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I’ve been playing some Dungeons of Dredmor, and experimenting with all the new skills in the Wizardlands update.  Mostly, the game seems to have a lot of new things –  new equipment, new mini-dungeons, new traps that will kill you if you don’t know about them, etc.  I don’t really feel like I’ve played enough to do an article about what I think of them.

Two friends of mine picked up Binding of Isaac Rebirth, and I’ve watched them fight through the various things you can unlock in the game.  I tend to find roguelikes to not be “rpg” enough for my tastes.  There’s people racing Binding of Isaac, and I find the idea of making “builds” in a game where all your item drops are random is interesting.  Tactics in racing the first game and Rebirth is usually focused on manipulating how the randomization coding works, or paying attention to how various items interact.

Tales of Maj’Eyal is a game I’ve actually been playing recently.  It’s a roguelike in the style of Angband, but the main mode of the game is dungeons grouped according to your level.  Your class and race selection starts you with a specific dungeon, and then you usually have about three options for your level range.  Much like Binding of Isaac Rebirth, part of the game is based around picking a mix of skills that interact well.  For example, one build is a shadowblade (sneaky magical thief) using illuminate.   This ends up with a thief standing in shadows, and throwing out explosions of light for constant critical damage.  You can also make quirky options like “a person with skills like dragons with healing fungus” and “a dwarf summoning clones, climbing on vines made of stone, and armed with two shields.”

It feels more “Rpg” like in the sense that you can make roleplaying choices about your character.  For example, there are two main factions in the game.  One side hates mages, because they caused the present problems in the world, and has become more or less a zealous Inquisition.  The other side is trying to lay low and practice magic without the former problems.  Some teens from that faction left, and are causing trouble at the start of the game.  There’s also quests, towns, and stories in the various dungeons.  Unfortunately, the stories in the dungeons tend to be variations on the theme of “I entered this place.  Sure hope the terrible thing won’t hurt me!  I saw a terrible thing.  I think I’m going to die.  I’m dead.”

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I decided to move this to a separate post, partially because this is a mess of “this little thing is weird and uncomfortable” adding up to “well, this is unpleasant.”

You see, Wizardry VI has the option to have your characters not be white.  In 1990, in a D&D style game, that’s pretty impressive.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any Western RPG that let you do that.  Japanese RPGs, mind you, weren’t and aren’t much better in that respect.  But, I should give credit to the game for allowing you to have a mix of male and female characters, and for a range of skin tones (taking into account the limitations of EGA graphics.)

However, one of the factions in the game is the Amazulu tribe.  They are depicted as a group of women wielding cliche Zulu shields, topless, a green bikini bottom, and some fringed leg bangles.  For a taste in the nudity and a picture of one of them, here’s a link to CRPG Addict’s account of playing through the game.  Click with care if you are at work.

Let me lay out the general issues, and then I can stumble over the “hey, this is weird.”

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I’ve been slogging slowly through Wizardry VI.  I read CRPGAddict‘s review of the game, and found myself agreeing with him on all of his complaints.  Since his “perfect game” and my “enh not for me” is pretty consistent, that’s surprising.


A friend of mine, watching the early parts of the game, decided to pick up Wizardry VI.  He played up to the Pyramid (the third major area of the game,) and quit, sick of cheap deaths, annoying game design, and gameplay that he described as “painful.” Read the rest of this entry »

I only tried TOME (Tales of Middle Earth) due to posts called “A Day in the Life of -” on the main forum.  The game’s been updated now, and supposedly it’s changed to the point where the familiar features are quite different from the game I remember.  Still, the stories were basically explaining game mechanics, odd and interesting events, and weaving a story for the character around them.  One of the best writers tended to take odd character combinations (a sorcerer with amazing speed, but ridiculously low health) and turn them into interesting characters (the one he was writing was a sort of British professor type) as well as explaining how to survive.

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Simularity in RPGs

If you talk to someone who hates JRPGs, or RPGs (pen and paper or video game style ones,) they tend to bring up simularity or a lack of innovation.  You can find, for example, tons of D&D clones and there’s even the term “fantasy heartbreaker.”  This basically is used to cover games which claim to be someone’s better than Game X game.  Unfortunately, it’s the same flaws as Game X, and often the new elements are poorly planned or utterly unnoticeable.  In console / computer RPGs, there’s a pretty consistent complaint about novelty / innovation / sameyness between game series / games / etc.

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I was watching someone play the early stages of Rogue Galaxy.  In that game, the tutorials were contextual. So, for example, you could get a reward from an enemy, and a tutorial would explain how to use that reward to upgrade your equipment.  You find an item shop, and a tutorial points it out, and suggests you stock up on items.

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Addictive Gameplay

I do find it interesting that I avoid MMOs for the most part, but I do enjoy addictive gameplay.  I suppose what I mean by that is game design or elements that reward spending time with the game, or optimizing interactions with the game.  So, for example, designing a good set of attacks that combo nicely in a Tales game, or a good party set up in Final Fantasy V.

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For many people, RPGs scratch a completionist itch.  There’s strategy guides, for example, on completing various games with 100% of everything – and that means one of every item, fighting every enemy, opening all the chests, and seeing everything the game has to offer.  Some games offer rewards when you complete all the maps or fight everything in the bestiary.  Other games are infamous for having complex or annoying secrets.

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I watched, the other night, someone speed run through Unlimited Saga.

This is a standard mission screen in Unlimited Saga.

While the game was in Japanese, I could basically tell their tactics.  First of all, they avoided almost all battles.  Secondly, they got skills that seemed to emphasize speed.  Finally, they used two main tactics – knife skills with a high chance of a deadly strike, and a specific axe technique which tends to kill the final boss quickly.  The player finished the game in about an hour and a half.

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I think you can kind of separate tutorials into a few categories.  For example, there’s games that assume you are very young.  There’s games that assume you don’t know the genre conventions.  There’s games that want to give you information about the world.  A final category might be games that want you to be able to look up mechanics.

Here, in Final Fantasy II / Final Fantasy IV, the game makes sure you know how to move and talk.

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