March 30, 2017

Last Armageddon - Ranking

Story & World

The horrendous translation does more damage than just blur the finer details of the story, it makes every line seem like a joke and really destroys the overall serious tone.  A proper translation would see more points here, but I can only work with what I've given.  In the future, if a translation is this abysmal, the game will be skipped.  Exploring was still quite enjoyable and I appreciated the addition of first-person dungeons in addition to the standard overhead view.  Though finding text was nearly pointless, at least there were a good number of cutscenes to gawk at.  5/20

Character Development

It's all about character options in LA; I was actually a bit surprised by how many.  Controlled stat growth, magic, special abilities, equipment, and consumables all give one a plethora of choices, although there is some redundancy.  I would have liked to seen more of a difference between the different parties as well, in regard to available spells and abilities.  The biggest innovation here was the on-demand item creation system.  No more waiting until the "next town" and then just upgrading to equipment that just happens to be slightly more powerful.  Right from the start, one has a choice to purchase basic weapons/armour or save up for a bit ticket item.  Although the metamorphosis of demons didn't really change the character too much, it was still cool to see what kind of abominations would arise from the demons getting their freak on.  Having the parties switch based on a timer was another sweet innovation, although LA dropped the ball having the third party function so much differently from the other two.  17/20

Combat & Monsters

Party-based combat is always nice to have and the way that it's tied to increasing character stats behooves the player to be mindful in all battles.  Demons that can't augment their attack or defense with equipment have to be given special consideration as to their role in combat.  The biggest drawback is the ease of developing characters too far ahead of the curve, making battles incredibly boring.  There really should have been a point where weak foes stopped increasing stats.

The enemy robots and "bio-creatures" were both imaginative and numerous in design, and the translation's complete hack job on their names actually made them seem even more alien and incomprehensible.  While they were able to inflict just the two standard status effects (sleep and poison), more impressively they actually had some semblance of artificial intelligence.  Rather than just attack at random all the time, they would often gang up on a single character, a devastating tactic when they had a full eight members.  At least, it would have been devastating if they didn't miss 100% of the time.  9/20

Graphics & Sound

Lots of nicely done cutscenes and a very creative bestiary keep the peepers stimulated whilst enduring the eternal grinding.  The bosses could have been larger and more detailed — it's not like there was a background or something taking up room.  The first-person dungeons likewise lacked any real distinguishing features; the occasional door being the only landmark worth noting.  The tunes were nothing too special on their own, but they did seem appropriate to the setting, at least to my ears.  12/20

Gameplay

The robust economy does an excellent job keeping the parties poor; it would have taken even more grinding for me to purchase the best equipment for everybody.  Knowing the cost of all the equipment also makes for additional considerations when purchasing.  I initially purchased the cheapest equipment early, because the characters actually needed it then.  I then planned to upgrade only if it seemed the characters needed it.  Of course, that never happened, which brings me to my final point.

As much as I enjoyed many of the aspects of Last Armageddon, it ultimately fails by making it way too easy to become overpowered.  A game with absolutely no challenge isn't something I enjoy at all — it really makes the game feel like a chore.  However, once one knows what to do and avoids the grinding time sinks, I think LA would become quite playable as long as the parties are pushed as hard as possible.  In a somewhat ironic way, the challenge would come from not letting the characters get too powerful.  Since the translation is partially to blame for the grinding, I'll be a little lenient here and not just smash a zero into the score, as tempting as that is.  However, I'm still holding LA completely responsible for the potential month-long wait for the sylvan team — that shit's mad dumb.  5/20

Final Ranking:  48/100

March 27, 2017

Last Armageddon - End Game

The piss-poor translation, while charming at first, really began to tick me off as I progressed, mostly because there seemed to be a decent story buried in there.  My "demons" learnt a little more about the history of the humans through books and CDs found in the ruins of their civilization.  As a fan of post-apocalyptic settings, this was a nice switch from the regular usage of NPCs.  There was even a mechanic in place to simulate the fact that the demons wouldn't be able to immediately read the human language — using items raised a character's intelligence until it was high enough to decipher.

I couldn't help but picture the cyclops
breaking out his monocle here.

At this point, things took a turn for the worse and kept turning for the remainder of the game.  I got stuck on entering the "Return Tower", the only location I hadn't been able to explore.  I wandered around and even went into the dungeons again, but it was all for naught.  During this journey, both parties kept gaining in power; they were now at the point where they could kill anything in one hit and never be hit themselves.

Cyke proving depth perception ain't all that.

Surprisingly, at the end of the month, a third selection of monsters showed up, all at level one.  They called themselves the sylvans and only stuck around for one day, but used time at a slower pace than the other two groups, getting the equivalent about around five "normal" days.  I thought maybe only this group could access the tower, but nope, so I tried entering the dungeons again and hitting up the key locations.  But nope.  I relented and FAQed myself the solution, which was I had to visit every single tombstone in the world.  All 108 of them.  Well, since they don't really contain any useful information, I had stopped visiting them ages ago and I couldn't remember which ones I had been to, so I had to do 'em all.  It was then I realized that if the translation had been better, I would have known what to do.

