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Re: RPG Progress Report

by prfsnl_gmr Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:43 pm

Descended further into Shadow Tower. Defeated the knight guarding the water domain, which was just an awful sectio of the game. (The floors are covered in acid; so, you take damage constantly throughout the entire section. It is a slog.) Happy to be back at this one after a bit of a break; looking forward to the next section; and looking forward to beating this one (hopefully) over the next few weeks.
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by prfsnl_gmr Sun Aug 26, 2018 11:24 pm

Double post!

Even further into the Shadow Tower. I made it through Illusion World and Monster World. The difficulty really, really scales back at the end of the game. My character is pretty much a tank, and I took down a boss (Necron) with only a few swings of my sword. I think I’ll be seeing the end of this one soon...
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by pierrot Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:53 pm

I think it was last weekend, I finished the third chapter of Arcus 1-2-3. It's not tremendous, but it was decent. I had really forgotten too much of the story from the second chapter, so a lot of the references in the third chapter left me scratching my head a little bit, but I still kind of feel like even if I had remembered everything perfectly, it still would have seemed like a really generic anime sequel. That doesn't make me all too confident that the PC version of Arcus III is really that great, but I bet Arcus II is pretty good on PC.

Arcus 1-2-3 is an entirely inoffensive Mega CD RPG, that's pretty easy, and never really swings for the fences. The only real reason I'm bringing it up now, almost a week after beating it, is that I felt like scribing the horrifying encounter rate at the end of the game, somewhere. In the last dungeon, it's a pretty typical dungeon setting at first (this is a first person dungeon crawler), then on the third floor, all the walls turn into Giger-esque vaginas--this is not the first Mega CD game I've played that tried to slip in vaginal imagery. I'm not sure if someone at Wolf Team just had a really bad day one day, or faceplanted into the keyboard while dozing off, or what, but for some reason the encounter rate on that third floor turned into dragon-reapers on parade. I couldn't make any combination of turning and advancing more than three times before another encounter. Most of the time encounters would trigger on only one step/turn. That makes the encounter rate so high that it can't even be bypassed by resetting the counter by opening the dungeon map window (which works everywhere else in the game). It took me almost an hour to get through that floor. The only saving graces were how often I was just able to run from enemies, and also that nothing on that floor was really any danger to me. I've really never seen anything like it before, and if it had continued past that floor, I don't know if my sanity would have kept. I was pretty close to losing it a few time just on that one floor. (Assuming I ever even had any to lose.)
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by noiseredux Wed Nov 07, 2018 10:58 am

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2011, Bethesda Game Studios


I was a total D&D nerd as a kid. I loved that stuff. I'd read Dungeon Magazine and buy those little pewter figures and read through various D&D rule books and expansions and make up my own characters and stories. I tried my best to actually understand the stuff which seemed a little advanced to me at the time. I'm talking about elementary school years here, folks. So I did my best. I even managed to DM a few games with neighborhood kids, but sadly most of my D&D obsession was something I had to keep as a solitary love. My friends just weren't as into it as I was. The best I could really get out of them was a shared interest in TSR's Marvel Super Heroes since we were all into comic books at the time.

My first experience with something akin to D&D was Dragon Quest on the NES, which I got for free with my Nintendo Power subscription. And a bit later I got to play the first Final Fantasy which seemed even cooler with its four-member party. I did my best to treat these games as single-player D&D experiences. But ultimately they were too scripted.

In my older years I kind of grew away from the whole dragon thing. The best way I can explain it is that while I was a fan of those Lord Of The Rings movies, I'd much rather be watching Star Wars, y'know? Sci-Fi has overtaken my nerdom rather than Fantasy worlds. And when it came to games, I long felt like i was a bigger fan of JRPG's than WRPG's. But then like five or six years ago I got around to playing Dragon Age: Origins and it sort of lit a little spark of interest in the Western RPG for me. So I figured I should try this Skyrim game that everyone seems so into. And know what happened? It become easily my favorite Western RPG of all time. It also become possibly my favorite RPG of all time, period.

