RPG 151 Beaten: Cthulhu Saves the World

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Cthulhu saves the world is another game from the same company that brought us the poorly scored “Breath of Death VII” and is also available only in digital download form. Thankfully despite my initial fears this game would be even worse I was rather pleasantly surprised and Cthulhu Saves the World is a better game in many respects.

The theme of the game revolves around the reawakening of Cthulhu who for those not in the know is a character from the literary works of H. P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu is basically a god type being that is a massive force of destruction and leave insanity in his wake. Insanity, the insignificance of mankind and the “hidden horrors” of the universe is a reoccurring theme in Lovecraft’s works. The main premise of CSTW is that you play as reawakened Cthulhu who has suddenly lost his powers and must become a great hero to recover them. Yea, straight off you can tell this is another comical game not to be taken seriously.

Initially I thought this would be an issue as I generally prefer serious tones to my RPG’s rather then flat out parodies and comical adventures. Thankfully I found myself enjoying this game far more then Breath of Death though some of that may of had to do with my love and familiarity of the Lovecraft mythos.

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Visually this game is very much like its predecessor BOD: VII though the overworld and general feel is a lot more “generic original” if that makes any sense. It just feels a lot less like a Dragon Warrior clone/rip off and more of its own thing while still using a fairly generic SNES era graphical look. It also plays very much like your traditional Japanese 16-bit era RPG complete with overworld, turn based battles and even a dragon later on that acts as an airship.

As I mentioned previously and like BOD VII this games does not take itself very seriously and it full of humor though I never found this very grating like I usually would with these kind of games.

The game does play very much like an improved BOD. You can still save anywhere and every area still has a set number of random battles that once reatched you don’t have to contend with them anymore. Leveling up is also very much the same way with getting a choice of two powers or stat bumps to choose from upon attaining a new level.

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So lets talk about what’s new with CSTW. First off the visuals seems a little more polished and refined as well as dungeons being a little more complex. There’s just a lot more overall polish then the developers earlier game. One example is tombstones and bookshelves. Its a very minor detail but every tombstone in CSTW has its own message on it while on BOD many tombstones reused the same messages. Bookshelves as well have different books on them all.  There is also a new ability that Cthulhu can do that causes insanity in enemies. To be honest I didn’t really use it and I’m not completely sure what it did but I really liked how it caused the enemy sprites to change when they became insane.

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There are also a number of small side quests or side dungeons in most areas where you can battle an optional boss and win a powerful weapon for various party members.

Cthulhu Saves the World 5_16_2016 3_21_09 PMA foggy forest dungeon

Speaking of party members CSTW allows you to chose four active members from a roster of characters you pick up as the quest advances. I thought this was a pretty nice feature overall and helped expand the main cast outside of just the four characters one would have in the party. The main character of course is Cthulhu but you also end up recruiting a fan girl mage a sentient sword and alien cat and even a dragon eventually.

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combat is traditional turn based and fought from the first person perspective with options such as fight, item and magic. The difficulty is pretty fair throughout especially since you have the ability to save anywhere though I did find some enemies near the end of the game annoyingly difficult.

Like BOD before it I was able to beat this game in just a few sittings and it clocked in at maybe 5 to seven hours, perhaps less. I have to say though that I actually enjoyed myself through the bulk of the game. The game is full of Lovecraft references that someone like myself could appreciate and I found myself looking forward to seeing what would be referenced next even though it was all done in a tongue and cheek manor. Sure, I personally would of preferred a serious game but my preference doesn’t make this a bad game at all.

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The game is very linier as you travel to once Lovecraft reference to the next eventually “ending with a sort of fake out ending where Cthulhu finally becomes a true hero, gets his powers back and promptly conquers the planet driving everyone insane.

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This though As I mentioned is a fake out, and alternate ending if you will, with the true course of the game being that Cthulhu decides to remain a hero and the party ventures on to the newly risen from the sea city of R’lyeh. The game ends with a final battle against Azathoth, and elder god that disagrees with Cthulhus recent change of heart.

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After this last boss fight the game is won and Cthulhu goes into space with his alien cat pal. the end.

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So do I think this is a great must play game?…..no, but it is a significant step up after Breath of Death VII. The game is much more polished and enjoyable but it still just comes off as to generic and low budget even with its great Cthulhu theme. I’ll admit I may be biased since I do greatly prefer more serious games to overtly silly ones.

Help: 0

Year: 2010

Platform: Windows (Steam)

Length: (1/3)

Difficulty: (2/3)

The Grade

Game World – The game world of CSTW is developed only so far as it’s a parody of the works of H. P. Lovecraft. If your not into or do not know of Lovecraft’s works it just comes off as rather generic. Some of the areas are interesting such as the town overtaken by undead. Other then that it doesn’t do anything terribly interesting as far as world building. I really want to give it a higher grade because I DO like the Lovecraft themes but honestly it just doesn’t deserve it. Grade: C-

Controls – Full controller support that works. Not sure what else to say about it. The game doesn’t really do anything to test the limits of game control. Grade: C

Game play – The length of this game is short compared to many non-indie RPG’s of the 16 bit era it try’s to emulate but I think they did a much better job here then in Breath of Death and the side quest, although short and limited helped pad the game out a little. Other then the improved play time most of what I said about BOD applies here. “The battle system is traditional and turn based but this also where CSTW introduces some really interesting concepts such as the health restore and partial MP restore after every battle. Most of all the ability to get a A or B choice when you level adds a great deal to this style of RPG. Its small when compared to the leveling in other more complex RPG’s but in a traditional JRPG it really adds a lot. The difficulty curve takes a pretty steep climb in a few parts of the game but its completely mitigated by the save anywhere system.”  Grade: C+

Plot – The plot of the game is ridicules but then, its meant to be that way. As much as I initially hated the plot that basically boils down to “do heroic deeds at Cthulhu in order for him to regain his powers” the game kind of grew on me and the humor was actually pretty good and not grating. Grade: C

Graphics/Sound – The graphic and sounds thankfully feel a little more original then Breath of Deaths Dragon Warrior inspired visuals. The enemy sprites are pretty well done overall and there’s a few interesting 16-bit Interpretations of Lovecraftian creatures. There were also a number of competently done cut screens that help elevate the visual storytelling above BOD. Music was okay with no tune standing out but nothing being overtly horrible. It was also nice that every monster had a separate “insane” sprite. Grade: C

Protagonist (Main Character) – The star of the game is of course Cthulhu who of course is absolutely nothing like he is in the stories. Despite this I found him to be fun to play as well as the other characters that join your party. I wouldn’t call the cast of characters ground braking and there’s really nothing in the way of character development with the small exception of Cthulhu but they are a interesting group. characters vary from Umi the Cthulhu fan girl to Sharpe the sentient sword and Paws the alien cat. There’s even a few relatively normal characters thrown in like the old man healer and the girl wizard. Grade: C

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – The main villains in the game aren’t really built up to and are just kind of there. On the other hand like many references in this game if your familiar with the Lovecaft mythos you will know a little of the backstory to a number of the main boss enemies. That said I guess reading a novel shouldn’t be required to build a backstory to your villain characters. Grade: D+