Sage advice.

I was hoping entering the tower would bring a stronger class of enemies but all my demons were overpowered, even the ones unable to benefit from equipping weapons or armour.  Each of the seven levels consisted of finding two key locations before being able to move on.  Lots of cutscenes happened here, giving insight into the downfall of the human race.

Puny humans get what they deserve.

Exiting the tower led to another world map with more dungeons and another major quest.  If I thought having to visit 108 slates in the previous world was bad, LA had an even bigger surprise for me here.  This time the key locations were artifacts found amidst the ruins of a department store, a church, a police station, and a hospital.

I didn't say it was a very good hospital. ;)

Finding said artifacts would trigger a response in one of the party members, unlocking a suppressed emotion and a memory cutscene.  Each artifact is tied to a specific demon; having the wrong party active results in nothing happening.  And yes, this includes the sylvan party as well.  It was funny because, as I was marking down artifact locations, it never occurred to me that the sylvans would be included, because it was just too absurd a notion for my mind to comprehend.  It wasn't until I hit an artifact on my to-do list and nothing happened that I had to pause for a second and just process.  No... there's no way.  I had to be missing something.  Another FAQ check confirmed the presence of rising bile in my throat — I would indeed have to wait for the sylvan party, who hadn't left all that long ago.  After fully unlocking the other two parties, I checked the calendar and noted that I only had to wait 21 days for the sylvans to show up.  What followed was around two hours of the worst kind of grinding — pointless and long.  Pointless because the party was still way overpowered and long because the battles themselves can be quite lengthy.  Bear in mind that that's two hours of turbo-grinding; at the original speed, this entire ordeal would have taken over seven hours (and that's me starting a third of the way through the month already).  Dammit Japan, we already know you've got the highest density of ultra-nerds on the planet.  We get it — you win.  Thankfully, I was able to get all the sylvan artifacts in one pass and ready to finish off this turd.  This travesty of a design choice made me lose any respect I might have had for LA, so I just looked up the last few dungeons to save me another couple hours.  Filling up all the demons with emotions granted them access to Fantasyland, a city built to fulfill the human dream and keep them in a perpetual state of bliss.  With no actual humans around, the city's computer mastermind created robotic fabrications in order to satisfy its programming.  When confronted by the party, it spewed off what I assumed was some deep philosophical shit and then unleashed its eight attacks per round against the party.

With the expected results.

Defeating the computer opened up the final dungeon and a climatic battle with some dude named Shadow, who existed solely to be a final boss.

He was actually able to damage one
guy a little bit, so mad props to him.

After the demise of Shadow, all the demons morphed into humans, in all their naked glory.  The alien mastermind showed up and revealed that the reason the human race fell was because they lost touch with their feelings.  This entire ordeal was an alien project created in order for the next generation of humans to find and restore their lost emotions, such as mercy and compassion.

Probably should have dedicated
some time to linguistics.

Final Armageddon also invoked a wide range of emotions within myself as well.  Emotions such as anger, fury, and rage were commonplace for the last half of the game.  After watching the end credits, I turned around in surprise to see an alien mastermind right in front of me.  He explained that this was all just a project in order to get me to unlock my suppressed emotions and then I morphed into a demon.  Since I'm the manchine though, I wasn't just a regular demon, but a badass cyber-demon, with chainsaw limbs and a head that is also a chainsaw.  I then reminded the alien that, if he had read my blog, he'd know that anger, fury, and rage are a Shen Nung staple.  He then admitted that he'd never read my blog, said it probably sux and teleported off.  I tried to forget about the whole incident and went to make some dinner, but I was unable to make anything due to 70% of me being chainsaw so I died of starvation.  THE END

Not the best story I've come up with to end a post, but hey, at least it's in understandable English.

February 23, 2017

[Game 063] Last Armageddon (NES - 1990)

Translation by Chably

Way back when I was in college, I knew this other CPU who went by the handle Japotoeigo and whose dream was to become an on-demand translator for one of the many streaming video sites, such as Youtube or Youtube Red.  It's too bad he spent most of the time partying it up, injecting himself with benign trojans or programming himself into an infinite loop, until one of us in the dorm would Ctrl-Brk his sad ass out of it.  He never made it past the first semester and I never heard from him again.  I'm glad he was able to find work, even if it's just translating old Famicom ROM dumps.  The intro to Final Armageddon is a masterpiece of pure machine translation and plays out like a good bad B-movie.

Umm... what you say?

That's not the whole intro either, it goes on for some time but all you need to know is humans died, demons appeared, and aliens and robots are trying to take over the world.  Unfortunately, the bad translation carries over to the game's spell list as well, with words seemingly picked at random, though some of them are pretty obvious.

