March 09, 2013

Glory of Heracles II - Ranking

Story & World

Any entertainment medium that chooses to take place in an already established setting has a certain obligation to that source material.  In an age where producers of movies based on comics won't read past the damn cover page, it's nice to find a game that at least tries to fit into its chosen lore.  GoH2:TD gives a lot of attention to little details.  The monsters, gods, NPCs, architecture, and even the long boat are all modeled quite accurately after ancient Greece.  My only gripe is that the language used doesn't even try to mimic ancient Greek.  Perhaps there wasn't a lot of room in the translation to suffix -icus onto to every word, but it still sounds far too modern and breaks the immersion a tad.

The overarching 'Kill the Foozle' story is to be expected for a Dragon Quest clone but for a game that has Heracles in the title, we sure didn't get to see a lot of him.  I suppose that's just as well; I generally prefer to be able to name the protagonist so that I can ego-stroke appropriately.  12/20

Character Development

Nothing but standard level gains here.  Four base stats (Power, Agility, Vigour, and Luck) and two derived (Attack and Defense) that generally always increase with each level, and even then, always by just a point or two.  The lack of variance dampens any enthusiasm for level gains as there are never any surprises.  This is mitigated somewhat by the generous distribution of spells.  Each of the non-Heracles characters have a decent set of spells (with Shen getting the short end of the stick).  Spell names are nonsensical which means having to experiment which a new spell until its effects are emblazoned across your grey matter.  Some spells are tougher to decipher than others; their effects are only evident under certain conditions (e.g. curing status ailments).

Equipment also has some experimentation aspects to it but in a far less fun way.  Characters are limited in which weapons and armour they can use but there is no way to know what the restrictions are right away.  This means passing the equipment down the line until it sticks to someone.  To find out if the new piece is actually more powerful than the previous, one must go to the main menu, open the character's stat screen and memorize (sure, could write them down but... shnuh) all the values, back out to the main menu, equip the new piece of equipment (having to scroll through all six equipment slots in the process), back out to the main, and finally into the character screen again to see if there are any changes.  A lot of items gave a whopping one or two point increase over the previous, making me question whether it was worth the hour I spent navigating the menu.  6/20

Combat & Monsters

Combat is mostly just mashing the A button but there are two factors which give some strategic depth.  The first is the wasting of an attack if the creature targeted dies before the character acts (à la Final Fantasy).  The second is in the numerous spells and, more importantly, the cheap spell cost.  The low cost gives an incentive to play around with spells during normal random encounters.  Both Shen and Abrax are competent healers and by midgame, healing woes were a thing of the past.

About half of the monsters had something more in their arsenal than a plain, old melee attack.  A lot of status ailment-inducing creatures had the ability to spread their special attack over the entire group, which only Abrax could cure (though there are items that duplicate those cures in case Abe gets fucked up).  10/20

Graphics & Sound

The look and feel of ancient Greece is on display throughout the game, despite the limitation of 8-bit graphics.  The cities and dungeons are done quite well for the most part; there are just a few dungeons that are painful to look at.  Monster sprites are nicely done although palette swapping is used a little too liberally.  The music is mostly forgettable although I dug the overworld tune.  The sound effects were... wait, were there sound effects?... Yeah, I think there were.  9/20

Gameplay

The pacing of the entire game was done exceedingly well, which is easier to do with such a linear progression.  Grinding was kept to a minimum and even the grinding I did do wasn't exactly necessary; I just wanted new equipment right away.  The grindiest part was at the very beginning getting strong enough to take on Cerberus but anything after that was more optional.  The economy was strong until near the end when there was nothing new left to buy.  The equipment-destroying creatures found at various points throughout really helped clamp down on Shen and the gang from getting too rich.  As with most linear RPGs with a static roster of characters, there is little incentive to ever replay this otherwise enjoyable run-of-the-mill JRPG.  14/20

Final Ranking:  51/100