This week I have been mostly playing...

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grahams_xwing
Location: Mansfield, UK

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

Postby grahams_xwing » Wed Sep 20, 2017 8:13 am

Penultimate boss in Unepic.... a ruddy great armoured eyeball with mechanics that are a credited rip off of Medusa. Poisonous snakes and an instakill eye beam. Absolute bitch - took several attempts before I bit the bullet, checked a wiki, went and bought the needed potions to mitigate the damage and switched to attacking the snake heads first before taking on the eye... 2nd try with a proper strategy and I down the boss.
Pick up the drops and promptly make the rookie error of seeing what was in the pit that boss had risen from. Insta kill spikes.

Oh well - another few attempts to kill the Boss again.... Ooops
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The Rocketeer

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

Postby The Rocketeer » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:39 am

You know, it's been a long time since I've really ripped into a game. I mean, just really taken the gloves off and had at it. So I'm sure you'll all be pleased to know that I've recently played quite a lot of Fallout 4, and had a really great time with it, actually.

After stalling out in New Vegas a while back, I realized that what I really wanted from an open world game was a sense of exploring the unfamiliar, and, conveniently, I've only been through the Commonwealth once before and don't know it half as well as I do any other TES/FO games I've played. I'd also been through the game expressly without mods, and this was my chance to wade in and see what the community had made of Fallout 4. Lastly, I decided to give the game's Survival Mode a try, which didn't exist as of my first and only previous playthrough.

First off, without even dipping my toe in first, I ended up modding about 80% of vanilla Survival Mode, either reverting its changes back to standard or just altering them in some way. Survival Mode is one of those frequent occasions when something in a Bethesda game seems to have been designed by people that have never played or heard of Bethesda games before and have no idea how they work or even what kind of games they tend to be. Long story short, the big changes were reinstating regular saving and console use, because of fucking course. Next, I made it so that I could fast travel, but only between owned settlements linked by supply lines. Lastly, I ditched Adrenaline as a mechanic and just set player damage to a flat 2x, same as enemy damage; mole rats roll right out of bed ready to deal full damage, I don't see why I have to bother working my way up to it. If the player's damage started at parity with enemies and Adrenaline gave you an edge over them, that would be different, but really, working your way up to firing bullets as hard as any no-name raider feels wrong.

With all that in place, I had an experience very similar in spirit to my Frostfall/RND/limited fast travel Skyrim playthrough: an interesting challenge for the first couple dozen levels, and mostly just busywork after that. Hunger and thirst both felt like they decayed a bit too rapidly, but I realized that might just have been my experience with the completely-toothless New Vegas hardcore mode talking; I suspect there either is no goldilocks zone for how fast these needs should decay, or that the margin is razor thin, and furthermore that it is highly subjective. But one thing Survival does do is break the game down into a large number of small challenges and milestones with an added overall layer of progression, which, together with the other changes, lends a very different atmosphere to the proceedings. When you can only fast travel from settlements with supply lines, you have a damn good incentive to actually get settlements up and running, and being far away from any fast-travel node in your network makes it feel like you're really out in the wasteland, far from safety— because you are.

That, and slowly working outward from a zone of control synergized well with both the increased lethality of Survival and the highly level-dependent combat difficulty. It also meshed well with my overall aims for this playthrough and, I suspect, with my aims in any possible Fallout 4 playthrough: simply to explore the map, clearing out locations as I go and collecting the magazines and bobbleheads. I literally had a map of all Commonwealth locations open in Paint and marked through them in red after exploring them.

It's fair to say that a lot of the fun I had with the game was down to drastically narrowed expectations. I know Fallout 4 isn't capable of offering any kinds of interesting story, or cast, or a setting, or any fun quests, or any meaningful choice, and rather than just butt my head against that brick wall, I just managed to ignore all of it while treating the game solely as a dungeon crawler. I did eventually have a mini-freakout one day when I accidentally thought about it for a moment and then couldn't avoid suddenly re-experienced the massive disappointment that is the entire world and everyone in it and everything that has happened or can happen there, all at once and as if for the first time, but once that was over it was back to business as usual.

I eventually put the game away again, mostly because I really did mark off every location on that map of the Commonwealth. The only places I hadn't explored were a scant handful of spots that either locked me out or would need to be re-explored in a later main quest, like Fort Strong, the Sentinel Site, or Libertopia. That, and one of the mods I was (ab)using was one that significantly flattened the experience curve for gaining levels, to the point that reaching the theoretical "max" level requres about half the total XP. And, as others have observed before, the game really doesn't cope well with higher levels, especially once you start getting over level 100; there are many little things in the game that work best if the player doesn't have more than around 500 HP; at somewhere around level 138 with 11 base END, I have somewhere around 1400 HP or more. Enemy health is also absolutely out of whack, with random leveled super mutants shrugging off gauss rifle sneak headshots.

I still haven't dipped a toe into any expansion areas or questlines after my second main playthrough. If I ever get the urge to explore Far Harbor or Nuka World, I think I'll have to bump global damage up to 3x or more to compensate for everyone's ludicrous resilience. I could go on, especially about the various mods I've been trying out, but I won't.

I've since moved on to my long-awaited and repeatedly-delayed playthrough of Fatal Frame III, and I'm realizing that I like the game even more than I remembered. I'll definitely have more to say about it and what sets it apart, but until then, if you catch me chanting anything like, "Sleep, Priestess, lie in peace" or "MORE SACRIFICES, MORE BLOOD," it just means I'm still enjoying the game.
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Daemian Lucifer

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

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:16 am

The Rocketeer wrote:Hunger and thirst both felt like they decayed a bit too rapidly, but I realized that might just have been my experience with the completely-toothless New Vegas hardcore mode talking; I suspect there either is no goldilocks zone for how fast these needs should decay, or that the margin is razor thin, and furthermore that it is highly subjective.