Weapons/armor/items/magic – Weapons are and armor are pretty generic with each character being able to use one type of weapon/armor. Generally newer more powerful weapons can be found in the next town though side dungeons do give access to a few powerful weapons that may not be available in town shops. Grade: D+

Enemies – Enemies range from the ridicules such as actual space invaders in the alien ship dungeon to more serious monsters such as zombies and a few Lovecraftian horrors pulled from the stories. There are a few palette swapped enemies but nothing overused. Grade: C+

Stability –Grade: N/A

Overall – Overall Cthulhu Saves the World is worth a few hours it takes to beat it. This goes double if your familiar with the writings of H. P. Lovecraft just so long as you taking nothing in it seriously as it takes wild comical liberties with the source material. It is certainly an upgrade from Breath of Death both gameplay wise and technically though I wouldn’t say its a huge leap it does make a difference in enjoyment. I honestly thought I would hate slogging through this game but in the end I have to say I kind of enjoyed it. Grade: C

RPG 150 Beaten: Breath of Death VII

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Breath of Death VII is a game that actually made me do some questioning on what I consider an “official” RPG. what I mean by that is must I be compelled by every RPG that ever Tom, Dick and Harry decide to make in an RPG maker program? What about Indie games like this one, should I count that? What about if the game has no physical release at all and what is the difference between a homebrew and an indie dev? I faced this issue a little bit with Avernum but thankfully it did have a sort of semi-official physical release and several of the games can be found on retail shareware and compellation discs. In the end I decided that if I limited myself to games that only had physical releases I’d be excluding myself from a lot of recent games that by all accounts are excellent and fun to play. That said I’m counting games that have no physical release but are sold through official channels such as steam as legitimate to my cause. I’ll always favor physical release games which tend to be a deeper experiences since it costs money to get a game and materials made up physically I will dabble in the steam RPG’s if I hear there worth it.

BoDVIIPC 1_26_2016 8_43_38 PMIt’s obvious right away this is a Dragon Warrior clone

That brings us to this posts game, Breath of Death VII, the beginning (there is no BOD I-VI). Breath of Death or BOD is very obviously a Dragon Warrior clone right from the start. The actual over world sprites may actually be lifted from the SNES versions of the game but I’m not sure. In all honesty the only real tip off that’s its not an SNES game is some of the music sounds a little to good to come from that console. I guess the best way to describe breath of Death VII is a RPG parody game. direct refrences to other games, even outside the RPG genre are everywhere.

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The game is also very self aware and constantly pokes fun at standard RPG game clichés and tropes. The game plays pretty much like any JP RPG of the 8 and 16 bit era. you start in a town with easy monster around it. Grind to get gold and money. Buy the best weapons and armor as you level up and then proceed through a dungeon before going to the next town ect… ect… BODVII does manage to mix things up with some pretty cool idea though.

The initial story was something that really got my attention. After a massive war were all sorts of experimental weapons were used the modern world is completely destroyed. In the wars wake a new civilization of the undead and monsters arise. You take control initially of a skeleton warrior from this future post apocalyptic world.

First off you can save anywhere almost like save states in an emulator which at first bothered me and gave me the feeling that the game was to easy but this actually balances things out later when the game can become pretty difficult and the dungeons more maze like. Another thing that bothered me at first is after a battle all your characters have their HP fully restored and a small amount of MP restored. again I felt at the start this would make things far to easy but as the game progressed it actually just made it manageable.

For being a simple parody game the features and ideas presented really gave the game a unique feel. Another feature I like is the ability to instantly enter a random battle via an option. Every area also has asset number of random battles that occur. Once you hit that number you don’t have to worry about any random battles in that particular area again.

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Battles play out much like any RPG from the golden era and are turn based. other then fight and potion you also get the option of “techs” and magic which from what I saw were basically the same thing. Unite was a special option that could be used in conjunction with other team members for a special attack.

On feature I really liked was a simple choice presented after every level where you can pick one of two option to level advance. Usually this is selecting between more HP and MP points or a raise in states but also between magic and techs. Do you go with the stronger spell that hits a single enemy or a weaker one that hit a group?

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As the game progresses it did get pretty challenging and that save anywhere feature really came in handy. I always got the feeling that enemy monsters targeted my weakest characters and would relentlessly pound on them.

Usually with my entries I write about my journey through the game as I play it but this game was just to short to bother and I completed it in a matter of a few short hours over a period of a few days. As I said earlier the game is pretty basic. You start in an area with a town and basically grind for gold and levels until you feel your strong enough to get to the next area that also has a town and a dungeon or two and pick up party members along the way. The party members you end up acquiring are a ghost mage a vampire technophile and a zombie prince with a bad fake German accent who acts as the parties “tank” character.

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I kind of wish the post apocalyptic angle was used to better effect but the game is obviously not meant to be taken seriously so I guess it cant be faulted to much. After the initial starter dungeon your just kind of roped into going along as a sort of body guard for a ghost mage/archeologist. By the second area your learning about these power cell type things scattered around and finding these become the goal of the game.

After this its simply on to the next city were I had to deal with a corrupt king and save my forth party member Erik from the dungeon. The last area of the game is a desert laboratory where I had to defeat an end boss that was your typical large sized semi amorphous undead/demon thing that kind of reminded me of the end boss of the phantasy star games.

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After this you discover the power cells are for a time machine and you send the last true human back to prevent the war and in turn completely wipe the game you just played through out of the time line.

BoDVIIPC 3_26_2016 12_40_18 AMWell, I guess that’s beats a  “Congatulations!”

Help: 0

Year: 2010

Platform: Windows (Steam)

Length: (1/3)

Difficulty: (2/3)

The Grade

Game World – This is a hard one since the game obviously isn’t meant to be a long game and thus doesn’t have much time to establish its game world. The plot of the game being set in a post apocalyptic world where you play as the undead is actually somewhat fresh and a neat idea unfortunately the game is just to short to take advantage of this. I really have to look at this game from the perspective of a 90’s NES/SNES JRPG but even for that era the game is a little to generic as far as overworld. I think this was intentional of course but it still feels like a lost opportunity. I love post apocalypse worlds but I just cant help feeling its to underdeveloped. All the history we get of this game world is pretty much presented in the 10 second intro. To be honest I’d rather a well developed generic fantasy world then such a simple sci-fi inspired one. The economy and cities are pretty alike and bog standard for the genre and the only politics to speak is the corrupt king scenario. It probably doesn’t help I’m not a huge fan of parody games. Grade: C-

Controls – Controls are fine but again were talking about a very simple game so its not to impressive that they got a turn based game that feels at home on a controller with 2 buttons and a D-pad right. thankfully the game does fully support controllers Grade: C