Basically Skyrim was everything I ever wanted out of a single-player video game D&D campaign. The world is huge and feels absolutely endless. There's so many quests and stories to pursue, but truth be told there's far more to do while ignoring the game itself. Skyrim is a world that I adore exploring at leisure and just making up my own little stories as I go. I've spent countless hours doing this - just kind of doing "nothing" and stumbling over weird side quests and having a blast. It's a lot like GTA5 in that respect. But one thing I've never done is just sit down and try to beat the main story quests. Now that the Switch version is upon us, I think I might actually attempt to do just that.

UNBOUND

That first wagon-ride and escape section is pretty iconic. Probably because like so many Skyrim fans, I've played through it a lot of times. I know I've seen it a few times myself. Given that this is the third time I've even bought the game in some form... yeah. This time I decided to stay boring and go with my usual WRPG roll - a wood elf named Lyna who's big on archery. That was the random roll I got back when I played Dragon Age: Origins, and ever since it's been my go-to character in any WRPG, which makes each one feel like sort of an extension of the same fake D&D universe. Anyway, there's not a lot to say about this quest because it's basically just an intro where you run away. The dragon looks awesome, though.

BEFORE THE STORM

This quest also just feels like an extended intro because it's basically about traveling to talk to people to warn them about the dragon. But I mean it's also a great opener because it really just says "okay, here's the world. Here's your objective. Just go do whatever the fuck you want." Just everything is wide open. I always ditch the companion here and just go explore on my own. I like taking weird routes y'know? And my goodness does everything look lovely on the Switch. In the past I've played the remastered PC version with everything maxed out. I'm telling you this game looks fantastic on this hardware. I want more MORE MORE ports like this! Can we get GTA5? Can we get... EVERYTHING ported to Switch? Seriously! Nintendo needs to just continue this hardware forever with incremental updates and constant backwards compatibility and just let everything ever get ported to this hardware because it's amazing.

BLEAK FALLS BARROW

This is where the game really starts for me - at least as far as the main quest goes. This is where the action really kicks in and you get to explore some 'dungeons.' Of course, you could just do all of that forever without even playing the main quest, but you know what I mean. These catacombs feel so familiar to me. I remember exactly where certain traps are and so on.

The big spiders in this game still kind of creep me out to be honest. Oh, and that thief who you save and cut down from the spider's web? Yeah, fuck that guy. He's a jerk and he's gotta get got. I forgot how satisfying the melee combat can be in this game. I found a nice shield (by the way, I don't think I've ever BOUGHT a weapon in Skyrim) and you can really feel the heft of a skeleton's heavy ax when it knocks your shield back. So well done.

Sniping with arrows is still my favorite thing, though. Oh my goodness it just feels so good. I took down the first little boss of the dungeon and made my way back out to look upon a frozen mountain range.
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by BogusMeatFactory Wed Nov 07, 2018 12:26 pm

Shroud of the Avatar

So I have been playing a bunch of this game and decided to give you all an update on how it is going. For those that don't know, this is an MMORPG that can be played offline, closed co-op with friends only or as a full scale MMORPG. The game is made by Richard "Lord British" Garriott and written by Tracy Hickman with a development team of old Ultima Online folks and young blood. The game itself is a mixture of old school Ultima, Ultima Online and Everquest in how it is designed.

The game began with me in a dream dimension speaking to a very ominous mechanical head called the Oracle which tells me about a prophecy and how I and many others are heralding in a new era of change and chaos, but it is our goal to reign in that chaos by restoring the virtues we all know from the Ultima Franchise and become, The Avatar! Even though the game is not officially set in the Ultima universe, it is heavily implied. Lord British, The Avatar and the Virtues are all there and the game references a great cataclysm that changed the shape of the world much like it did in the original Ultima games.