Heres the thing that gets to me about hunger and thirst in almost every game:The introduction of them is to enhance realism,right?So what does "Bind food to 9,bind water to 0,press 9 and 0 when needed" do to enhance realism?f realism is the goal,then you should make eating/drinking a chore.Make it so that the player has to make camp at certain points,and at those points the character does ALL of their stuff,including drinking,resting/sleeping,eating,pissing and shitting.Because those are all chores of equal importance that differ only in how long each one takes.Putting them in a single place would reduce the boring aspect of them,while still maintaining the urgency to do them.

But,if you dont want exact realism,yet want these things to be in your game to increase difficulty,then automate it completely.Your players will minmax those graphs anyway,so why not skip the silly "press shortcut to eat" and just make it so that as long as the player has food/water in their inventory the character will replenish the bars when not in combat.The players will still do the hard things like scavenge for supplies in dangerous locations and spend their hard earned cash to resupply.The only thing that theyll lose is the tedium of watching the bars and pressing the correct hotkey when those drop below a certain threshold.

Also,if you want hunger and thirst bars,the most important thing is to remove the ability to replenish health with food and drinks.

Or,you know,bind "Pissing" to P and "Shitting" to O,and have it so that the player has "Bladder" and "Bowels" bars as well,and has to constantly stop and hold those buttons for a while in order to do so.Because its so real!
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lurkey

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

Postby lurkey » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:54 am

Daemian Lucifer wrote:Or,you know,bind "Pissing" to P and "Shitting" to O,and have it so that the player has "Bladder" and "Bowels" bars as well,and has to constantly stop and hold those buttons for a while in order to do so.Because its so real!


Not only it is real, it's potentially much more fun than eating and sleeping, especially if you choose to press P or O somewhere interesting, like NCR HQ, next to Caesar's tent, Gomorra brothel -- and if you keep ignoring those needs, even more interesting things may happen!
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The Rocketeer

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

Postby The Rocketeer » Wed Sep 20, 2017 3:34 pm

Daemian Lucifer wrote:Also,if you want hunger and thirst bars,the most important thing is to remove the ability to replenish health with food and drinks.
FO4 Survival halfway does this; food replenishes health over time, but only if you're already full. Which doesn't really make much sense, and creates some odd incentives. Obviously, you don't want to waste your powerful healing food just to fill up on, so you'll hold all your crab cakes and deathclaw steaks and whatever in reserve and subsist pretty much entirely on shit like mole rat chunks and mutt chops, unless you need healing. And it doesn't make any sense that you would choke down wasteland scraps to the point you aren't hungry anymore, and then treat yourself to, say, a Queen Mirelurk Steak the size of a pillow. But you'll almost always have to "prime" your hunger before eating food for healing, since it seems like the "full" categories of hunger and thirst are both really shortlived. And of course, it goes without saying that eating an entire meal (or several meals) for a benefit in the middle of combat will never not be preposterous.

All of that, and food actually doesn't make very good healing, especially at higher levels. Common food heals for such a low amount that it will never be useful for healing even at low levels, and the good stuff, like Deathclaw Steaks, don't really become common enough to rely on for healing until your health is already so high that it starts trivializing their total heal value, which is static. But Stimpaks cure for a percentage of your max health, meaning they stay relevant for characters of any level. Take my character for instance, which has ~1239 HP. The most powerful healing food in the base game is Yao Guai Roast, which restores 210 HP. A stimpak restores 30% HP, meaning they restore 371.7 HP for me. Except, I also have 2 ranks in Medic, so they actually restore 60% = 743.4 HP. Now, an 11EN Lv.138 character might be a bit of an extreme example, but even an 8EN Lv.45 character, for instance, will only get a 50% heal from that Yao Guai Roast; my point is that food just continues to scale worse and worse over time, unlike stimpaks.

Beyond all that, I'm pretty sure beverages still restore HP regardless of thirst; seems like I always get a little heal over time when drinking a Purified Water. Which would mean a Quantum is always a 400HP heal. I could be wrong about that, though.

To sum up, it's all way worse than Skyrim's RND mod, which you probably could have guessed.
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Trix2000
Location: California

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

Postby Trix2000 » Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:30 pm

Yeah, if I recall his team's in like the mid/late 80s in the remakes.

I recall beating him with a significantly under-leveled crew in the remakes (cheesing with items!), but I think I was at least in the high 50s/60s - beating him at 48 is pretty neat.
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The Rocketeer

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

Postby The Rocketeer » Fri Sep 22, 2017 5:53 am

MORE SACRIFICES
MORE BLOOD
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Jokerman

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

Postby Jokerman » Fri Sep 22, 2017 11:13 pm

Titanfall 2, currently surprised how much fun i am having in the campaign....
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JadedDM

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

Postby JadedDM » Fri Sep 22, 2017 11:54 pm

Trix2000 wrote:Yeah, if I recall his team's in like the mid/late 80s in the remakes.

I recall beating him with a significantly under-leveled crew in the remakes (cheesing with items!), but I think I was at least in the high 50s/60s - beating him at 48 is pretty neat.

Yeah, I was pretty surprised and pleased I did it. I assumed it wouldn't be possible, or that it would take at least more than two tries.
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The Rocketeer

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

Postby The Rocketeer » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:32 am

Fatal Frame III: The Tormented is the Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War of the Fatal Frame series.

What the hell does that mean? Well, in 2001 on the PS2, Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (subtitled "Distant Thunder" for Europe) took a franchise in a niche genre and filled it with a new energy and style that would come to closely define the series into its future. Its sequel, Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War would go on to polish that rough-cut advancement to a mirror shine and set the archetypal standard for the series. And then afterward, Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War took the style and premise now central to the series and distinguished itself by diverting from it somewhat, trying its hand at something a bit more thematic and personal.

What does any of that have to do with Fatal Frame? Well, in 2002, Fatal Frame (simply called "Zero" in Japan and "Project Zero" in Europe) established a new franchise in the niche survival horror genre that would fairly strictly define what games to come in the series would be, tonally, structurally and mechanically. Its successor, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly, while adhering to that foundation to a fairly minute degree, managed to so completely excel its predecessor in all fundamental respects that it still today serves as the archetypal example of what a Fatal Frame game is or should be. And then, Fatal Frame III: The Tormented took that by-now-calcified story structure and mechanical basis, and moved in a somewhat different direction, elevating it with the pursuit of something much more thematic and personal than its predecessors had attempted. It doesn't take close study of the three games to show that they are, in many narrative respects, nearly identical, with the latter two clinging all but unerringly to the formula established by the first. But what stands out in close inspection is how thoroughly the third title, while still recapitulating the same structural pillars and relationships, repurposes them for a goal unique to itself.