Game play – Obviously the biggest game play I had with the game is the length. In retrospect its probably not much shorter then the original dragon warrior game but I have to take into account that this is a modern game and not limited by the technology. I understand its an indie team and a budget title but if your going to make an RPG in this day and age I feel it still needs some length even if its a discount budget title. The battle system is traditional and turn based but this also where BOD introduces some really interesting concepts such as the health restore and partial MP restore after every battle. Most of all the ability to get a A or B choice when you level adds a great deal to this style of RPG. Its small when compared to the leveling in other more complex RPG’s but in a traditional JRPG it really adds a lot. The difficulty curve takes a pretty steep climb in a few parts of the game but its completely mitigated by the save anywhere system. Grade: C+

Plot – the main goal of the story starting out is simply to escort a part member as you explore ancient locations from before the great war. This eventually leads to finding a robot that is trying to locate power cells and that there may be more scattered at other ancient sites and that’s about it. Again I think this is fine for a game this simple but also the simplicity of the game limits the story to a level that’s detrimental. Just because its what the developers were going for doesn’t mean its good, deep or engaging. Grade: C-

Graphics/Sound – the sound overall in this game isn’t bad and in general it fits. The visuals on the other hand just feel directly lifted from an SNES Dragon Warrior. The one bright side are some of the unique enemy designs and even the more generic enemies are well done which probably saves this game from a D grade. Grade: C-

Protagonist (Main Character) – The main characters though lacking much development are actually pretty unique not least because they are all undead. All four members do have a personality and I especially liked the somewhat sarcastic nature of the main character Dem who is your standard skeletal warrior. Sara the ghost plays the good natured healer, Lita the techy vampire girl and finally Erik plays the brute character who is also a womanizer and has a bad German accent. There is even some nice back and forth between characters as the game goes on and its fun playing a group of monsters for once. Grade: C+

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) –  Not much to say here as the final villain isn’t even built up to or mentioned until the very end of the game. he’s a generic “ultimate evil” that appears to prevent the current time line from being erased. The towns people as well are completely generic and for the most part look the same between tows. characters like inn keepers say the same things in every town. Grade: D

Weapons/armor/items/magic –  Again, its just about as generic as it gets with each town usually having one grade up of the equipment from the last town. Items are mostly limited to heal potions and each party member gets a weapon slot and armor slot. for instance Erik uses axes and suits as armor and that’s it. not much depth at all or customization. Magic is probably the most interesting aspect here but even then its not to impressive. I still don’t understand the separation of magic and “tech” as they function pretty much the same way. Grade: D+

Enemies – Enemies come in a variety of forms but many of them were unique spins and well drawn, especially undead variations that had bones exposed or torn flesh. there weren’t to many palette swapped enemies and the developers did seem to have some fun with a few monsters such as demon cars; There were not many boss monsters in the games but the ones there were had well done sprites and ranged from the grim reaper to robots. Grade: C

Stability –Grade: N/A

Overall – You pretty much get what you pay for with BOD VII which is to say a short experience. I cant help thinking the game could of really been made more enjoyable if it was just lengthened a little, after all RPG’s aren’t meant to quick experiences like shmups. now some games do manage to fit a lot of fun into a shorter span but BOD unfortunately does not, at least for me. Its certainly not a bad game and it has a few really good ideas but it wasn’t a memorable experience and maybe it took its parodying a little to literal in the end. Grade: C-

RPG 149 Beaten: Avernum 3

av3xx-3Assisting against the golems

Well, when last we left off I was closing in on the last areas of the game and combatting a horde of Golems. I can say this. getting through the “factory” where the golems are made was probably one of the most annoying areas of the game. it involved mostly running around a large maze like golem infested factory with minimum resources searching for keys and avoiding laser beams that constantly turn on and off. Not particularly a fun time.

av3xx-4Viewing a provincial map

The Golems turned out to be the second to last “monster plague” for me. The last section of the game involved sneaking into Black Crag fortress and meeting with the Emperess to broken a peace between the Empire and Avernum as well as getting access to the final walled off area that was suffering from the final plague of “alien beasts”. Six legged dog things that arnt has powerful as their made out to be.

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Before entering this area two things took place. One is the villains responsible for all this chaos is revealed to be the vengeful Vahnatai who never forgave the Empire for the capturing an torture of the crystal souls in Avernum 2. This of course causes friction with Avernum whom needs the surface world intact and seeks peaceful coexistence with the Empire. The second event that took place is the seizure of the tower of Magi by a powerful demon lord which requires you to head back to Avernum proper and stop the demon before he can enter Avernum via a portal on the towers roof.

After this situation was taken care of it was back to Footracer province to deal with the “alien beasts” and then on to the Vahnatai. I did at this point neglect to do a few things which made the game harder for me. First off I neglected to visit the dragons until after I took care of the “alien beast” threat which is a shame because they furnish you with a beast killer sword. second there is a secret headquarters that can be found in Avernum that will create a magical weapon for use against the “true threat” once you discover who it is. I held off on this though thinking maybe it really wasn’t the Vahnatai behind events (it is). There is one section when your making your way through valleys and fortresses to the Vahnatai lands and you face a battle with a group of revered crystal souls. Well if you get the special item you can largely avoid this fight. I though did not have the item and was forced to kill the crystal souls resulting in a tough fight and a possible harder fight later.

a3nc2My unnecessary battle with the crystal souls

The good thing is if you need to heal you can always backtrack from the Vahnatai lands to the surface and heal. The bad part is the Vahnatai lands are crawling with constant patrols that lead to tons of battle. I had to end up using the flying artifact a few times to avoid battles. The final castle isn’t to difficult but it does require exploring the entirty of it and finding four (or was it five?) switches.

The final battle is against the head mage of the Vahnatai. luckily I did do one thing right and accepted the pendent from the mage Erika earlier in the game. After liberally spamming monster summon spells and making my way to the head mage the pendent reacted and summon Erika who did battle with the Vahnatai . it was relatively easy at this point though things end with Erika being killed.

a3nc5The final battle

After the victory there’s a little cutscreen show that depicts the onset of peace with the Empire and the Empress herself making you official dervishes of the Empire and that’s about it.

Help: 0

Year: 2002

Platform: Windows XP

Length: (2/3)

Difficulty: (2/3)

The Grade

Game World – The game world in Avernum 3 is outstanding. The game is finally brought to the surface and it does not disappoint. The least habituated continent of the Empire feels very organic and realized. the southern half is backwater and underdeveloped with the bigger cities being in the earlier settled north. Just like Avernum 1 & 2 there are many MANY things to discover in the wilds of the surface world. It all just feels like a very fleshed out area. cities each have there own politics and tolerances for Avernites, religious cults wonder the land and cities all are coping with the various monster plagues in various ways. There is even a sort of drug trade going on as people are taking these special herbs to escape the harsh reality of the plagues as what’s left of the imperial forces on the continent work to prevent its use and further weaken the defenses. It doesn’t even end with that as your also given a portion of the Vahnatai lands and Avernum to explore. Avernum 3 is another example of excellent and believable fantasy world building in the Avernum series. Grade: A

Controls – The controls are about on par with Avernum 2. They get the job done for sure and far exceed the first entry into the series. Grade: B