I couldn't even begin to tell you the number
of times I used turkey to cure poison.

A party of four demons are sent out to stop the aliens by any means necessary, probably via punching.  The "demons" all come from classic Terran lore, with cyclops and orcs freely mixing it up with minotaurs and goblins.  The overworld is strewn with stone slabs, which replace the NPCs usually found, and whose hints and story building are completely ruined by the translation process. At least that's what I thought until I realized that the slates actually contained the lyrics to an awesome 80s rock ballad!

♪ Wicked guitar solo with sweet arpeggios ♫

As bad as the translation is, the guts of the game are quite meaty and delicious.  Each character has five base stats, each of which increase with usage — a system I prefer over static or random increases.  My demons have great fun when there's a single opponent and they just sit there, defending away and laughing most evilly, while the hapless foe misses every attack.  In addition to magic, most demons have special attacks as well, which do more damage than normal.  There doesn't appear to be a limit on how often one can utilize these specials, so I'm assuming that they do not count as experience towards raising stats.  As if all of this wasn't enough already, certain demons can do jobs outside of combat, including clairvoyance to display a world map, and creation of weapons, armour, and items.  Yes, that's right, there are no stores in LA, just a trusty ol' goblin building stuff and fueled entirely by gold.  From time to time, demons will also merge with some other creature.  Sometimes it's some random creature I've never seen before, other times it's another member of the party.  Whatever the source, it always ends in a frenzied orgy of flailing limbs and tentacles so vile and disgusting that I can barely masterbate to it.

Well, perhaps barely is too strong a word.

The mating results in the first demon changing into a sweet new sprite.  It doesn't seem to affect the stats at all, but it does sometimes alter the creature's special attacks.  The most unique aspect of party management took me totally by surprise.  When the sun rises each day, the regular demonic group of "DarkOnes" swap out for a party of daytime demons.  Since the swap operates on a timer, this adds a whole new dimension to managing the party.  Properly implemented, this can be a huge boon, with a fresh party coming in to replace the exhausted one.  On the other hand, it can also work against the player if they've forgotten to make sure that the secondary group is near the main demon cave in order to heal the hurt group when the swap occurs (like I have twice already).  The only downside is that both groups are almost statistically identical to each other but have differing sprites.

Say hi to the "good" guys.

My merry band of demons have just completed their first quest, involving raiding four alien camps and acquiring their ID Chips in order to gain access to a mothership.  The last pleasant surprise that Final Armageddon tossed my way here was switching to a first-person dungeon crawler and giving me a little mapping exercise.  It's tough going, though, as the fights are hella hard (especially when they outnumber us two to one and have surprise) and healing is hard to come by.  Only one member on each team has a healing spell (obviously called Shelout), it's MP expensive, and it heals like shit.  Granted, I haven't played with the item creation yet (been focusing on armour), so I'll probably be bitching about how there's too much healing by next post.

February 10, 2017

Out Live - Ranking

Story & World

Endless corridors leading to nothing is no way to get someone immersed into your world, son.  I'm not sure why the developers decided to make a dungeon crawler and then not stock it with stuff — is that not the entire point of crawling?  Out Live also has an annoying habit of having a long, straight corridor appear to have a junction which just leads to a single tile "alcove".  It then repeats the alcove every other step for around six times and these are found about a hundred times between each city.  At the beginning, I would step into each alcove, thinking that I might trigger something.  What a stupid idiot I was.  My absolute favourite part, though, was right at the end when OL didn't even bother with that anymore and just had a straight corridor of several hundred thousand steps that would occasionally turn right.  It's like the developers had extra space at the end and just filled it up with as much corridor as possible.  Oh, and BTW player, that HuCard stores up to 8 Mbits, so fuck you.  The more the game progressed, the more I felt like I was being trolled.  Man, I'm getting surly enough in my old age without games like this adding a multiplier bonus.

I will give the story some credit, though, there was a good attempt here.  Every character has their own portrait and some are even reoccurring.  The trash talk during combats was great too; I had great fun trying to out-sarcasm my foes, even though I always lost to the pros.  The biggest flub of the story was the stone quest of the midgame — come on, guys, make it access cards or at least space crystals or something.  4/20

Character Development

The replenishable options system is a nifty idea, it encourages playing with the others after the sweet missiles are depleted.   Half of the options are useful, with purchase price being an extremely accurate measure of quality (thousands for the good stuff, 200 for the crap).