Fatal Frame had always relied on some personal, familial hook or stakes to provide the inciting motivation for the story being told. In the first two titles, you're out to rescue your brother and sister, respectively. In both of these games, the personal relationship has very little weight in the story beyond its utilitarian narrative purpose of getting the protagonist into the mansion— it's always some kind of mansion in these games— where the plot can then progress on its rails. Honestly, if I had to articulate a major flaw in the second game, it would be that neither of the sisters, Mio and Mayu, are really defined as characters and their relationship is never established in a way relatable to the audience, preventing it from holding much of the emotional weight you'd expect just from hearing the premise. But in both of those games, the thin player-characters are easy to excuse; in both, the setting itself is the star of the show, and the player's connection with their avatar is created by sharing the visceral emotional response to their situation, uncovering the tragic and sinister history compulsively repeating itself and being drawn unwillingly and unstoppably into the heart of danger.

In Fatal Frame I and II, the games use the main characters' entrapment within the central location to slowly reveal the events centered around the climactic incident that serves as the location's curse, its source of misery. In both games, the focus is on a literal gate to Hell, and the grotesque rituals of human sacrifice necessary to appease or keep closed the hell gate and prevent the malice and anguish of the dead from spilling over from the next world into our own. In both games, the irreconcilable discomfort between the cruelty of these sacrifices and the results of failing to perform them properly are leveraged for horror; we instinctively want the characters to escape the agony of their fates, caught between their feelings of love and their unspeakable duty, but the results of straying from those duties is orders of magnitude more repulsive. Intentionally, there is no pretty bow to put on things; at the conclusion of each game, the protagonists buy their survival at the cost of belatedly satisfying the ritual that once went awry, offering up the soul of another for their freedom. In both games, there is an optional "happy" ending that further leverages this dilemma by allowing the protagonist to escape with their sibling— that is, without paying their personal cost— while leaving unresolved the rituals to appease the hell gate. Their loved ones' lives are saved by condemning the sacrifice to suffer alone for eternity in the first, and by leaving countless souls to suffer between this world and the next in the second.

In both games, the narratives are driven by fate and the inevitable recurrence of all things: the repetition, in time, of the same events, the same emotional conflicts and the same personal circumstances, and, with those, the seeming recurrence or reincarnation of individuals and the inseparable fates of any two such souls.

Fatal Frame III: The Tormented inherits and exhibits all of these things, while imbuing them with its own particular purpose. In Fatal Frame III, the main character, Rei Kurosawa, is once again drawn into the central location, the Manor of Sleep, by her feelings for her lover, Yuu. The difference, though, is that Yuu is already dead; Rei isn't compelled by some need to save someone significant to her, because she can't. What sets Fatal Frame III apart is that, this time, the game really is about the main character, Rei, and about her relationship and feelings. Fatal Frame and Fatal Frame II leverage a personal angle to sell a horror game; The Tormented uses a horror game as a vehicle to tell a personal story. In reversal of tradition, the game uses the historic events of the setting to contextualize the emotions and circumstances of the present-day cast, and the focus isn't on exploiting the victims of tragedy for horror (though that's certainly a large part of the game) but on the aftermath of death and loss, and the struggle of those left behind— the tormented, those left alive without a reason to carry on. Fatal Frame and Fatal Frame II were ghost stories, excellent ones. Fatal Frame III is a story about survivor's guilt, told through Rei Kurosawa's emotional collapse following the death of her fiance, her withdrawal from her own life into mental and physical torpor, and her failing struggle with her feelings of responsibility, isolation, and the deafening undertones of suicidal compulsions.

Unlike her predecessors, Rei is deliberately and thoroughly characterized. Rei lives her normal life by day (or, more accurately, doesn't live her normal life) and visits the Manor of Sleep in her dreams. While awake, you inhabit Rei's house along with her assistant Miku Hinasaki, the protagonist of the first Fatal Frame. Examining everything around Rei's house to get her descriptions and thoughts, in true adventure/survival horror game fashion, reveals a lot about Rei's declining mental state and her host of textbook depressive symptoms. Since losing Yuu, she rarely leaves home except for her photography work, which she's thrown herself into as a way to distract herself from everything else. She hasn't been able to physically dispose of her daily attachment to Yuu; knowing the disposal of his possessions would strongly signify his exit from her life, his shoes still sit in the rack by the door, and his room remains all but untouched after she couldn't bring herself to box up his things. Rei has become lax in the daily routines of life, hardly ever cooking her own meals, cleaning, or keeping up any social attachments, relying on Miku to take care of nearly everything. Rei's life has, in a sense, become frozen in time, unable to cope with her lover's death or find a reason to carry on alone. It's in these circumstances, in the game's logic, that the living are ensnared by the Manor of Sleep, compelled to journey ever deeper into the manor for the chance to see their loved ones one more time, eventually sleeping longer and longer until they simply disappear, spirited away by the presence within.

In traditional fashion, Rei's life and fate is mirrored by the lost souls she encounters in the mansion. In both previous games, you first encounter the remnants of latter-day interlopers like yourselves, entrapped in the same circumstances, who met grisly ends and were added to the host of lost souls infesting the premises. Then, while stepping back through the locations' histories, they are likened on a deeper level to the figures central to the tragedy underlying the setting. So it is with Fatal Frame III; the first major character you encounter is a plane crash survivor who, having lost her whole family, has been trapped by the manor so long now that she has lost all reason. She is incoherent with fatigue and guilt, lamenting her own survival and stalked by the jealous feelings of the dead wherever she goes. The survivor is spirited away early in the game, losing her struggle with the mansion, entrapped there forever to inflict its inescapable pain on others. In the fashion of the series, the stakes for Rei are made clear: this is what will become of her if she can't diverge from this path.