Game play – Avernum 3 features a vast and somewhat varied world. like part 2 I feel this game is just about the right length. Despite being non liner and mostly allowing you to go where you want upon emerging to the surface its generally made clear where you should go (south to north). The maps were also a huge help in not getting lost on the surface world which proved a little bit harder to get lost in then the corridors of the underworld. The process of leveling and assigning skill points to various skills are about identical to the first two games as well with the exception that some have been renamed to suit the new surface world, example being cave lore changed to wilderness lore. Grade: A-

Plot – On one hand I felt the basic plot was a little less inspired then the war plot of Avernum 2 but at the same time the mystery element of who was behind the monster plagues on the surface kept me interested and wanting to move forward. Also seeing the fabled empire and learning why the Empress was seemingly abandoning the continent was also pressing me to play on. In the end I still feel the plot of the second game wins out if ever so slightly. Grade: B+

Graphics/Sound – The graphical style is again almost identical to the first two games and as the first two well inferior to most of what was out at the time. On the plus side cutscreen were added as well as ambient sounds that were dependent on your location which were a step up from the silence of the previous installments. Grade: C+

Protagonist (Main Character) – Characters are given the exact same options as in the second game. Grade: C+

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – The main villains work perfectly. The most fun is actually trying to figure out who they are as the game progresses as it could be a variety of suspects. Is it the dragons seeking revenge on the Empire for killing there kind or is is Erika the powerful mage who hates the Empire with a passion. In the end its actually your allies the Vahnatai who cannot forgive the Empire for past crimes against their revered crystal souls. I think making a former ally into the main villain was a nice move. All through the game I sort of suspected them but the dragons and even Erika felt like more likely suspects though in the end it makes perfect sense that the Vahnatai would be behind things with their mastery of magic and unrelenting need for revenge. Grade: A

Weapons/armor/items/magic – As far as weapons and armor go things are exactly as they were in the first two Avernum games. Unfortunately the surface world didn’t really equal a larger variety of armor or weapons. magic is exactly the same as in the first game which was an improvement of the first. Items seem to be slightly more varied and I really liked the inclusion of maps which were a must for navigating the openness of the surface. Grade: B

Enemies – Enemies are varied and interesting. Not only are we treated to a variety of enemies from the first game such as giants, Vahnatai, giant rats and those damn floating eye beats that always drain my magic but were also introduced to a new variety of surface creatures such as evil unicorns, troglodytes (which is ironic as traditionally these are underground creatures and bears both natural and mutated. I also liked the inclusion of a few more “boss” style monster encounters which were usually encountered when ending the various monster plagues in an area. That said I don’t think it really did enough to warrant a higher grade then the previous Avernum.  Grade: B+

Stability – Have exactly one crash the first time I started this game on the intro cutcreen cinema. Grade: A

Overall – I have mixed feeling about Avernum 3. On one hand it did take series to a new local and we finally got an opportunity to emerge from the caves of Avernum that we had already trodden through twice up onto the surface. We got to explore a piece of the Empire first hand and the green open world was a somewhat different feeling. On the other hand the new environment kind of felt a little generic compared with the unique underworld of Avernum itself. I think a game based on the surface was certainly needed in the series and the change of local was refreshing but at the same time it didn’t really do a whole lot new. Now its one thing to stick with what works and most of Avernum largely works well but it just started feeling the tiniest bit stale at this point. The game local is different but not necessarily better overall and I think this is reflected in the score. Avernum 3 comes within a single point of Avernum 2 but just doesn’t quite make it to the same level if only by the smallest amount.  Grade: B+

Avernum 3: Entry 2

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Well, Ive reached what I think is about the mid way point of the game. At least based on level, land explored, spell acquisition and how many hours I’ve put into the game. So the first question is, In my added hours playing has it gotten better? Well it still hasn’t captured the wonder of Avernum 2 but I think that’s to be expected. I think the issue is that the underground world of Avernum felt kind of exotic so venturing on the surface even with its massive amount of places and encounters to behold still feels a little ordinary com paired with Avernum itself. As I said in part 1 though, don’t get me wrong, the shift to the surface was needed, its just lost some of that wonder.

The plot on the other hand continues to draw me in. As I uncover and solve many of the monster plagues ravaging the surface more clues are given to who is responsible. The interesting thing is none of these clues point to one specific perpetrator. Is is Erika the mage whom hates the Empire? is it the dragons? is it elements of the Vahnatai? all of them? non of them? Its actually something I’m really interested in finding out and keeps me interested in playing.

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So far the surface world has worked pretty much like the underworld of Avernum did. Its actually a bit easier to get lost since your no longer so boxed in by the caverns. The maps help but I have found myself losing track of where I was headed once or twice.

There are nice little touches in the world to make it come alive as well such as characters that seem to randomly travel between towns and small details. For instance In one town I initially received a quest from the mayor who was ill due to disease spread by a cockroach plague. When I later returned to the city she was nowhere to be found. It took me some time to figure out she was now at the hospital due to a worsening state.

Things also do not stand still back in Avernum. Periodically your supposed to return to fort emergence to report the things you’ve learned on the surface, actually to advance the plot you need to do this. Occasionally things will happen that will require you to do some questing in upper Avernum such as bandits stealing artifacts and mysterious murders in outpost towns. Its pretty neat and helps give the impression of a living world.

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As I travel the world the different monster plagues can be seen taking their toll on various cities. There’s a constant sense of foreboding and desperation that wasn’t even present during the war of Avernum 2. Many cities are locked down with many mayors falling into despair or awaiting Empire reinforcements that do not seem to be coming. One new force seems to be the church of Anama. They are a new influence in the region and are a sort of anti magic cult. At one point I even had the option to join them which is kind of neat. The downside is you lose the ability to use any non priest magic. On the plus side you supposedly get access to Anama locations and other powers to make up for the loss. I tend to rely pretty heavy on magic and just found its loss to be to detrimental so I passed up the opportunity.

Since my initial entry I’ve managed to end several of the monster plagues as well as the curse That I mentioned in the first entry put on me by the vampire. Remedying that issue was as I suspected and required me to get the dispel barrier spell and return to the castle to destroy the vampires protected soul.

I left off dealing with the troglodytes in my initial post.This is where it was revealed that something has magically resurrected the Trogs as well as their ancient enemy the giants. I initially worked with the Trog king to assassinate his political opposition so he could focus on killing giants. I did this with the plan to come back and finish off the king later when I was more powerful.

I next had to take a break from them and travel west to an island infested with giant roaches spreading disease. This part was actually pretty easy as I think this section was intended to be handled before the Troglodyes and giants. The talking spiders from the previous games made a reappearance here as well as some talking roaches which was kind of pushing things on the goofy meter. I can understand why the talking spiders were supposedly left out of the remakes.

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av3x11Oh yay, light beam puzzles.

Just north of the Troglodyte area was a area ravaged by giants. I felt the difficulty in this area also ramped up a little bit. In one of the larger cities you also get the opportunity to purchase a mansion for 5000 gold.

The increased intolerance in the northern cities that was hinted at earlier definitely starts to come out when you enter the areas north around the giant infested lands. some guard patrols will attack you on site or after a warning and some cities you need to find alternate ways into. I think this is made worse by having a cat person in my party.

