February. Home to Valentine’s Day. And boy did I play a game that involved love. Well, sort of. It was more like taking two action figures and mushing them together, bellowing ‘and thEN THEY KISS AND GET MARRIED’. But before then, I played possibly one of the most dreary, dark, depressing games I’ve ever played in my life.
Darkest Dungeon for PC
I poked this game a little once before, back in January, but never really delved more than half an hour in until I was done with a lot of my January games and the new month rolled around. I finally dug in my heels and weathered the unforgiving world that was Darkest Dungeon this month.
For those who aren’t familiar, Darkest Dungeon is a very macabre-style game with a unique, heavy art style. The game is set somewhere around the dark ages, and the crux of the game is crawling around randomly generated dungeons with a party of four, having to manage stress as well as health as you encounter all manner of dark creatures in a turn-based combat setting.
My first impression after the tutorial was a nearly immediate total party wipe. Permanent death of your characters is a prominent here – when your characters die, they’re dead for good and you have to pick from the newbie freelancer pool to replace them. Basically, the game chased me away and told me to come back when I grew a pair.
Eventually I learned the importance of positioning my party members. I learned a lot, grew experienced, made sure to not place my long-ranged crossbowman in the front where he does absolutely no good. I learned to treasure my torches and manage what little gold I had, and work out some semblance of strategy.
Mind you, I don’t actually like the game, honestly.
It was weirdly enjoyable for a while, in a masochistic sort of way, and learning the ins and outs was fun, but it was quite apparent before too long that the roll of the dice was the true ruler. For one, you can’t plan your turns in advance, as there is no turn order you can see, so half of any potential strategy you could possibly have automatically goes out the window. This is particularly frustrating coming off of brutal-but-fair games like Dark Souls and Super Meat Boy, where I know exactly how I messed up and it’s just a matter of ‘getting good’. In Darkest Dungeon, on the other hand, it’s random whether or not you get hit by traps, get surprised and have your party scrambled, whether your party member gets to go before the enemies (or at least it may as well be random if you can’t see the turn order), and once stress levels are high enough, it becomes random whether or not your characters will take their turn or listen to you.
I feel as though Darkest Dungeon is taunting me for blatantly unfair bullcrap it throws at me on a regular basis and telling me it’s my fault, insisting I get good at calling coin flips somehow. And yes, I realize that people may yell at me, citing that it’s the whole point for the game to be unfair, quoting the tagline in-game that “Darkest Dungeon is about making the best of a bad situation.” And, yes, maybe that is the point, maybe the point is not to win, but to survive with your sanity shattered and bones broken – a look down the barrel of despair and terror, of situations made to be unfair because life isn’t fair, where no one is safe from absolute horror, and no one comes out unscathed. Maybe it’s a game supposed to be about complete and utter hopelessness hanging over your head at all times like a cold wet blanket clinging to you constantly, needingly, sapping away at your will to live as you fall down, determination and willpower fully gone and you give up, until you eventually die slowly of hypothermia, alone.
I don’t much care for it. However, I see its appeal. There were times I found myself getting a little sucked into it, until another piece of stealth bovine dung was flung in my face with no warning. I will admit that maybe I’m just not good enough, but my experience wasn’t really that rewarding or fun over time.
If what I’ve said about it sounds like your bag, and you think you’d enjoy a randomly-generated turn-based dark-fantasy dungeon-crawler with a distinct lack of forgiveness and an insanity streak, you may enjoy this game, and if you in particular enjoy those last two bits, I could introduce you to one of my exes.
Happy Valentine’s, mates.
Fire Emblem: Awakening for Nintendo 3DS
Are you ready to marry over twenty characters off to each other in any way you choose like it’s the 1500s? Are you ready to build grid-based turn-based romantic-strategic relationships that will last for generations? Are you ready for future anime love kids?
Then you’re ready for Fire Emblem: Awakening.