The oracle asks you questions and assigns you one of three categories of virtues, either Love, Truth, or Courage and that determines your starting location. Each category is a main story path and once you have completed all three, you will ascend and inherit the Shroud of the Avatar. My character started with the category of love and my journey began in a small village decimated by undead. It seems that the coming of the Outlanders (the player characters tasked with becoming the Avatar) also led to the rise of armies of undead. I spent a lot of my time at a small military encampment outside of the razed village doing jobs for the refugees, recovering heirlooms, rescuing hostages held for ransom by local bandits and solving mysteries of restless spirits enthralled by evil magicians. These stories all fit well into the context of the situation and did not simply feel like fetch quests.

There were even instances where I could work with the bandits to turn in heirlooms to them to fence instead of returning them to their rightful owners (which I did not do). The game offers up a lot of opportunities to do the right thing, or the wrong thing and it definitely calls you out on it. There is supposedly a hidden virtue value that goes up and down based on your decisions. Stealing things and doing the wrong thing in quest lines affects your final outcome to become an agent of virtue or chaos.

What is great about the missions is also that there are no markers saying, "MISSION HERE!" If an NPC needs help they will wave at you and beckon you over, but there is not blatant exclamation point over their head. There are also missions that are very overt. In that outpost area, along the road leading to a farm, there was an overturned cart. You would think to yourself, "Nothing much here," but there is a pool of blood and a trail that you can follow to a dead body with a letter to deliver.

Another example is helping out a farmer who is teaching you the basics of harvesting and crop growing. He complains about how his farmhand is lazy and never helping out and if you explore the farm enough, you find he was brutally murdered in his room in the loft of the barn. Also, the farmer wrote a journal talking about setting up traps to stop wolves from killing his chickens and those traps are EVERYWHERE!

Anyways, after doing work for the refugees and soldiers, I was tasked to head to Soltown, the nearby town and report what has been happening on the battlefield. After travelling the overworld (think Ultima 6 and earlier) I make it there and help others in need and uncover a strange plot. Apparently, one of the guards in the city started the fire in the village that was razed and I needed to find out who and why. After asking around the town and learning about the various guards, I was able to find out who did it and why (a sordid tale I assure you!). I also am introduced to the real estate system in the game here. This is the first real town you visit and there are various lots dedicated to player housing. Players can erect shops, gardens, crafting centers, inns and the like for players to use. Most of the time, what you experience are personal houses with shopkeepers outside peddling wares and doling out jobs to turn in crafting materials. Other times, you have Inns, where players rent out rooms for others to stay. These are usually single rooms that you can decorate as your own. Most of the time, they charge nominal monthly fees, while others offer their rooms for free to those in need. One particular lot there was a guild meeting hall with a small amphitheater and seating. I came across them during a guild meeting which was fascinating.

After doing more jobs, I came across an agent of the Oracle who guided me to the city of Love, Andoris where the seat of power dealing with the undead menace are struggling to survive. The city itself was enormous and beautiful, with a mixture of Japanese architecture and steampunk sensibilities. The city is enormous with lots of residential districts and bustling marketplaces. The city has two large palatial estates on the east and west respectively for the King and Queen (not called that...but something fantasy sounding). Apparently they are quarreling over how to handle the undead and you work as a mediator between them. You uncover that there is a traitor belonging to a death cult that is sowing the discord and must dispatch him. You then have to hire a spirit talker to guide you through a city of the dead to learn about why the undead are rising up to fight and learn about some organization rallying the dead to their cause. Wandering the through the Necropolis was haunting as you talked to the spirits, fought undead nights and explored vast catacombs and cave systems that were varied visually. That is where my story has stopped so far. I spent a lot of my time after the fact talking with the community and setting up a room at an Inn on a far off island continent that seems to be one of the many social hubs.

Decorating my room is super easy with just a drag and drop interface. I have a small bedroll and a few trinkets I've placed there, but have not gone hardcore into the decorating process or crafting for that matter.