The mech has two main stats, attack and defense, which interestingly increases by usage instead of by a static or random amount.  Defense goes up with each and every hit taken and attack increase by dishing it out.  Just in case the player gets too good at destroying enemies in one hit or dodging their attacks, OL has a system in place to make sure you'll have to take damage at some point.  The odd thing was that raising attack level increased the total shields; I'm guessing defense figured into dodging, which almost never happened during the late game (must not have hit the "magic" number).  I guess it could also absorb pre-shield damage, who knows?  And more importantly, who the fuck cares?  4/20

Combat & Monsters

While a lot of combat is just a straight-up damage exchange, there's also some kind of elemental system going as well, with fire, ice, and magnetic.  These types apply to corridors and enemies, as well as the mech's guns and an option to temporarily disable a corridor's type (which powers up enemies of the same type).  I fiddled around with the system a bit, but it never seemed worth it to spend a round not attacking.  Even the gun types don't do all that much more damage; it rarely makes a difference when most mechs die in one or two hits.  The enemy mechs, while super cool looking bad ass, just do damage or sometimes they have a secondary weapon which does more damage.  Some enemies can inflict a curable acid (poison) status, but it only happened to me three times (all early on) and I had totally forgotten about it until just now.  4/20

Graphics & Sound

Mechs are sweet and there are some real creative designs going on in OL; I only wish they were a bit bigger or stayed in their larger sprite during the battles.  The huge cockpit overlay is double sweet and I even developed a taste for the sleek minimalist style of the corridors.  Visually, it was quite enjoyable to be in, too bad that nasty game got in the way.  The music rocks pretty well, which is good since 98% of the game is the dungeon and battle tunes.  17/20

Gameplay

The space bucks stay tight until just past midgame and there's little to purchase in the late.  Healing is cheap and plentiful, enabling the player to have extended forays in getting their ass kicked.  The whole experience took me just over 12 hours but it felt way longer than that, no doubt due to the plethora of sessions where I only managed to last a mere 10 minutes (ha, my wife only wishes).  If anything, Out Live has at least taught me to lower my expectations for any future mech games, and maybe even just always to expect the worst.  Thanks for crushing my innocent childhood fascination with giant robots, OL.  Thanks.  2/20

Final Ranking:  31/100

February 06, 2017

Out Live - End Game

It had been only one day since I beat Out Live and I'd already received in the mail, my honourary degree in cartography.  It was, I recall, in the form of a scroll, with gold leaf adorned, and it went straight into the trash where the game itself already was.  The mapping just got brutal in the late game, and, as previously mentioned, there's nothing in the dungeon other than a small handful of boss fights.  Most times, I just wanted to find the quickest path to the next city and set of duelists, to engage in some deep characterization.

Them's duelin' words!

The duels are easily the best part of Out Live, but that's also like saying a handjob with 600 grit sandpaper is better than one with 40 grit.  Technically, yeah, but it's still a bloody mess at the end.  Any special options (with the exception of missiles) installed on the mech are disabled during the match, making it little more than a brute force slugfest.  The opponents talked during the battles but said the same line in the same round regardless of one's performance.  This made them sound quite sarcastic when they said things like "Keep up the good work!" or "Argh!  I can't take much more of this!", even though I had missed them several rounds in a row.

I'm trying!  Dammit, I'm trying!

Missing the enemy was a common theme, perhaps even the central theme, to Out Live.  It didn't matter if it was a duelist, boss, or wandering mech, the targeting system on my mech sucked and got worse as the game progressed.  Even a mech stunned and temporarily offline due to my "Net Bomb" option still could be easily missed.  As I progressed through the midgame, on a quest to acquire three stones (but stones... from the fuuuuture!), enemies started not only attacking twice a round, but were guaranteed to strike first.  The only thing keeping my poor battered mech going was all the healing potions I had, which I guess everyone else in the game didn't know about.  As I entered into the late game, Out Live started caring about its own narrative about as much as I did by that point.

Oh, you mean these fuuuuture rocks?

My main mission was to find Braudix, which turned out to be a mech and not a pilot, so you can see how invested I was in the gripping storyline.  Just when I was getting extra bored with OL, I acquired the Braudix and was rewarded with a new cockpit view as well as a "Smart Gun", which replaced all my previous main weapons.

Very nice and Giger-esque, but I prefer
my mecha to be mecha-nical.

I thought the days of missing and sucking in general were over, but instead it got ten times worse.  Now I had finally found the true central theme of Out Live — to never, EVER, let the player feel like a hero.  My new mech and weapon missed everything 100% of the time and I'm not using hyperbole here; in the dungeon between the last two cities, I could not score a single hit on anything.  Wow, this gun is so smart!  Even my stunning and insta-kill options stopped working on the random encounters.  The one thing I could do was attempt to flee from every fight.

Attempt being the operative word here.

Every time I got dunned blowed up and warped back to the hangar, OL just twisted that knife even deeper into my anguish with more of its sarcastic, asshole NPCs.

"You're putting my kid through
college!  Ha ha ha ha!"