Rei's later parallel, and the one central to the game, is with Reika Kuze, who stalks the Manor of Sleep and preys on the living souls trapped within it. I can't call Reika the villain or antagonist; in all these games, the true villain is fate and circumstance; the player/player-characters' fear of the spirits is always tempered by pity for their shared doom. Reika, having survived her family alone after some disaster, offers herself to the Kuze Shrine as a priestess for the ritual they perform there. Every winter, mourners who cannot bear the grief of their loss come to the Kuze Shrine, where they relate their sadness to the priestess. As they share their loss, the priestess is tattooed with a symbolic snake-and-holly pattern, absolving them of their woe by taking it on herself and preventing their pain from calling the dead back to trouble our world. When the priestess is fully covered with the tattoo, she frees herself from worldly attachments, casts away her own suffering, and is led beneath the shrine where the shores of this world face the shores of the next to sleep forever.

In the fashion of the series, though, something goes wrong. When Reika falls in love again before being sent away, she cannot free herself from worldly attachment and goes to the final shore with longing still in her heart. When her lover sneaks in to see her one last time, and is slain before her eyes by the family master, the torment of her loss unleashes all the suffering she had taken on, reflecting it back on everyone around her, corrupting the passage to the next world, barring the passage of souls to the other shore, venting miasma from the site of the disaster, and creating the dream manor where her spirit shares her pain with other survivors by imprinting her holly tattoo onto them, where it spreads further and further until they are consumed by the excruciating pain of loss and spirited away.

Like past games, the characters are forced to face the heart of darkness personally, or succumb. But unlike past games, in which the characters would (and can) just run away alone if they weren't physically forced to remain, the game ties this inexorable pull to venture ever deeper to Rei's personal story. It's the survivors' feelings of grief, of guilt, of wanting to see their loved ones again no matter the cost, that ensnares them in the Manor of Sleep. The game is unsubtle about revealing that, even if she could, Rei would return there just to see Yuu one more time, even if it meant her own life. Perversely, and in the fatalistic manner of the games, it's Rei's failure to resist her own grief and escape the Manor's grasp that forces her to venture into the Rift, pursuing the depths of the dream in spite of the threat to her life. Over the course of the game, Miku, who lost her brother in the first game, is herself entrapped by the guilt and loss she feels after realizing she can no longer clearly remember her brother's voice or face. Just before Miku is completely consumed by the holly, Rei tries to save her by telling her how much Miku means to her, to not lose hope in her life because she isn't alone after all. But Rei herself either doesn't realize or doesn't believe that the reverse should also be true, and that she should persevere for Miku. In her heart of hearts, Rei's acceptance her own imminent death would doom Miku to another sole survival, even more alone than before.

Along with Miku from the first, the second game is also represented after a fashion by Kei Amakura, the heretofore unmentioned brother of Crimson Butterfly's protagonist, Mio Amakura. Kei, like Miku, is also a playable character in Fatal Frame III and became entrapped in the Manor of Sleep more or less as collateral damage with Mio, who couldn't overcome her murder of loss of her twin sister Mayu at the end of the game. Mio, hospitalized and sleeping almost all the time by the start of Fatal Frame III, is right on the edge of being spirited away, and Kei ventures into the manor to try and find a way to save her. Kei is the weakest character in more ways than one; while he has lost his sister Mayu, he isn't drawn into the manor for his own grief, but seemingly by mere proximity to Mio. I don't know to what I should ascribe the creators' decision not to just bring Mio back like Miku, but there it is.

The game pulls apart from its predecessors most fully in its conclusion. While all three games end at some taboo location, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead, the finales of the first two games take place at an explicit gate to Hell, a place the mere existence of which must be revered and warded against by extreme means on pain of disaster. But the end of the third game takes place at a very different boundary; as is common in The Tormented, the location is visually reminiscent of the first Fatal Frame, with the boundary sealed behind a very familiar looking ancient stone gate. But beyond that gate is a literal representation of the horizon between worlds, a calm and eerie shore where floating lanterns and spectral wayfarers cross over to the unseen shore of the other world. This is something that probably means little to someone who didn't play the first two games and is a very abrupt, effective shock to anyone that has. But it's appropriate for this game's different attitude.

As in past games, Reika is spiritually stuck forever reliving her moment of torment, physically restrained to the ground with her eyes stuck open, seeing nothing but her slain lover beside her for all time. But unlike past games, and like Rei, it isn't the failure of an appeasement ritual or the moment of her own death that is relived; it's the moment of another's death, unable to cope with the feeling of loss and guilt. It's in resolving this failed ritual that The Tormented sets itself apart as something other than purely a horror story; if Fatal Frame III ended like the previous games, you would forcibly consign Reika to lie forever in the Chamber of Thorns with her pain— something Kei actually attempts, before finding it had already been attempted, unsuccessfully. Whereas the previous games forced you to sacrifice someone dear to propitiate death itself, this game resolves by overcoming Reika's agony, absolving her of it, and sending her and her lover to the other shore together.

And, in true Fatal Frame parallel fashion, when the passage across the Abyss of the Horizon becomes clear once again, Rei spots and intercepts Yuu's spirit as it makes its crossing. She tells him that she wants to go with him, that she has no reason to stay behind without him. But Yuu takes on Rei's holly himself, absolving her of the unbearable torment and giving her the strength to carry on with his words. The game's ending, while not horrific like its predecessors, is nonetheless bittersweet; Rei doesn't get Yuu back. She awakes from her final dream of the Manor of Sleep crying, still not free of her grief, though willing to live on in spite of it. And unlike the game's predecessors, it's the additional ending, in which Kei survives, that is most fitting for the game, and which the creators acknowledge as the real ending. It differs from the first only in Kei's survival and the addition of a few images of Rei and Miku getting back to their daily lives, and of Mio having recovered. But that confirmation is pretty critical to closing the game as something different from the first two.