I have issues with how a a lot of the mechanics go relatively unexplained, or not sufficiently so – for example, in order to recruit new guys you could otherwise miss, the game seemed to tell me that there would be a big ‘TALK!’ speech bubble above the guy I could talk to, but a key fact I don’t believe they mentioned was that the only one that could talk to them is your main buddy unit Chrom (not to be confused with the deity in Conan the Barbarian), and the bubble only shows up when Chrom is able to be right next to them that turn, otherwise one would have no idea, really. This seems a little unnecessary – at the very least, my avatar character should be able to talk to them, and it led to a lot of frustrating misses as far as characters went. There’s no way to go back and get them once you’ve missed them, too, and since they’re pretty much a third of the game, you could end up totally missing a lot of the game unknowingly. Nothing as far as I know mentions how it’s determined if you get to hit more than once in a battle – it just kind of shows whether you do or don’t. For that matter, it was never mentioned that you gain support points (the stuff that lets you marry your characters together with your deepest, darkest hetero pairings) three times faster when paired up in one tile, as opposed to being next to each other and even healing each other.
With Darkest Dungeon, I started positively but ended up not liking it. With Fire Emblem: Awakening, I started negatively but ended up loving it.
As shallow as the relationships you put your troops in are, with there seemingly being no middle ground between friendship and marriage, and as one-dimensional everyone besides your main group seems to be at first, I can’t help but liking a lot of them. The battle system is pretty nice and goes fast. If it doesn’t go fast enough, you can hold the A button to fast forward the animation, or hit the Start button to skip it altogether and get to the end result. How the pairings you choose affect battle dynamics are rather straightforward and somewhat chance based (less so the stronger the bond between the two is), but fun for me. I have to admit, this is the very first turn-based grid strategy I’ve ever enjoyed, and because of this, I plan on looking into a few more in the distant future. As an added bonus, there were a couple of satisfying twists near the end I appreciated for catching me by surprise.
Overall, as a novice to grid-based strategy games, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
Crypt of the NecroDancer for PC
So I picked up Crypt of the NecroDancer on Steam, having heard good things about it from the Giant Bombcast. The first thing I want to say is that I love the concept. This game is a top-down dungeon crawler with Super Nintendo-ish graphics, and it plays a bit like an older Zelda game of that era. The catch is, you and your opponents can only move to the beat of the music.
Here’s the thing. For me personally, its hard as hell. On the zones past the first one, it took me a very long time to get used to how the monsters moved and their tells for when they are about to attack. A lot of times I got out of situations based on sheer luck. I’m mostly okay with this because I know the difficulty is on me rather than purely random – theoretically, you could go through the entire game with a dagger and if you’re good enough at predicting attacks, you’ll be fine and dandy. It bends my brain in ways I’m certainly not used to, and that in and of itself is satisfying when I finally get into the zone, but at times I get attacked by something that was clearly there and I just didn’t see it, and it annoys me, sure, but mostly towards myself rather than the game.
I suppose you could say I’ve enjoyed the game on a masochistic level, but there was one point where I stopped for good. In the final zone of the game, after a few dozen attempts, I managed to make my way to the boss of that zone. Of course, I got obliterated. A few dozen more attempts later, and I finally managed to beat the boss, only to discover, through a cutscene, that I now had to go for the real Final Boss of the game. Awesome, time to take it down!
Only, when the cutscene ended, what was supposed to be the ultimate battle, was instead a black screen I was greeted with. My game crashed. I wouldn’t have been so upset had there been precedent, but in the 40 hours of time I had put into the game beforehand, not once had it ever shown any signs of slowing down or crashing at all. And that meant I had to redo the whole zone and the preceeding boss fight all over again. Maybe it would have been bearable if I could have just made my way to the final boss again, inevitably died, and been able to go straight back to the final boss, but I found out afterward that even if you do get to the fight proper, if you die, you still have to redo the whole zone and preceding boss.
No. No, Crypt of the NecroDancer. You were fun for a while, but now you’re just tedious.