With a lucky streak of a low number of battles, I managed to find the final city, which lead right into the final boss.  I still hadn't been able to defeat the duelist from the previous city, but I had a complete stock of full heals, so I stuck around to see if I could maybe get one hit in.  After over around fifty failed attacks, I died and was left contemplating what kind of crap game I was "playing".  So there was obviously a hard limit on what level I needed to be before I could score a hit, which completely infuriates me as a gamer.  A core part of any game is challenge and that element should be scaled throughout the game.  I should be able to attempt to defeat the final boss at any level, no matter how underpowered I am.  Oh, I'm soooo sorry that you expected me to be more powerful by this point — I guess I didn't spend enough time exploring your COMPLETELY EMPTY DUNGEON.  Even if you want it to be a 0% chance, game, at least give the illusion that I might succeed, so that the inevitable grinding that follows is at least my choice.  So, Out Live wanted me to grind, did it?  With turbo function pressed to the M-A-X, I proceeded to grind out 25% of my overall levels right then and there; this several hundred step journey would damn well be my last.  The final boss is some bezerking system which destroyed the city and maybe aliens?  At any rate, it was an easy kill since the stun option worked here for a thankfully quick, if somewhat lackluster, final battle.

I'm so glad I was able to achieve the
level you wanted me to, mein Fuhrer.

There's not much variety in the graphics, so 75% of my screencaps are just enemy mechs, making a mechastage all but unavoidable.  Easily the best part of the game, it's a lot more fun looking at the mechs than actually interacting with them (kinda like women, amirite, fellas? :0 ).



January 19, 2017

[Game 062] Out Live (TG16 - 1989)

Translation by Nebulous Translations

Out Live is one of the rare breed of TurboGrafx-16 RPGs that makes it into Inconsolable.  The TG-16 is one console I never got to experience at all growing up as a young gee in da hood (well, middle-class hood), so I'm grateful to be able to experience anything it has to offer.  As one can tell from the sweet title screen, which is so far a future on planet it's astounding, the game has mecha in it, so even before I started playing, my interest was piqued.  Jumping into the mech for the first time, I was treated to a cockpit view of my mech warming up and coming online, until the entire interior was illuminated in all its glory.  The cockpit takes up about 60% of the screen, which normally would be kinda lame, but since these days I play on a much bigger screen than I did in the '90s, it's actually kinda immersive.

Wow, it's so close to my real mech!

In true mecha fashion, there are various large guns available, powered by the nuclear reactor and effectively having infinite ammunition.  There's also an optional weapon component, with depletable ammo like missiles, which can be restocked in any city (for a price).  An energy shield acts as the mech's hit points, and can be replenished either in a city or by a healing potion, er, I mean energy pack.  There are some other consumables but I haven't been able to experiment with them due to low funds.  You see, being the supra-genius that I am, I spent the entire 1,000 space creds that I started with on another main weapon before even leaving the city.  Turns out my purchase does slightly less damage than the weapon I started with and isn't even super-effective against a certain enemy type (at least in the first area).  The inn, er, I mean maintenance bay isn't free and just getting enough victories to finance the stay can be hard on a young mech just comin' up from da hood (well, future hood).  My poor mech took such heavy beatings for the first bunch of combats, since I'd have to survive for as long as possible just to scrape enough creds together for a recharge.

I'd walk it off but my hip actuator
is critically damaged.

As Out Live is dungeon crawler, it was time to break out the graph paper and mechanical pencil, as the lack of distinguishing features in the tunnels can make it easy to become disoriented.  The scrolling is silky smooth, which normally would be a good thing except I'm in a giant robot and the movement should be jerky and abrupt, with a resounding *KERTHUMP* as 50 tonnes of steel comes crashing down onto the ground — probably not the best idea for a dungeon crawler, though.  My initial mapping efforts were hampered by not realizing that enemies can come from the back or the side, changing the facing.  I was too busy looking at my map when combats would start and got turned around a few times, completely screwing up my maps.  Thankfully, things got better after I started paying attention, plus the mech comes equipped with a handy-dandy compass just in case I get distracted by squirrels.  So, after much grinding and selling of that useless weapon, I finally had enough funds to buy the Hawk Missile option, which gives me eight rockets that do over twice the damage of my normal weapon.  I also wanted to stock up on portable energy packs for extended mapping sessions but got roadblocked by the future's worst saleswoman.

Oh, sweetheart, let me mansplain
some basic economics for you.

I felt I was ready to tackle the first boss in the next city's arena, as per my mission to infiltrate the "dueling scene" and also track down a legendary pilot named Braudix.  The battle was notable only because the background was not a tunnel!

Not that I got to enjoy it — couple 'Awks
took care of this dude toot sweet.

This will likely be the formula for the rest of the game, but I hope it doesn't overstay its welcome with too many cities.  The map between the second and third city so far is huge, spilling over the edges of my graph paper and making me seriously consider going digital for map making, though I'll probably keep it real and break out the duct tape.  There's nothing in the "dungeon" either, just dead ends and city entrances, making mapping less fun than if there was stuff to annotate.  Oh well, I guess the recoil on this frickin' sweet new N2 Thunder Gun I just bought will dry my tears.