In Fatal Frame and Crimson Butterfly, the horror is derived from the inevitable, incomprehensible nature of death, and the powerlessness of the living to challenge it. The power of death is overbearing, oblivious, consuming without surcease, driving the living to depravity to be free even temporarily of its ravages. In the end, even in nominal victory, the player must submit themselves to that power, living another day not by overcoming it but by reckoning themselves to its supremacy and diverting its malice at an irreplaceable personal cost. But Fatal Frame III, without gainsaying that horror, refocuses on an uplifting and affirmative message, one of perseverance over death's power and the strength of the bonds of love to endure over its torment. You might even say that Rei's story is unrealistically optimistic, since she's ultimately turned back from despair by the one critical thing real survivors are forced to endure without: closure with the one she survives. But the real important element to Rei's (and Miku's, and Mio's) recovery is these ordinary little snapshots of ordinary little moments, affirming that there is life after loss.

I likened the game to Ace Combat Zero, with its more personal focus on the lives and deaths of individuals during and after war. But Fatal Frame III also reminds me of the next game, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, and the way in which it was created seemingly to serve as a capstone to what had come before. (I also think the creators played and really liked Silent Hill 4: The Room beforehand, but nevermind that.) I get the sense from Fatal Frame III that its creators were making their peace with the series, in the way that it explicitly recalls and involves the persons and events of the series up to that point and weaves them into its singular resolution of making your peace with what's passed. In the narrative thread that leads to the second, canon ending, you acquire a book alluding to the very different ending of the game, to sending away Reika's spirit to the other side and absolving her torment. There's a line in that book that stuck right out to me: "The first and second verses are littered with frightening words, but the third verse is more melancholy." A sentiment plainly expressed, but for taking the viscerally affecting foundations of the series and elevating them with an unexpected humanity, with something so intimate and personal, I take it as a fitting epigraph for a game that went beyond merely frightening.
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SpammyV
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Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby SpammyV » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:58 am

POKEMON SUN! First, the downsides.

Pokemon that I haven't caught yet calling for help annoys me every time it happens because you can't try to catch someone while there's two wild Pokemon out. I mean, I'm pretty rapidly overleveled for any given area so it's more annoying that drastically ruining.

When I need to do a lot of mass training, I'll turn the XP Share back on. But for now it just kind of results in me never using most of my Pokemon and letting them cheese up levels. And I'm not about that life! I'm about making connections with my Pokemon. And if they're just sitting in the back of the party passively gaining XP then I'm not making those connections, so... New XP Share is still a situational item for me.

The interface has gotten worse for reasons unknown to me. To rearrange Pokemon in my party I have to press Y to enter move mode, then press Y or A to select the Pokemon I want to move. Older games you pressed A to bring up the menu of things to do with a Pokemon and Move was one of those options. Sure, I'm fighting with muscle memory right now, but it feels like a change that doesn't actually save any time or button presses. Also, I can't see a Pokemon's moves or stats at the same time.

On the plus side though, sweet blap writing. I mean having spent the last six months working through the Gen 1 remakes, the fact that the game text isn't bland is still incredibly novel and exciting to me. Also, I'm endlessly amused any time you have the opportunity to ignore Team Skull goons.

The battle interface got a lot better though, letting you see how effective a move will be on any Pokemon you've fought before. Now I have even less of an excuse to be surprised when Electric isn't supereffective against Steel. Also you can see stat adjustments and weather conditions. Using items out of the Bag has also gotten a lot better and clearer.

And this game is so much more friendly about letting you prepare for a plot battle. The map on the bottom screen lets you see where the next plot event is, which doesn't 100% mean a battle but lets you prepare anyway. A lot of surprise encounters end with you near a Pokemon Center or getting you healed before/after the battle. So no more Cheren and Bianca ambushing you after you've been fighting trainers so they can be all "FRIEND! HAVE FRIEND! FIGHT FRIEND! KILL FRIEND!" Or you're minding your own business and forget that Blue shows up here so WHOOPS time for a rival battle.

My point is that this game is polite about fixed plot battles and I am very grateful for it.

It turns out that actually everything I wanted in a Pokemon game was to have the chance to brush off my Pokemon after a battle and pet them for doing a good job.
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Ringwraith

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

Postby Ringwraith » Sun Sep 24, 2017 12:15 pm

SpammyV wrote:POKEMON SUN! First, the downsides.

Pokemon that I haven't caught yet calling for help annoys me every time it happens because you can't try to catch someone while there's two wild Pokemon out. I mean, I'm pretty rapidly overleveled for any given area so it's more annoying that drastically ruining.
...
The interface has gotten worse for reasons unknown to me. To rearrange Pokemon in my party I have to press Y to enter move mode, then press Y or A to select the Pokemon I want to move. Older games you pressed A to bring up the menu of things to do with a Pokemon and Move was one of those options. Sure, I'm fighting with muscle memory right now, but it feels like a change that doesn't actually save any time or button presses. Also, I can't see a Pokemon's moves or stats at the same time.

They cannot call for help if they're afflicted with any status ailments (except confusion), which can really help.
Paralyse is your friend!
(Why it's not a really low chance to happen unless you use the item specifically for it, which is dirt cheap to buy, I have no idea, mostly annoying).

The moves/stats divide on the status screen has been there for a while, however the Y thing is new, the main reason is because it means you can directly just drag-and-drop with the touch screen instead of having to going into a menu or press Y and quick switch (it does mean less presses as you don't need that submenu anymore). Some other menus copy that aspect.
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Supahewok

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

Postby Supahewok » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:57 pm

Been playing more of Age of Empires 2, although not for the past couple of weeks. I slumped out of the Frederick Barbarossa campaign in the level where you have to cross a map with an army that you can't replace. The first obstacle of the level is a body of water that bisects the map and must be crossed to reach the goal. The game gives you two options: either beat up an entrenched and fortified city (Constantinople) into giving you transports, or sneak around to a small ally at the edge of the map (Gallipoli), that'll give you their transports for free and without conflict. Naturally, in a map all about preserving your own forces, the clear choice is the latter, right? Only the game doesn't tell you that there's a big-ass hostile fleet patrolling the waters, that magically know the moment and location you obtain vessels, and proceed to charge them from across the map and sink them with all your troops onboard. This makes the Gallipoli option near impossible, given that all it gives you are transports without escorts or a protected harbor, whereas Constantinople has waterside defenses and warships that will protect the transports they hand over to you.