So far I’ve freed the lands from slimes, undead, roaches, troglodytes, giants and now I’ve reached an area plagued by golems and bandits. Things are definitely getting tougher and less friendly as I move north. Towns seem to be less welcoming and Ive been getting attacked at points by Empire troops. I’m not sure how much is in store or what the exact end game is going to be. I know there is an empire fortress to the north where the Empress is supposed to be and there is also a quarantined town with some sort of super beasts in it. I’m very curious who is behind all of this and I’m eager to play on through the final part and find out.

av3x13Golem attack on a town.

 

New Game: Avernum 3

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System: Windows 7 PC (XP compatibility)

Year: 2002

After the greatness that was Avernum 1 & 2 (two of my highest ranked games thus far) I had to take a small break. I am back now though with Avernum 3 A game that from descriptions and the intro image above finally takes the adventure out of Avernum proper and finally into the light of the surface world of the Empire. Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect from this setting change but I also don’t think the series would of benefited from another underground only game. Not that it definitely wouldn’t work. Avernum 2 did an amazing job of fine tuning the game and made retreading most of the landscape of the first game feel like an all new experience but I think it was time for the Avernites to finally venture forth into the sunlight.

Character creation is very much like the earlier games and you chose four party members, race and class. I limited myself to one non human cat person this go and tried to vary my classes a little from before taking a soldier, rouge, priest and hedge wizard. The hedge wizard is kind of a mix of wizard and priest but to be honest I should of just gone straight wizard as that’s how I’ve played the character thus far, rarely needing his white magic as back up.

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The story of Avernum 3 is that after the war with the Empire Avernum has perfected a teleporter and has started a colony in a cavern just under the surface. Not sure what to expect in the surface world after decades of being underground Avernum sent scouts to the surface. These scouts never returned and now its up to your party of adventurers to act as the back up group to scout and report what you discover top side.

On starting up the game you get a little intro cutscreen which you didn’t get in the previous games. Unfortunately my PC crashed at this point but thankfully it appears it was an isolated incident because its run perfect under Windows 7 with XP compatibility mode since. Right away I noticed the game is basically the same graphically and playstyle wise as the previous games but retains the control refinement of Avernum 2. One new element though is the ambient sound effects and speech text on screen. Guards randomly shouting to obey the law, snakes hissing and other conversations snippets flashed on screen as you venture around town. Its actually very reminiscent of later Ultimas such as U8.

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As I mentioned there is also more ambient sound effects going on. In the initial busy fort town you get talking and wagon wheels sound effects. Later in outdoors areas you get insect sounds as you travel across open fields. Some of the skills and stats from the previous games has also been re-tuned such as the underground survival stat has been replaced with a nature lore stat.

Maps also play a larger role and can be bought from certain individuals and looks at by using them in your inventory. These become very helpful once on the surface as the surface tends to be a bit more open with widespread towns then the narrow tunnels of Avernum were. Though you can head straight out on your mission to the surface I explored the caverns of upper Avernum to help hone my skills and raise a few levels. The quests here are pretty typical from what you would expect such as clearing out a bandit den and dealing with giant insects that appeared during Avernum 2.

Upper Avernum isn’t to large and acts as a familiar area for raising a level or two before venturing up top. There are a few cities here such as New Contra that offer a few easy quests to sharpen your teeth on. After two or three hours of scouring Upper Avernum though I was ready to head to the light of the surface world and headed back to fort Emergence and the exit to the topside world.

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The game really doesn’t change once you’ve emerged on the surface, its simply Avernum in an outside setting compete with day/night cycles. This isn’t a bad thing at all but if your expecting a radical shift in play style you’ll be disappointed.

The outside world is as you would expect. Filled with vast green fields, forests and cities. All is not as it appears though as the surface is now experiencing several mysterious monster plagues. This is the main mystery it seems of Avernum 3. the area you emerged in is the most unsettled and remote area of the Empire but it is also under assault by various plagues as I said before and you need to figure out who is behind these plagues and stop them since the monsters will make the area uninhabitable for not only the Empire but Avernites as well who are looking to make a new home on the surface.

Fortunately people in this area of the Empire seem far more tolerant of people from Avernum and even when you are discovered as being from below most people do not seem to care. I am starting to regret my decision to have a non human in the group though as I think its cost me a mission or two since racism on the surface is much stronger on the surface and from what Ive learned from townspeople it gets worse in the northern areas in which I eventually must tread.

av37A surface battle with Troglodytes

Thus far I have explored a pretty large section of the south and have cleared a few of the monster plagues I talked about earlier as well as your standard side quests such as finding a beautiful object for a dryad or clearing out a cave of bears so mining may resume. Apparently due to all the monsters the Empire has quarantined the continent and have not sent any help thus the towns are usually more then happy to accept your help. The monster variety is still mostly what you could find in Avernum. Slimes, ogres, undead and the like though there are new ones thrown in like Troglodytes (ironic as traditionally these are underground monsters), bears and surprisingly evil unicorns. Speaking of horses, you can actually buy some and use them for travel now. These are supposed to increase your traveling speed but honestly its pretty minor and I’m not convinced their worth the 500 gold.

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So far Ive eliminated several monster plagues, mostly in the south. The slime attacks was the first I tackled. tracking the source of the slimes from a group of bandits that seemed to of domesticated a number of them to a hidden cave where they were apparently being created by a Cthuluesque ooze monster which I hastily dispatched.

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There was also a Basilisk infestation I took care of as well as an undead plague lead by an ancient vampire I dispatched. Unfortunately killing the vampire came with a cost. After his defeat he has been “haunting” my group and every once in awhile my party will get hit with poison and muddle spell effects from his “spirit”. I did find a passage blocked off my magical barriers in his tower. My guess is I need to dispel these barriers and destroy his true body though acquiring the dispel barriers spell usually isn’t easy in the Avernum series.

I also managed to come across a rather interesting skull that I have no idea of its use (if any). I stumbled across a number of ogres worshiping a skull on a mound and of course I decided to slaughter them all as any good adventurer would. Upon taking the skull though its appears to be alive and rather humorous. So far Ive found neither a use for the skull or any ill side effects but it randomly creates a message box with either pointless chit chat or useful information as well as triggering a sound bite to play such as “I’m a talking skull” or I want to be your friend”.

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Thats really about all for now. I don’t keep track of game time but I estimate I’m closing in on 10 hours into the game, perhaps a little less. So far Avernum 3 is a great game. Emerging to the surface did invoke a little of that excitement of exploring but not quite as strong as the first games. I may just be me just tiring of the formula though rather then the game itself. Don’t misconstrue that as me disliking Avernum 3. I’m already rather fond of it but after three games that are more of less the same just variations on area you tend to lose a little of the excitement and wonder.

Currently I’m tackling the Troglodyte problem and after that its off to the north where the populace is supposedly more Imperial and prone to dislike Avernites and non humans. I’m interested to see how this will play out in game.

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RPG 148 Beaten: Infinite Undiscovery

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-12-01 16-42-37How are they breathing in open space?