January 05, 2017

Rings of Power - Ranking

Story & World

I've never been more pumped to continue exploring a game world than with Rings of Power.  Not only was giving the entire world map at the beginning a bright idea, but making it tile precise is a masterstroke.  I spent a lot of time just exploring the map rather than the actual world, scouring its considerable breadth looking for single huts in the middle of nowhere or figuring out if a transoceanic journey to that new city was feasible or not.  Each city felt very distinct and the more minor locations were likewise full of flavour.  Even after the initial world tour, there was plenty of backtracking, following new leads, picking up spells that had been too expensive, or just doing some good ol' fashioned trading to generate some income.  I knew going into RoP that it had a non-linear quest structure, but I didn't realize just how open it was until I started leapfrogging sections of some quests.  For example, late in the game, I had picked up the trail off a stale quest involving meeting Fen Ho of Fenopolis.  In order to meet with him, I had to slay the witch Hideous, which I did do but it took awhile.  I didn't head straight back to Fenopolis and, as the fates would have it, I didn't end up back in that region until much, much later.  Fen Ho wanted a protection deal from the guild of Protectors (which I already had), and then gave me information on the Ring of Will (which I already had).  I'm pretty sure I killed him outright, which brings me to another part I really enjoyed, as you can kill anybody outright.  Not only that, sometimes the normally docile citizens of the cities will initiate combat as soon as one attempts to talk with them, including shopkeeps, who have an approximately 0.0% chance of besting a group of professional spellcasters.  Great stuff all around.

The story is a tad generic with the typical Good (Nexus) vs. Evil (Void).  The end villain, who assassinated Thalmus and "tricked" Buc into gathering the rings for him, does this big reveal about how he has "a secret up his sleeve" and then says he serves Void.  Yeah, no shit buddy, I came here thinking I'd be fighting Void himself, not his bottom bitch.  17/20

Character Development

Base two stat system which not only is bugged, but uses bars to represent HP/MP instead of cold, hard numbers.  Bars are fine for beat 'em ups, but in RPGs, I prefer to have my data as precise as possible.  The only time numbers are shown is when a character levels up, displaying the new maximums, but that doesn't matter if one doesn't know how much a spell costs.  The lion's share of spells are pretty useless, and I think a party could get by with purchasing only two or three spells for each character.  2/20

Combat & Monsters

Did you read the previous post?  It's pretty much my review of the combat portion, so what about the monsters themselves?  There's not much variety, mostly humans who are one of the six classes, but there's also bears, wyverns, dragons, and that's it.  Wyverns and dragons share the same graphical representation, so they really went all out here with the monster design.  I'll give you a one for having shopkeeps sometimes be monsters.  1/20

Graphics & Sound

Though the monsters are lacking in the graphics department, the rest of the game is not.  Locations are nicely detailed and distinct.  Cities are a little repetitive, as cities are wont to be, but even then, each one had at least one unique place which stood out.  Character sprites are nothing special, at least until combat starts and everyone gets down with their funky selves.

The score to this grand adventure is pretty epic and the majority of music fits the atmosphere of the game.  I really dug the sailing tune and, even after getting the dragon, would often hop into one of my many boats littering the continents and just tool around.  One quest even forced me to take to the seas since the dragon couldn't find a place to land on the island I needed to go.  For that, I was most thankful.  14/20

Gameplay

An extremely robust economy keeps gold in high demand throughout the game.  Random encounters give paltry sums of coin and cash needs to be generated through trading.  Each city has a resource that it specializes in and is cheap to purchase, and also is in need of another one, giving a nice sale price.  Spell costs scale nicely with their level; I had many occasions where I had to mark down a city to return to later when funds were available (this was before I discovered most of the spells were ass).  I only did the trading thing for the first half of the game and then kinda, sorta, unintentionally broke the economy when I discovered a way to get chests to regenerate.  Every time the world map is brought up, all the chests in the world refill.  Well, at the palace in the city of Sparta, there are seven such chests near the entrance.  At first, I was just going to exploit this a little bit, but then the chests started giving me items I had never seen before, starting with a stone which allowed me to summon my first dragon.  I had to stop myself after reaching 99 Wepons (arrgh!) but it turned out to be a good thing as I had plenty of funds to nourish my dragon for the rest of the game.

Controlling Buc in any situation was a complete nightmare; movement is so clunky I'd often overshoot places I wanted to go, which was really bad when I was attempting to navigate my boat along the shoreline (food/water costs are cheap for shallow waters, expensive for deep).  After townfolks starting attacking me, I would try to examine a person before talking to them to see their current mood.  Examine doesn't work like conversation, where you can be some distance away.  No, not only do you have to be right next to the person, you have to be facing them as well.  Clunky controls means I'd often walk into a person, swapping places with them, or, even worse, they'd move around as well.