That stupid kind of "gotcha" trap really turns me off. Although I know the trick now, I haven't been able to bring myself back and continue. I moved on to the first expansion, and played through the Attila and El Cid campaigns. There's an immediate set of differences between the campaign missions of the expansion and the base game. Most of the base game missions simply threw you against multiple AI opponents and told you to kill them, while sprinkling a couple of scripted bonuses across the maps if you went looking for them. Whereas the expansion levels are, in comparison, much more tightly scripted with special events and triggers, which personally is what I play RTS campaigns for, as if I want to play a regular battle against AI then I'd just set it up in skirmish mode. The expansion also adds a new window of mission information that pretty much spells out the entirety of that mission's scripted events and what will cause them, which although it prevents any "gotcha" moments like what I was complaining about before, makes the levels really easy and predictable. It's a more stable experience, but not a particularly challenging one. So mixed bag.

As mentioned though, I've been on a break of the game for a few weeks. I got the itch to play a space 4x, so I fired up ol' GalCiv 2. I tend to play a custom civ with bonuses to Planet Quality (lets you build more buildings on planets), population growth, the Super Ability that gives you bonuses to building factories, and the political party that gives you a boost to research, for a general purpose, flexible civilization that can handle most anything that the galaxy can throw at it (besides an early and mid-game economy, which I always struggle with cuz although getting a set of factories up and running fast on new planets is a major boost to pretty much everything, it is expensive as all hell, and doesn't really settle out until a few dozen turns after there are no more planets left to colonize).

I've been switching between that and Tales of Symphonia. One of my old high school circle of friends are a big bunch of light weebs, half the time talking about animes and Japanese games and stuff that I've never heard of and couldn't care less about. They really like the Tales games, and those things have started popping up on Steam in the wake of Japan discovering a couple years ago that the nerds of the West who'd be into foreign markets aren't all console users, and that there's gold in them thar hills in the fabled land of the PC. They were on sale a couple months ago, so I scooped them up and have started on them when I'm watching TV.

As I've played Symphonia, it started poking at dusty parts of my brain that vaguely remember nerd fights long ago comparing and contrasting Symphonia with Final Fantasy 10. And I can see why. They both released at around the same time, they both have a very Moe chick clearly foreshadowed to be a Messiah figure that's gonna die for the sake of the world and that cheeses off the clueless rube of a main protagonist who apparently never read a Shakespearean tragedy in his life and tearily screams that he'd rather get in a fist fight with God than allow this to pass (which, to be fair, gives him more balls than Hamlet at least), they both have an ancient, world weary, cynical mentor figure that's seen it all and been it all at that ripe old age of 35 that travels with the party and has supernatural script reading superpowers, they both have fantasy racism, they both have a New World Order religious organization pulling the strings that direct the world, and they both feature a pilgrimage to save the world that involves visiting ancient shrines in a prescribed order so that you can beat up whatever magic fairy which lives there.

They've got their fair share of differences, though. The biggest being that Symphonia has nowhere near the production budget of FF "half pre-rendered CGI" X. It's also in some ways a far more traditional JRPG than FFX, yet in some other ways significantly more ambitious. I don't really want to talk much about that yet; at 20 hours of playtime I've finally reached the end of Act freaking 1, and am only a small ways into Act 2, and I'd rather wait for everything to play out before trying to comment too much on the narrative.

I would like to issue a public apology to everyone who I've ever privately scoffed at complaining about time padding in games, particularly grind happy JRPGS, and 14 part fantasy "epic" novel series, and shonen anime, because ever since I read The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe and gotten a full-time job and other obligations, I have discovered that A) it does not take 10 books of 1000 pages each, or 80 hours of gameplay, to tell a worthwhile story and B) there really aren't enough hours in the day. So, to you old folks, I'm sorry. I'm now one of you, and just like everybody else who's ever lived who's devoted a single hour to introspection, can only call my past self a dumb-ass.

Apropos of nothing, there's a lot of padding and grinding in Symphonia.
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The Rocketeer

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

Postby The Rocketeer » Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:32 pm

I've grown somewhat suspicious that I got an unrepresentatively favorable first impression of Tales, after I played Xillia first and received it quite fondly. Then Xillia 2 left a sour impression on me, and I had to bow out of Symphonia early. (A lot of the shine peeled off of Xillia after returning to it later, as well.) I'm still interested in trying Zestiria or Berseria if I can get them cheaply enough.
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Supahewok

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

Postby Supahewok » Sun Sep 24, 2017 11:09 pm

Zesteria and Berseria are the other options on Steam so far. Zesteria was $12.49 when I bought it, so that was a 75% off sale that can presumably can be counted on to happen again. I don't remember what Berseria's price was cuz I didn't pick it up, so it must not have been less than half price and also presumably won't be in the near future. I'm waiting to see if Xilia pops up there on some point. I've heard of it being one of the better ones, and it's got a chick rocking the Tifa white shirt/bra, which I'm comfortable enough with saying that that's a plus for me.
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The Rocketeer

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

Postby The Rocketeer » Sun Sep 24, 2017 11:49 pm

I think what I really picked up on in Xillia was that its narrative was rooted in somewhat realistic conflicts; it isn't a big monster from the center of Dimension J, like it was in Xillia 2. (Really, my biggest problem with Xillia 2 was that it was stupid and uncreative in almost every way that Xillia had put in at least basic forethought.) Without giving much away, the main conflicts in Xillia are an expansionist arms race, castaways trying to get home, and an energy crisis, which necessarily centers the action around more relatably human motivations. The Act 2 villain is a massive prick, but I couldn't help but feel for him when he pleads his case before getting popped. Actually, the successive villains in Xillia become more human and relatable and the acts' conflicts less clear-cut as the plot wears on, in contrast to some JRPG's I could recall in which the identifiable human face is disposed with before the third act, and then you clean up the planet's devil-tick infestation or whatever.