Combat for the game is insanely varied and in depth. You build decks of abilities and based on your skill level with those abilities determines how many cards of that type can be put into your deck. You can make a locked deck, which is your traditional MMO style ability bar, but you can also make a dynamic deck. These take the toolbar and dole out ability cards that cycle in and out as you use them. If you leave the cards unused for too long, they cycle out for another. You can combine cards of the same type to make that ability more powerful, or combine certain abilities together to form powerful combos. There are also abilities that you can use that specifically work with this style, powering up cards as a sort of wild card, or even cycle through your entire hand instantly. This method makes your abilities naturally more powerful than in a locked deck, but relies on the luck of the draw.

Having a locked deck, allows you to power up your abilities by charging them up. Pressing and holding the button will charge up the power of the ability for more effectiveness in damage or time on your DOTs but they take a long time to charge and can be interrupted whereas with the cycling deck system, you need only stack the abilities (which is very common). You can also mix the two styles together, locking certain abilities onto your toolbar, while having others cycle. I do this method for my abilities that are not strong enough that I need to level up or with abilities that do AoEs or status effects.

I am loving this game a ton. The quests feel compelling and the way you interact with NPCs and the environment feels far more dynamic than a typical MMO. The world is interesting and the community is disturbingly friendly and positive. The game is free... you can play it offline or as a co-op only style. I'll definitely be writing more about this as it so well written and plays on a lot of excellent themes. If you liked Ultima online, Everquest or any of the single player Ultima games, you need to give this a shot. Seriously.
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by noiseredux Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:34 am

(Skyrim, cont'd)

DRAGON RISING

Ah yes, the first truly epic moment in the storyline: killing a dragon. This was certainly a heart-pounding section my first time through, but even now that I knew what to expect - it's still an awesome little battle. You've got the dragon swooping in and blowing fire everywhere. You've got the tower and its surroundings up in flames. I remember the first time I played Skyrim my strategy was super defensive: I went inside the tower and tried to find little windows or clear shots to shoot arrows at the dragon. This method took FOREVER. This time I stayed right out in the open and took some patient and well-aimed shots with the bow. When that dragon came down to get a closer look I rushed in and just started hacking away with my sword. It rushed off and tried to hide behind a big rock and started spraying fire everywhere so I rushed over to the top of that rock and sniped him a few more times in the head before seeing his flesh turn to ash. Good stuff.

THE WAY OF THE VOICE

One of my absolute favorite parts in Skyrim is the 7,000 steps that leads up to the Greybeards. It's kind of funny to say this because there's not a whole hell of a lot that happens in this part of the game. But for some reason, that's exactly what I love about it. The journey from the last quest to the next is long and lonely and lovely. The decidedly autumn surroundings slowly turn to winter. You can almost feel the cold in your bones. And if you're like me and only playing this game late at night after your wife has gone to bed, then there's just this awesome calm to the game in sections like this. I love it.

There's a snow troll up in the mountain once you get pretty close to the Greybeards and I must admit that I have a strategy that I've always used in the past when I'm up here. Basically, I just avoid him at first. You can pretty easily find an alternate route if you're willing to do a little rock climbing. I generally just don't fuck with him until a bit later in the game when I've got some fire magic to work with. But I don't know, I was feeling saucy this time. Plus I had a companion - Lydia and I figured, eh let's just rush him.

Have I mentioned that I've always found the companions in this game to be pretty useless? Well, the troll totally destroyed Lydia but I managed to take him out while she was distracting him. A combo of arrows and a shout did the trick. In truth, I felt bad about Lydia and I'd hoped to keep her with me a lot longer than this just to see how she could possibly help. But on the bright side, I looted her for a much nicer steel sword and shield than I already had. So there's that. RIP.
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by marurun Thu Nov 08, 2018 1:12 pm

I'm playing Chrono Trigger on DS for this month's Together Retro. But this area of the forum seems a more logical place for more detailed thoughts on the game's RPG-ness. I tried playing the game emulated on a PC probably over 10 years ago and I got stuck on a boss either in or shortly after the Undersea Palace. It's been long enough that a lot of the stuff I've encountered in the game on this second attempt feels new.