Pacing is a hard one to judge in such an open world game, as it's really dependent on the player's skill.  A second playthrough would undoubtedly go much smoother, but without the magic and mystery of exploration, there would be little appeal left.  And there's already not a whole lot of appeal to Rings of Power (oh snap!).  Just jokes, RoP, you're still kinda fun.  12/20

Final Ranking: 46/100

January 02, 2017

Rings of Power - End Game

Wow, what an adventure.  And I mean that in an almost completely literal way.  RoP plays more like an adventure game with RPG elements.  Hrmm, elements might be too gracious a word — let's go with leavings.  The adventure portion, however, is chock full of all the trappings one would expect: fantastic nonlinear questing, tons of NPCs that repeat the same information over and over, and careful trip planning when trying to reach some remote key location.  I'm not sure what it says about a game when logistics is one of the most enjoyable parts of it, but there it is.  As Buc and crew gained wealth, they were slowly able to start affording more boat trips to journey to the far reaches of the world,  Eventually, they'd have enough coin to purchase food and water for the voracious dragon, whose power of flight made navigation so much easier, albeit much more expensive.

Won't be needin' this hunk o' junk anymore.

The nonlinear questing, while great, runs into a few problems maintaining its own narrative, usually due to key NPCs also saying the stock phrases from the common pool of whatever city they're from.  For example, the queen of Richii promises to help Buc find one of the rings, but first he must do a quest for her and find a lens for the city's observatory.  Since Richii is a scientifically based city, most people scoff at the notion of the rings of power even existing — including the queen if you continue to talk to her.

Pssst, hey queen, don't disparage
your one and only bargaining chip.

While the majority of the quests are fine in their execution, there are a few that can only be described as obnoxious.  One involves navigating a forest maze, looking to step on triggers which open up new pathways by removing a tree stump.  Okay, first off, having a maze when the game utilizes an isometric view is just a dick move, but wait, it gets worse.  About half the triggers are visible on screen but the rest aren't, which means bumbling around in hopes of hitting one.  Other than the first trigger, switching one removes or adds a stump out of view off-screen.  Yes, adds.  Hitting a trigger a second time will replace the stump.  And it will happen since the controls are so incredibly clunky.  The trigger sound effect is the same whether removing or adding, so if you're a clumsy oaf like I am and lose track of how many times a switch has been hit, you're fucked.  Exiting the maze and entering again does not reset the triggers either (I actually had to load a previous savestate).  I realize that the extra difficulty I had was because I didn't pay enough attention on my first attempt, but I'm talking about the how obnoxious each component is, not how difficult it is (really though, I just want to blame the game in order to cover my own inadequacies).  Another quest had me searching the bookcases of the Great Cathedral for scraps of parchment.  I had been told that one such scrap was near a corner, but I also knew that there was more than one piece to be gathered, so I ended up searching every single bookcase.  It wasn't that bad, there probably wasn't more than a hundred shelves to look through, but I was happy when I completed entire circuit.  No, my complaint is when a different quest had me searching the library at Oxbridge, which has considerable more knowledge than the Great Cathedral.

Woo hoo!  Time to get our research on, bitches!

Note how the library is also arranged like a maze, which no real library would ever do.  Nope, just done to be obnoxious.  Now, you can see from the pic that there's a guy in overalls, one of a couple of overall guys expanding their horizons.  One single figure looks different from the rest, wearing the white robes of the conjurer class, and who is addressed by name by the attendant at the entrance kiosk.  Obviously, this guy knows where to find what I'm looking for, right?  Nope, he sounds just like everyone else.  Well, I tried searching all the dead-end spots and the areas farthest from the entrance but came up with zilch.  I wasn't about to search every last bookcase (my nerdity only goes so far), so I abandoned this quest for a long time, but eventually came back to it and discovered that
one of the overall guys was my contact and the parchment I needed was near him.  Obnoxious, yes, but this example shows what I liked most about the whole questing structure — coming back to deal with almost forgotten quest lines or, even better, stumbling upon a lead which cracks an old quest wide open.  There's eleven rings of power to be had and each one has a multi-layered quest structure.  In addition, each character (other than Buc) has their own set of requirements.  It took me 12 hours to get the full party together and another 10 to find my first ring.  I had so many pages of notes that I thought for sure I'd be able to get all the rings no prob, Bob, but I only managed to get six before I starting running out of leads.  I bumbled around and managed to get two more due to luck more than anything else.  The last three I had to look up; I was very close for two of them and almost nowhere for the last one.  I don't feel bad for breaking a rule (*update: rules are for suckers anyway) since I never would have found one of the rings due to a bug.  During one of the quest paths, I freed some crazy guy from his insanity and he gave me info about meeting another dude.  Now, what was suppose to happen was a black priest showing up and attacking me before leaving the area, leaving behind a whip which is used later as the "symbol of despair" required by one of the guardians for the ring of thought.  For whatever reason, it didn't happen the first time, so I had to redo the quest, but I certainly would not have done that of my own accord.

Fine, I'll move on, but it only gets worse from here on in.