My main problem with Xillia was the two main characters, which makes it sort of a big problem, since they drive so much of the action on your end of things. Jude is boring, and Milla is sssSSSTOOPIT. But there's a pretty strong ensemble dynamic, so the rest of the (much stronger) cast does a lot of heavy lifting and gives the dull leads something worthwhile to play off of. (And then, of course, the game gets some kind of weird hateboner for my favorite party member and shits all over them repeatedly and for no real reason.) Xillia is one of those extraordinarily rare JRPG's where I could easily describe how each party member feels about each of the others, rather than being defined totally by whatever tragic backstory ropes them into joining up and thence just being totally wrapped up in fighting the evil corporation that wants to kidnap elves to to manufacture all-powerful soda or the like.
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Ringwraith

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

Postby Ringwraith » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:26 am

It is true the bits I liked about Xillia 2 the most were not the main plot, really, kinda a bit yawn-inducing, although some of the character side-stories are great and Elle somehow isn't an incredibly annoying child. It at the very least remembers to be about its strong suit, characters, when it gets real kinda predictable near the end.
Does a bunch of nice tweaks as well, combat's nicely tuned up, and they even force you to learn how to interact with various systems by forcing your party selection at points, you can't just bring Elize and heal through everything. Also got probably my favourite Tales boss fight in it, it's just kind of perfect.

I really do like the first one's lack of a god-punching finale a whole bunch, plus its final dungeon, although probably due to time constraints, is very punchy by basically barely existing, so it's pretty much just three boss fights. Xillia's mid-point god-punching is even great because it's actually more of an argument than a fight, which ends when one side gives in and is convinced.
Also, hope you picked Jude's route first where everything makes significantly more sense on the first go around. Milla's leaves some really baffling gaps.

Also, Alvin is the best, he's such a good character, oh my gosh, Alvin is so good.

If I recall, the Xillas are also not very popular amongst Tales fans, so then we got Zestiria, which ended up being a complete mess for entirely different reasons (there's very clearly a point about a third in where the writing takes a complete dive and never recovers), so the director got changed out and thus the vastly tonally different revenge story Berseria comes about.

However I'm far too enamoured with Trails games and think they're way better than any Tales games I've played in the writing department, so I've not played anything past the Xillias.
Seriously, if you're playing these long JRPGs, play Trails, they even have entirely human villains, with motivations which are not wanting to destroy the world!
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The Rocketeer

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

Postby The Rocketeer » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:48 am

I did also very much like the end dungeon of Xillia, or rather the near-absence of one. I can only speak for myself, but I think of all the times when an hour or more of grinding through one last difficulty spike before wrapping up the singular remaining plot point has held me back from finishing a game, and I see a lot of wisdom in the abbreviated, character-heavy boss rush style of finale. I mean, it's not like the game doesn't have multiple end- or post-game optional dungeon crawls for players who want to fight an endless horde of monsters with no real impact on the narrative.

As with seemingly every part of Xillia 2, though, I gotta disagree and say I wanted Elle fed to a wolf, and the wolf fed to an ever bigger, nastier wolf. But I've come to realize that I've nearly forgotten everything specific about Xillia 2, and that everything I remember about it makes me upset, so I'm just going to leave it all buried in the dumpster where I left it.

I was going to mention I'd heard Zestiria had some sort of weird problems, but then I couldn't remember what they were or if it was even that particular game, and it seemed to review well on Steam anyway, so I held my tongue. It makes me jumpy about spending anything on it, even if I can get it for a tenner on sale. The different direction of Berseria, on the other hand, makes me hold out a little more hope for than for more past Tales games, eg. Graces, Abyss, Symphonia attempt 2, etc. But I'll have to wait a while, probably after a new Tales comes out, for Berseria's price to reach my bargain bin budget.
Last edited by The Rocketeer on Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Supahewok

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

Postby Supahewok » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:00 am

Ringwraith wrote:However I'm far too enamoured with Trails games and think they're way better than any Tales games I've played in the writing department, so I've not played anything past the Xillias.
Seriously, if you're playing these long JRPGs, play Trails, they even have entirely human villains, with motivations which are not wanting to destroy the world!

I've played Trails in the Sky 1 and 2, and discussed them in this thread at some point. I appreciated that about the first one, but the second one starts leaning very hard on the, well, I guess they're Japanese tropes, since I see them most in anime and JRPGs. I actually have the 3rd one installed, but I have a problem in that I like to watch TV with gaming, but the Trails games have phenomenal soundtracks, so I don't want to watch TV while playing them. I'll get around to it at some point. Maybe when I go back to school next semester, or over my Christmas vacation.

I've never really looked for the other Trails games online, but since they're PC games I'm sure they're around somewhere.
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Ringwraith

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

Postby Ringwraith » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:08 am

The first Trails of Cold Steel got ported to PC recently, as the series hopped to Playstation consoles after Sky, with 50% more voice acting, and also a turbo mode to speed up things if you want. (The second one is on the way, probably early next year, with also, much more voice acting).
Turbo mode has also been added to the Sky games because of this, so that's pretty nice. Shame the end of the first one, speaking of final dungeons, is a slog though.

So, Trails in the Sky the 3rd is... weird? Even by series standards. It's like a post-game dungeon stretched out to a entire game and given its own plot interspersed with side-stories. It also throws out a bunch of world-building threads in various directions. Having played the 3rd only after playing both Cold Steels, I can say if you want, you can skip it, it's definitely not critical, and is mostly a very personal tale, but does have some nicer wide-reaching world-building foundations it throws out if you're really hankering for more. It's definitely clearly laid out groundwork for things that both have and haven't been used by the rest of the series thus far.
It's also where they really let loose with the soundtrack, oh boy.
The Rocketeer wrote:As with seemingly every part of Xillia 2, though, I gotta disagree and say I wanted Elle fed to a wolf, and the wolf fed to an ever bigger, nastier wolf. But I've come to realize that I've nearly forgotten everything specific about Xillia 2, and that everything I remember about it makes me upset, so I'm just going to leave it all buried in the dumpster where I left it.