Shin Megami Tensei (Aeon Genesis Translation 1.0) for SNES
Going back in time now, I decided to get into some of the older games I missed out on, either because I didn’t have them or they weren’t available outside of Japan, the first of which is the original Shin Megami Tensei. As I found it rather difficult to find a legal way of playing this game (it used to apparently be available via PSN, but has since been taken down) I fully admit to emulating the SNES fan translation on my computer. Shin Megami Tensei is what the Persona franchise spun off from; it’s an old JRPG from 1992, mainly a first person dungeon crawler
For whatever reason, I actually peculiarly like this game, despite how archaic its systems and menus are. Why does it cancel out everyone’s action in battle when I decide to go back after choosing everyone’s actions when I just wanted to cancel one? Why does the main character not get any sort of magic at all? That’s a huge issue when allocating stat points. points, and it’s literally useless to put magic into the main character at all, which is something no one would know without prior research. It’s like practicing painting for a long time in class, not realizing or being told until halfway through the semester that you were actually in a basket-weaving class the whole time. A lot of the game doesn’t tell you anything and turns you loose to find out how certain spells work via trial and error, which might be okay if there were more frequent save points, but as far as I’ve gotten, a few hours in there are literally only two save points in the entire game. There are no descriptions for items, effects or spells, and the names are not self-explanatory at all. The system where you can recruit demons to your side (yes, you can do that, and it’s a cool concept) is ambiguous at best and infuriatingly random at worst.
All of that said, I’m reminded of a review I watched about the original Legend of Zelda describing that game as a great game to play with a FAQ or walkthrough on the other tab. Usually I wouldn’t condone that, but with older games that are this harsh as far as turning you loose with little forgiveness for death as far as save points go, I would recommend it. The feel is overall much darker than most games back in the early 1990s, the atmosphere intriguingly grunge, creepy and unnerving in its visuals and music, and the fan translation even has light swearing. Believe it or not, I’m enjoying myself, blatantly archaic and outdated as many of the systems are. Maybe I’m the mad one, but I think it’s at least worth a look. For me personally, it certainly sates my gaming history interest, and I can see how even then it spawned sequels and spinoffs.
Granted, I’m not too far in, but I’m having an alright time so far.
Chrono Trigger for SNES
I just started Chrono Trigger. We’re talking, I just got out of the Millenium Fair, the very first part of the game, so I only really have limited commentary so far. I picked the game up because everyone seems to tout it as one of the big classics of the SNES, along with Final Fantasy VI…and, maybe I just haven’t gotten far enough, but I’m not seeing much of the appeal honestly. Chrono Trigger is a top-down turn-based JRPG from 1995.
Funnily enough, I decided to pick it up from the PSN store, not realizing that apparently the PSN and Playstation releases of Chrono Trigger in general were the most inferior releases possible, with load times up to about 10 seconds of idle for battle transitions, and even just going into and exiting out of menus. I decided that, since I spent money on it, I wouldn’t feel too guilty emulating the SNES version on my computer for this as well. So, if you get anything from this section, it’s to NOT GET A PLAYSTATION RELEASE OF CHRONO TRIGGER BECAUSE LOAD TIMES ARE AWFUL.
Moving on, it’s pretty good so far. The biggest issue I have so far is this: why can’t I move during battle when my enemies can? It kind of bugs me when I’m completely static during my turn while my enemy is free to roam around at will, especially because positioning in this game matters a lot. It can be the difference between getting counterattacked and not.
Other than that, I’ll have an update next month on how I’m liking it, if I continue.
Quick Updates From Last Month
Dark Souls 2
Yup, still playing this one. I decided to ditch my magic build and restart with a dexterity build, and honestly running about with a rapier is the most fun and effective way I’ve played the game so far.
Final Fantasy VII
Yup…dropped it again. Dammit. It’s really hard to get into FF7 again for the long haul.
Beat it. I wasn’t very keen on the ending, it seemed kind of lackluster, but overall enjoyable. I’ll probably come back to it once DLC, patches and mods have gotten more time to cultivate.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3
Beat it. It still acts as pure colorful anime turn based RPG cocaine for me sometimes.
I’ve gotten a couple of my friends to start playing it, and they both seem to be enjoying it quite a lot. I’m kind of glad that I’ve found the best, most respectful way to introduce things to people. At least, considering my past history with trying to get people into stuff.
And that about wraps up this edition of Emerald Gaming Updates! I’ve decided to try and do these on the last Sunday of each month, so you can expect to see my March edition go up by the 27th of March! Maybe I’ll get some new games for my birthday~ ihihi~
See you next month~!