As good as the adventure portion is, RoP fails terribly at all other aspects one comes to expect from a RPG.  The combat — oh my lord — the combat.  Quite possibly the worst, the absolute worst, combat I've ever experienced since starting Inconsolable.  As I predicted, the AI didn't improve with more party members and continued to keep stinking up the combat arena/dance floor.  Moonwalking is prevalent amongst all combatants, sometimes "retreating" backwards right into a bundle of enemies.  Tactical decisions are likewise bereft of any logical consideration, doing things like beating down an enemy until he's almost dead, then focusing on someone else, even if it means pushing the near-dead enemy out of the way and walking halfway across the arena.

Here, the geniuses are ganging up on a confused 
bear, who is absolutely no threat, while leaving
the archer completely undefended.  Bravo, guys.

Input from the player is limited to individual spell selection and the general mood (level of aggressiveness) of the party.  Each class boasts a large choice of spells, which seems impressive at first until one realizes that most of the spells just do damage.  There are spells that do direct damage, "bullet" spells that attack from all directions, and spells that violently alter the terrain to injure the enemy.  While they look different, they all just do damage, and, worst of all, spell level has little do with damage amount.  A lot of the higher end spells end up doing as much damage as the first level spells.  However, there are a few overpowered spells which so completely outshine the rest of the character's repertoire that one would never bother to cast anything else.  The two most egregious examples are the enchanter's Frenzy spell and the conjurer's Blaze spell.  Both these spells affect all enemies and can do hundreds of points of damage while most spells struggle to crack twenty.  This huge gap was no doubt due to my propensity to set the mood to Berzrk, which increases damage while sacrificing defense.  The manual states that whilst berzrking, the characters will "stay on top of the enemy", which they interpret as forming a conga line with the enemy at the head.

Buc begins to doubt his choice in companions.

Hrmm, I just noticed that Buc's Confse spell (the rare non-damage spell that's actually useful) has no reason to be shortened since Predict managed to have its full seven characters.  So Berzrk could have had its missing vowel included as well?  And it's not like those are the only examples; the game is full of apparently unnecessarily hacked up words.  Even if Predict is special for whatever reason and gets a bonus letter, there's other examples of raping the English language within a six character limit.

Just drop the S and call it Weapon!
Arrghh! Why does this bother me so much!?!

Since there is no equipment and all combat revolves around spells, it's a shame that it wasn't done better.  The non-damaging spells fare no better, with spells that can shove enemies around the field, after which they'll just walk and engage a party member or just use a ranged spell (which the majority of spells are).  The necromancer's healing spells are also baffling in their level arrangement.  The level 4 Solace spell heals 12 damage per successful casting and he would often get multiple successes.  After level 4, the spells turn into "bullet" spells, with the level 5 Cure spell doing 1 point per bullet, which amounts to maybe 5 or 6 points total.  At the level 6 Health spell, it's still only 2 points per bullet but affects everyone in the party, therefore making it at least somewhat useful.  I wish I would have realized how damn useless most of the spells are before wasting a fuckton of coinage purchasing them.

Mr. Bear and I share the same mood regarding spells.

Leveling up raises HP and MP as well as enabling a character to cast higher level spells.  Very basic, but even a system this simple managed to crash and burn due to bugs.  At some point around midgame, I noticed that Buc's red HP bar had gone from being the largest to just a tiny sliver when combat started.  A single hit from almost any source would kill him and I stared at the screen in baffled bemusement.  It's not like there are items or anything that augment HP, it only increases from leveling — how do you fuck this up?  I ended up putting in a code to max Buc's HP, resisting the temptation to give him infinite.  A little while later, the same thing happened to the knight, the second character of the party.  I can only assume that if I continued to gain levels, the rest of party would also suffer the same fate.  One of the knight's spells (Dice) also seemed bugged, as it drained MP multiple times during a casting instead of just once.

At least the developers realized
they were crapping out a huge turd.

Needless to say, by the time I got all eleven rings together, I was quite ready to put RoP behind me, so I started making preparations for the final journey to the grand temple of Nexus, where I'd relinquish all the rings to him.  That left just enough time for the game to do one last obnoxious dick move.

Shit, even old school D&D
gives a saving throw vs. poison.

The final confrontation is against a group of dudes who look exactly like Buc's party, except they can cast higher level spells.  Still, I had Buc cast Mesmer (the group version of Confse), which took out half of them, and then Blazed and Frenzied the rest into death.  With Void's champions defeated, Buc then flies up into space, has a chat with Nexus, who decides to follow his brother Void and leave behind the earthly realm.  In his infinite wisdom, Nexus leaves the Rod of Creation with Buc, because it totally hasn't caused any problems in the past.  The first thing Buc does is destroy the temple of Nexus and replace it with a castle for himself to rule the world from.  Good choice, Nexus.

"Hmm, I think slavery and harems are
about to make a comeback — big time."