I was going to mention I'd heard Zestiria had some sort of weird problems, but then I couldn't remember what they were or if it was even that particular game, and it seemed to review well on Steam anyway, so I held my tongue. It makes me jumpy about spending anything on it, even if I can get it for a tenner on sale.

Zestiria suffers from creator's pet mostly I think?
As soon as a certain character is introduced suddenly they're the best at everything and everyone likes them and often talks about how awesome they are, and the plot suffers for it.

Steam reviews aren't that reliable considering they can only be made by people who bought the game anyway, and I think a lot of them were warned off, especially as it hit consoles first so there was already that wave of opinions coming in.

So, personally I thought Elle should've been much worse in theory than she actually was? And I hate kids! I hated kids when I was one!
Some really big emotional gut-punches in that one, though what I can say, I liked the sometimes much darker tone it'd swerve into, sometimes without much warning. Contrast is important!
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The Rocketeer

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

Postby The Rocketeer » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:17 am

Ringwraith wrote:Zestiria suffers from creator's pet mostly I think?
As soon as a certain character is introduced suddenly they're the best at everything and everyone likes them and often talks about how awesome they are, and the plot suffers for it.
Milla's back? *rimshot*

Actually, one thing I did like about Xillia 2 was fake Milla. But then they... Damn it! God damn it, I'm remembering Xillia 2 again! *bangs head between trash can lids*
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Trix2000
Location: California

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

Postby Trix2000 » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:01 am

The only Tales game I finished was Phantasia, and at the time I really really liked it (even had it as my favorite game for a while).

I think a lot of that had to do with the combat and certain convenient factors in the story setup, because when I went back to it later it... did not measure up well at all. It's perhaps my most obvious case of older writing and my own heightened standards for such, which has led me to looking less favorably to many older JRPGs that I once adored.

I did get a long way through Symphonia and enjoyed what I played, but for some reason I stalled about... I want to say 3/4 of the way through. It wasn't from lack of interest either - I just took a break for a bit for some reason or another and never got back to it. Months turned to years, and now if I wanted to finish it I'd basically have to replay the whole thing so... not likely to happen (Don't want to have to drag my old Wii out for it either).
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SpammyV
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Re: This week I have been mostly playing...

Postby SpammyV » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:49 am

Ringwraith wrote:
SpammyV wrote:POKEMON SUN! First, the downsides.

Pokemon that I haven't caught yet calling for help annoys me every time it happens because you can't try to catch someone while there's two wild Pokemon out. I mean, I'm pretty rapidly overleveled for any given area so it's more annoying that drastically ruining.
...
The interface has gotten worse for reasons unknown to me. To rearrange Pokemon in my party I have to press Y to enter move mode, then press Y or A to select the Pokemon I want to move. Older games you pressed A to bring up the menu of things to do with a Pokemon and Move was one of those options. Sure, I'm fighting with muscle memory right now, but it feels like a change that doesn't actually save any time or button presses. Also, I can't see a Pokemon's moves or stats at the same time.

They cannot call for help if they're afflicted with any status ailments (except confusion), which can really help.
Paralyse is your friend!
(Why it's not a really low chance to happen unless you use the item specifically for it, which is dirt cheap to buy, I have no idea, mostly annoying).

The moves/stats divide on the status screen has been there for a while, however the Y thing is new, the main reason is because it means you can directly just drag-and-drop with the touch screen instead of having to going into a menu or press Y and quick switch (it does mean less presses as you don't need that submenu anymore). Some other menus copy that aspect.


Except it's not less button presses, it's the same number of button presses. A to enter the submenu, A to select Move, A when you've highlit the destination. Three presses. Y to enter move mode, Y to select the first Pokemon, Y to select the second. Three presses. If Y both put you into move mode and automatically selected the first Pokemon, that would mean two presses and would be fewer. But right now it's he same number of button presses for no real gain. Now, obviously I am not counting D-pad inputs as I consider those basically free in that menu. Maybe it saves on those, but at least on the Pokemon menu, I consider the number of D-pad presses needed to be done for anything such a small amount that they are in effect free.
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Humanoid

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

Postby Humanoid » Mon Sep 25, 2017 5:51 am

The Rocketeer wrote:I've grown somewhat suspicious that I got an unrepresentatively favorable first impression of Tales, after I played Xillia first and received it quite fondly. Then Xillia 2 left a sour impression on me, and I had to bow out of Symphonia early. (A lot of the shine peeled off of Xillia after returning to it later, as well.) I'm still interested in trying Zestiria or Berseria if I can get them cheaply enough.


IndieGala appear to have both of them on sale (they're just Steam keys). It has a weird "sale expires in 0:00:00" timer but it looks like I can add them to my cart just fine.
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Ringwraith

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

Postby Ringwraith » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:58 am

The Rocketeer wrote:
Ringwraith wrote:Zestiria suffers from creator's pet mostly I think?
As soon as a certain character is introduced suddenly they're the best at everything and everyone likes them and often talks about how awesome they are, and the plot suffers for it.
Milla's back? *rimshot*

Actually, one thing I did like about Xillia 2 was fake Milla. But then they... Damn it! God damn it, I'm remembering Xillia 2 again! *bangs head between trash can lids*

Milla at least has a reason why everyone is in awe of her to begin with. Then she's quickly having to be taught how everything works, instead of being naturally incredible, which is exactly what happens in Zestiria.

SpammyV wrote:Except it's not less button presses, it's the same number of button presses. A to enter the submenu, A to select Move, A when you've highlit the destination. Three presses. Y to enter move mode, Y to select the first Pokemon, Y to select the second. Three presses. If Y both put you into move mode and automatically selected the first Pokemon, that would mean two presses and would be fewer. But right now it's he same number of button presses for no real gain. Now, obviously I am not counting D-pad inputs as I consider those basically free in that menu. Maybe it saves on those, but at least on the Pokemon menu, I consider the number of D-pad presses needed to be done for anything such a small amount that they are in effect free.

I'm probably counting fewer if you're shifting around more than one pair, then.

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