 As you may of guessed by the title I did finally complete Infinite Undiscovery. I was actually very close to the ending from my last post as I suspected. To be honest I don’t have a whole lot more to say about Infinite Undiscovery. There was only about one of two hours left after my previous post of the game left. I acceded the tower. beat that skeleton guy along with a few more bosses and finally ended up traveling to the moon after defeating Leonid to face Veros the moon god who, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, turns out to be a total prick with questionable fashion sense and wants to wipe out the planet.

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Was the final battle a challenge, not really. After the god was defeated Capell actually dies because he had to stay behind while the others return to the planet below. Aya is completely heart broken but the world is saved and life goes on. If it ended there I actually would of be kinda impressed but no, of course not. In the ending cutscreen Capell has returned and rejoins Aya in a loving embrace because he was resurrected by….the power of love? I don’t know, either way its a lame cop out and I wish games would just leave some characters dead like in the good old days.

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That said the game clocked in relatively short for a modern console RPG and I don’t think I even had 20 hours in when I completed it. Why then did I play for almost another 20 hours? The bonus dungeon that unlocks after a game completion. Personally I prefer my bonus dungeons to occur before I complete a game. nothing like completing a optional dungeon and beating a super boss then walking all over the proper game boss with a hyper leveled character like it was nothing.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-12-01 17-58-11

Infinite Undiscoveries bonus dungeon though is only available after a game completion. I don’t have many images from the bonus dungeon because at this point I had already beaten the game and just didn’t feel like turning on the capture software and setup every time I played the game. I will say the bonus dungeon is pretty difficult. I was about level 75 when I completed the game proper…..I was level 228 when I completed the final boss of the bonus dungeon.

Its mostly a rehash of previous areas with super powerful bosses and enemies thrown in. You can get Sigmund back if you can find and defeat him but hes whatever measly level he was way back when he died in the main game and I just stripped him for his weapons.

Apparently there is all kind of enchantments and items you can get from crafting but I never even bothered with these aspects of the game until the final dungeon and by then I missed most of my opportunities to acquire the materials I needed to craft the best weapons. This was also the first time I discovered you do special battle attacks by holding down the A or B button.

Help: 0

Year: 2008

Platform: XBOX 360

Length: (1/3) (2 if you include bonus dungeon)

Difficulty: (2/3)

The Grade

Game World –The game world of IU felt like a mixed bag. on one end there are several distinct nations with various distinctions. For instance there is your desert nation and then your snow nation and jungle nation. but at the same time they didn’t bring much new to the table. The desert nation was sort of middle eastern themed ect. They various areas were also limited by size as each area really only consisted of one or two overland areas and a single city. They do go a little further with the different classes and division between those without moon runes and those with as well as a separate ruling class. It really helps flesh out the world. Overall though I just think the game world was a little to small and superficial. Grade: C+

Controls – The controls work for the most part in a general sense. The third person camera isn’t the best I’ve ever seen though and its easy sometimes to lose track of things. I did have some issues locking on to enemies in battles which could be irritating. I also did not care for the inventory system and that there was no pause in game play when accessing it to use a potion or some such thing. I applaud the experimentation here and I know what they were roughly going for but it didn’t work well in my opinion. On one side theres a frantic sort of rush to use a potion to revive or cure when party members start dropping but its just unnecessarily brutal sometimes when a huge inventory screen pops up and the battle is still going on behind it. I know you can make party members heal via a button command but it just didn’t work for me and the last battle was especially annoying since a constant pressing of the heal button is needed leading to a endless audio barrage of “cure them”, “they need help”. The AI for the other party members is adequate but it feels like Ive seen this style implemented better. Grade: C-

Game play – The game just feels to short. The bonus dungeon helps and can effectively almost double play time but this should not be used as a crutch or padding. There’s just no excuse for such a short game being that this is a modern console RPG. Its excusable for something made 20 years ago or for a game meant for the mobile handheld market but not a high budget console game.  The difficulty though I feel is pretty spot on and you never need to do excessive grinding (with the bonus dungeon being the exception). Grade: C

Plot – I’ve read a few places where the plot was ridiculed for being ridiculous but honestly most JRPG plots are. In my opinion the story was one of the better aspects. It wasn’t wholly new and still followed the tried and true “unwilling hero” and “save the world” story but it did it in just enough different and sometimes bizarre ways to feel a little fresh. I liked the entire concept of binding the moon with the chains and the goal being to sever them at various points. I also liked that even though I knew Capell was connected to Sigmund in some way the way it turned out was actually so odd it was kind of fresh. Grade: B

Graphics/Sound – Overall sound and visuals were pretty good for the 360. Some of the outdoor areas were in my opinion above average graphically such as certain parts of the desert as well as the plains area. Grade: B-

Protagonist (Main Character) – Capell is the main character of the game and hes basically the “unwilling hero” type we’ve seen many times over. There are a few differences though that I think elevated Capell as a main character. First is his extreme unwillingness more so then other similar main characters in recent memory. He really doesn’t want to participate. Capell also has a very clear character arc and ends up as a very strong character in a very natural way. I found specific parts in his development very compelling such as Sigmund’s death and his decision to take up his mantel as well as the death of his potential love interest near the end that sets him hating the magic runes and those that use them for awhile. I could almost see him becoming a villain at this point if the game played out a little differently which was pretty interesting. The supporting characters are somewhat stereotypical but you come to expect that. I did like that certain characters had specific uses like picking locks or grappeling chests from far away. Some are more annoying then others like the kids and some come very late in the game and lack much development or time to care about them. Grade: B

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) –  The supporting cast and villains on the other hand are pretty much by the book. I cant recall any NPC’s worth remembering. Leonid the main antagonist is your typical whiny brat hungry for power, typical of JRPG’s. Veros the moon god could of been interesting but he doesn’t make an appearance until the final battle and before then its unclear if hes real or a mythical. Grade: C

Weapons/armor/items/magic – Pretty much stock average as far as this goes. Every character has a specific type of armor and weapon they can use. Lighter type fighters use light armor, heavy hitters use heavy swords, axes and heavy metal armor and magic users use robes and staffs. very typical for the genre. Magic is earned as characters level and isn’t as varied as other RPG games. You also can’t control what spells are cast by your party members. weapon and armor power generally increase at every town. all and all the variety of weapons and armor is good but it just feels very average.  Grade:  C

Enemies – Despite some palette swaps the variety of enemies is pretty good. Most of the monsters are variations of traditional enemies such as goblins, giant insects and ogres. Some monsters are even a bit majestic such as the giant birds that soar over the desert. Bosses are also pretty well designed and I actually enjoyed many of the boss fights from giant imposing dragons to giant squid. Id say the design and variety are a little above average overall. Enemies can also be found at odds with eatch other and fighting on occassion which I always find gives the game world a little more realism. Grade: B-

Stability N/A

Overall –  Grade: Reviews weren’t to kind to Infinite Undiscovery and from the information Ive gathered over the internet it is seen as one of the weaker RPG titles on the 360. The game brings intresting things to the table and I think it just falls short of being good, with more time and polish I think the game could of done much better. Most feel this game is “meh” but I actually think its pretty good and it held my attention. I could definitely see this game becoming better thought of as years go by and perhaps a 360 RPG must own in the future. I only wish the game was longer and its its world more expansive. Grade: B-

Infinite Undiscovery: Entry 2

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So as we left off last time Sigmund was killed by the leader of the order of chains and Capell, the player character decides to take his place pretending to be Sigmund. This doesn’t go well with all of the party and while some leave others create a power struggle within the group.