As to where I am in the game, I'm now way back in pre-history and Ayla just joined my party. I'm a little confused about why the equipment here is so strong, but every RPG has that problem.

Here's what I like so far about the game. The music is great and the DS soundtrack recreates the SNES soundtrack rather faithfully. The graphics are also very nice. The characters are likeable, if little more than archetypes, and combat is fun despite the flaws (more on that later). I think time travel is less nonsense in this game than it is in many other games, and the world-building is pretty interesting. It doesn't go into too great detail, which is nice. Keeps things straight-forward. The world does feel awfully small, though. Maybe Chrono's world is a tiny little planet. The game seems to progress at a pretty good clip, which is nice. There are only a couple sequences that really bog down or feel completely extraneous (bike race in the future, anyone?)

I also have some complaints about the game. Maybe it's because I came to the game years after its release, but the combat feels a little incomplete. There are these attacks that have different shapes and contours and spacing, but where you are in battle seems largely preset and there's little or nothing you can do to change it. It seems odd that there would be so much attention to the shape of the battlefield and so little to do to influence it. Grandia basically did this same combat model but infinitely better. I also have gripes about magic. It feels extraneous. You can attack any enemy with a basic attack from anywhere on the battlefield, but when you're done you walk right back where you started. The only time your position changes is if an enemy with a rare pushing/throwing attack sends you flying to the edge of the battlefield. Some enemies wander around a bit, but only a few can really be baited into particular positions, since they can mostly attack you from whereever they are, too. Combat is still fun, but it's frustrating to see how it could have been so much more. It makes me want to play Grandia.

Magic is also weird. The techs already function as magic, effectively, and can have the same elemental influences. I sort of wonder why magic was necessary. At this point in the game, distinguishing between techs and magic seems pointless. Maybe that will become important later.

I also have a few issues with the game's characters. Sure, they're likeable, but they's such stock archetypes: the tomboy princess, the nerdy science girl, the cipher, the fallen hero, etc... None of their interactions or character moments in the game up to this point have done anything to stretch the borders of those archetypes any. It's hard to get really attached to them given their one-dimensionality.

I'm hoping some of my thoughts will change as things go on. I am enjoying myself, though. I think some of my negative observations are from a perspective of seeing a lot of promise but wanting the game to do more and be more than it is.
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by BoneSnapDeez Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:02 pm

marurun wrote:the combat feels a little incomplete


Welcome to 16-bit JRPGs. This is a common complaint regarding games of this era. You're given extraneous spells and tactics, but the difficulty of these games is generally low enough that you can just spam A to get through most battles. Final Fantasy VI, essentially the sister game to Chrono Trigger, was even worse in this regard. It doesn't dampen my enjoyment of the games in question (they're literally my favorite two of all time) though I'd certainly make some tweaks if I were in charge of remaking these. Also, I feel like the battle positioning in Chrono Trigger is really more of an aesthetic choice than a (severely undeveloped) mechanical one. It's basically just a slightly modified version of the ATB system found in 16-bit Final Fantasy titles.
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by Ack Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:04 pm

I'm not a huge Chrono Trigger fan. I like it well enough, but it's not my favorite. However, to add to Bone's point, I think it's a little unfair to compare to Grandia. Grandia released in December of 1997, where as Chrono Trigger was in March of 1995. You also had Tales of Phantasia and Star Ocean both come out between those release dates. If anything, I'd say the open combat system of Grandia probably built on the combat system design that came out of CT, ToP, and SO.
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Re: RPG Progress Report

by BoneSnapDeez Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:03 pm

Treasure Hunter G (1996, Super Famicom) is another interesting one too, as it has "tactical" JRPG combat but isn't really a full-blown SRPG. Dunno how influential that particular title was though.
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