what the point of BEATRIX LEBEAU, VERY IMPORTANT SPECIFIC PLAYER CHARACTER is supposed to be unless the designer just doesn't have a clear idea of what kind of game they want to make or unless people really will shell out money for a game that has the "Female Protagonist" Steam tag, no matter how superfluous and immaterial it might be to the actual experience.

So! Apropos of nothing at all, I've had a completely original, entirely brilliant idea for a game the likes of which the world has never seen, which I call "Slime Witness." It's like the Witness, and has basically the same environment and the exact same puzzles, but it has Slime Rancher's art style, the world is inhabited by roaming slimes, the little dots and shapes in the mazes are replaced by slime faces, and instead of lighting up fat fiber optic cables and firing lasers, you get showered with plorts that you use to unlock sequential content, and also all the game's recorded speech or video content is replace by the cooing, burbling, and bumbling of adorable slimes. Also, and I wanna make this abundantly clear, because it is critical and foundational to the entire experience, you play as MARCEL FRANCENAME, EXTREMELY INDIVIDUAL PROTAGONIST WITNESS PERSON, who never interacts with another intelligent being, expresses any personality whatsoever, and whom you will know entirely from their shadow, which I think is really important to a game of such unprecedented philosophical depth and importance as Slime Witness.

With all that said and out of the way, it's time to start Prey, a game I don't really know anything at all about other than that it seemed somewhat well-receieved.

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