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My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-10-25 12-52-12Even when not taken out of context this is kinda creepy

To be honest at this point I’m feeling I kinda like this game. Granted I didn’t expect much and many reviews of this game paint it as kind of “meh” it does have its charms. Its pretty visually and I actually do care a little about some of the group members. The dynamics of the group especially after Sigmund dies is seemingly a bit more complex then what I’m used to lately and Capell’s character arc fells well done. I think as time goes on this game may be more appreciated and may end up as a well liked B list RPG.

The main issue after Sigmund’s death is the power struggle mainly between Capell and Edward who was very close to Sigmund and will not accept Capell as his successor.The games continues on a pretty linear course to destroy the remaining chains binding the moon. Boss battles revolving around the chains also take a pattern at this point that will continue for the next few. Every chain is guarded by a Knight of the order. Generally the spot fastening the chain the the planet is protected by a energy field that drops when a certain amount of damage is done to the knight. You need to inflict as much damage to the sphere as you can in this moment before the knight regains its strength and needs to be weakened again for the field to drop. I wasted a lot of time at first on the first knight at the beach battle before I noticed the field dropping when the boss was kneeling down and weakened.

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The issues with Edward doesn’t take to long to straighten out as I traveled across the ocean to the city of Kolton “Vermaforms” are introduced as well as lunar rain. Lunar rain is rainfall of magical moon beans that at first grant strength to characters but if exposed to to much of it turns them into monsters. The lunar rain seems to have semi fixed spots on the maps where it occurs and I never had any issues making sure my party was not overexposed. “Unblessed” or those that do not have a magic glyph are immune as well as “Aristos” who are a sort of evolved human that become this way via a special rite. Edward becomes overtaken and transformed into a vermaform leading to a quest to find a cause and then sure. Upon defeating him and curing him Capell finally earns his respect.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-11-05 16-24-40

This distinction of class though is actually pretty important to the story and the game world of Infinite Undiscovery. The mistreatment of those without lunaglyphs is a reoccurring theme as the game goes on.

As I play the game also keeps picking up more and more characters. Usually this is from leaders of the various nations that are visited assigning thier own people to assist you. Like others games that do this I find myself largely uninterested in most of the later introduced characters. Its not that they are uninteresting but its just at this point in the game I usually feel to invested in the initial characters. I’m still thankful for the system that levels characters not in your active party as you gain XP, even if that XP gain is slower.

Its around this point that “The Force” as its called its asked to return to Fayel, the desert nation. The class structures become clearly evident here when the king of Fayel refuses to protect a town of “unblessed” leading to the complete massacre of the residents including Capells semi love interest.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-11-18 20-23-27

This brings up two more points I like about this game.

First off when I say “semi love interest” I mean it. The young lady in the image above is introduced fairly early in the game and sort of obsesses over Capell. Its also made clear he has some level of feelings for her as well. The interesting part as this creates a sort of emotional love triangle between Capell, the girl above whose name I currently do not recall and Aya. Its not a real major subplot of anything but its a nice change that adds some complexity to the characters rather then the straight love story I was expecting to develop between Capell and Aya.

Second this death sparks a character change in Capell. He becomes a much more driven and strong character. It also brings out a sort of dark side in him and sparks a hatred for lunaglyphs and a drive to destroy them which interestingly puts him at odds with most of the game world as well as his party.

This is about the point that the whole Capel as Sigmund thing is revealed and he becomes a sort of criminal on the run for a short segment as the various kingdoms want to capture him for lying to them. Its pretty petty seeing as he still freed chains just as Sigmund did.

Speaking of Sigmund….Most of the bizarre plot is also revealed about this point via cutscreens. So Sigmund was apparently the king of the nation that is not ruled by the order of chains. At some point he had to give up his first son because he was born “unblessed”. This led his wife to die of grief and Sigmund so upset had a magical rite performed that removed his lunaglyph as well as transform him into a baby….

You probably see where this is going. You, Capell are the child that was banished for being “unblessed” and Sigmund was your reborn father. Its different, I’ll give it that much. Oh, and Leonied the leader of the order of chains. He is the son of the empress of the nation that performed the rite to remove the glyph. He was exposed to to much magical energies and has gone mad.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-11-25 14-23-51

 At this point I’m only about 20 hours in and only two chains left though its not much of a surprise since I’ve heard the game is pretty short compared to other RPG’s.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-11-19 15-36-02Only two chains left

The second to last chain was a pretty straightforward dungeon affair with a sprinkling of light puzzles. Once it starts though your exist is destroyed so your pretty much committed. This actually is something that’s pops up a few other times which I don’t quite care for. I hate being trapped in a dungeon or area with no way to save or go back. This actually happens earlier where there are some pretty nice but expensive weapons in the city. It takes a lot of grinding to afford them but if you advance the story any the city is made off limits and you cannot return for some time so you need to get the super expensive goods while you can. After breaking another chain and then tracking through a marsh I’ve encountered what I’m guessing is the final dungeon.

The dungeon containing the last chain is also like this though its actually extremely frustrating. It starts off with separating your force into three groups. It is pretty cool to watch your other groups proceed through the tower with you.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-11-25 15-37-27

The problem with this dungeon is that its another section that once you start you cannot leave it. another frustrating aspect is there are no save spots at least as far as I could get. I cant explain how annoying it is to spend 30 minutes advancing up a tower defeating several bosses only to be killed in about 3 minutes by this thing.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-11-25 15-48-59

Only to have all progress lost and be thrown back to the last save point outside of the dungeon. Now I’m no stranger to these kind of things, I’m still slogging away at the original Wizardry and that makes this situation look like a sunny stroll in the park…no less of a stroll and more like being gently pulled in a lavish coach wagon by Clydesdales. Still, for a game made these days I find it odd that there wasn’t a single save point during the whole process

That’s pretty much it for now. I suspect there is only a few hours left in Infinite Undiscovery and that my next post will be a relatively short wrap up and grading.

I know, I’m slacking with Wizardry…Its not that I’m not enjoying it but I just haven’t been in the right mindset for it and that game definitely requires the right mindset.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-11-25 14-21-12Exploding dragon as I casually stand with back to explosion, it’s like a movie poster.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-10-25 14-06-38

New Game: Infinite Undiscovery

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System played on: Xbox 360

Year: 2008

Infinite undiscovery is one of the dumber named RPG’s I’ve played. I mean what does that mean? unlimited number of things to not discover? actually when you say it like that it kind of makes sense, almost sounds like some ancient piece of Chinese wisdom or something. I can picture a wise old man saying, “my son the world has a unlimited and unfathomable number of things you can not and will not ever discover, a infinite undiscovery if you will” To be honest my love affair with JRPG’s ended some time in the Playstation 1 era and since then I’ve never seen them with the same kind of wonder. maybe the styles and same old tropes have just gotten stale with me I don’t know but I can say I didn’t expect to much from infinite undiscovery when I started it.

The summery on the back of the case and images on the packaging are actually pretty straight forward. The moon is very important to this world and some guy called the Dreadknight has chained it in an attempt to gain power, the chains are summoning monsters and the world is in great danger. Truth be told I find this plot a little integrating. Sure its the same “save the world” story every JRPG has but the whole chains on the moon thing is an interesting little spin on it. Being from Square Enix also helps as at least I can assume some effort ws put into the game from people that at least know how to do a JRPG. I also want to say the manual is actually well done and in color as opposed to the more common B/W photocopied look you get these days.

I would also like to point out this is the first game I’ve gotten to use my handy dandy screen capture device which is essential for these more modern action RPG’s.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-10-03 09-13-18

The games main protagonist is a bard type guy named Capell who is sort of thrown into the whole resistance fight against the “order of chains” run by the dreadknight. The graphics are quite good in spots and the outside overworld can be beautiful. I nice tough is the ever present moon in the sky along with the chains binding it to the world. The voice acting for the most part is also pretty good and everyone sounds appropriate.

The game pretty much goes right into the main plot with your main character being in prison because he looks like the twin of the resistance leader. Your promptly rescued by a resistance member and thus starts the adventure as you escape prison and reluctantly get caught up with the resistance. The prison escape was actually pretty fun and a good action packed way to start off the game. racing up a flight of stairs with a huge ogre chasing you that you have no chance of defeating. There’s even a semi stealth section once you escape and are making your way through the forest.

Combat is action RPG style so you can pull off combos and chain attacks with two basic attack buttons for a light and heavy sword attack. There is also a strange sort of thing where you can sort of control a party member to do one of their special attacks. I’m having a hard time using this often but certain sections of the game seem to demand it.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-09-23 15-35-18Pretty cool dragon

One mild grip I did notice pretty quickly is although the game is linear often times there is no clear direction on where to go. For instance your tasked with going to X town or X castle but noone even gives you an idea what direction it is. You just have to wonder around the edge of the map until you find a path to a new area and hope its the right way. Its not a huge issue and places can be found relatively easy but just a “go north” or something would be nice.

Early on you pick up these two creepy soulless looking mage children who end up helping you with the first boos, a giant blue ogre. After that battle though these kids that cant be more then 12 years old ask to come along and fight the order of chains with you and there mother practically insists you take them along…to WAR. yhea, I know they have magic and all but these are pre-teens and you, their mother, think its a good idea to send them off with people you barely know to fight a prolonged and extremely dangerous war…..just wow. I guess that’s RPG game logic.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-10-02 23-14-44Sure, go with these strangers to fight a war. I can always have more soulless creepy eyed kids.

 An interesting thing that I noticed when traversing the overworld is that monsters actually will fight each other. I know this isn’t anything ground breaking and even games as far back as Doom did this but I still find it a neat touch when I’m traveling down a road and happen upon a few goblins taking pot shots at a harpy like creature roosting on a pillar.

The main focus of the game is traveling with the resistance group, which seems to number less then twenty, and destroy the aforementioned chains that bind the moon. So far I’ve managed to break three of these chains and they are usually located in some fortress and guarded by a powerful knight.

As the game progresses your introduced to more members of the resistance and generally have your pick of who to place in your four member party. There are a few sections I’ve encountered so far that have you create three separate groups with two being computer controlled. At the end of the section the game grades the groups you created though I’m not sure on the bases the grading is done.

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The story as far as I have played isn’t bad. As I said your the reluctant hero sort of forced into the rebellion, well maybe forced isn’t the correct word, coerced. The revered leader of the rebellion, Sigmund happens to look exactly like you and it turns out you also have the ability to break chains. I’m guess as the game unfolds there is going to be some kind of not so shocking revelation that theres a relation, twins I’m guessing. We get a lot of the standard JRPG archetypes. The arrogant fighter, the big burly slow heavy hitter, The attractive female healer and the party member that is actually royalty in disguise. Despite this none of their personalities has really come off as annoying. The main character Capell is a bit annoying at times with his whining and reluctance but its not that bad.

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The enemies are a mix of standard fair and the bizarre. In the desert area there are this very large pterodactyl looking monsters that glide around. They actually come off as kind of majestic and I was a little prone to just kind of watch them in wonder when I first encountered them.  At this point in the game I was actually starting to get into the game and rather enjoying it. There was a escort mission at one point while going through the desert but it wasn’t bad. The pace is also broken up with interesting events. For instance during the escort mission I was escorting a group of villagers back to their village. While stopped for a break one of the kids wondered off. You have to track him down and fight a monster or two to save him. after that one of the pterodactyl monsters grabs the kid and your basically put in a timed event that you have to use that ability to control your teammates arrow firing ability and sharp shoot the monster in the sky. Its a nice mild distraction.

The third chain I set out to break was located in a mountain region. There’s a section where boulders come off the hills and onto the pathway constantly knocking your character over. It was a little frustrating to get knocked down only to get back up and be imminently knocked back down.

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There was a few areas like a mine area I bypassed to head straight for my objective, the third chain, but I assume I’ll get an opportunity to get back to it later. Destroying the third chain involved splitting the group into three parties. You only control the main one though that has to include Sigmund. After getting through a multi level tower littered with enemies and some light puzzles the dungeon ends at the top of the tower where the third chain attaches.

And finally we have what I was waiting for. The traditional JRPG effeminate villain with condescending voice to match.

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The battle is actually kind of a treat. as Sigmund battles the main baddy you and computer controlled party members battle a teleporting bowman and foot soldiers. The battle actually ends with the death of Sigmund and a complete turn around of the main character as he decides to “become Sigmund” and continue to destroy chains.

And this is where disc one of two ended and where I felt it was a good spot to write a entry. I’m actually only about 11 hours into the game and I’m sort of surprised the first disc is already over. infinite undiscovery is turning out to be a surprisingly decent game. I may even dare say that in twenty years or so it may be considered a gem of an RPG for the Xbox 360. It hasn’t broken any new ground for me but overall it comes off as being competent and fairly fun. I’m eager to see where disc two leads.

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New Game: Wizardry 1: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

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System played on: 4.77mhz 8088 PC with ATI CGA card, 640kb of RAM, PC Speaker

Year: 1981

I recently completed (or re-completed) Akalabeth, Ultima 1 and Ultima 2, games that hail from some of the earlier days of Computer RPG’s. This made me take notice that in the great scheme of things I’ve really neglected some of the early CRPG’s in my completion quest and I would like to rectify this. Among the games in my cross hairs, Might & Magic, Bards Tale, Temple of Apshai and of course Wizardry.

Now I have a confession to make. The thought of actually playing Wizardry scares the hell out of me. I’ve known about this game series for as long as I remember but I’ve always shied away from it dreading the day that I may feel compelled to tackle it. Hailing from 1981 (my birthdate) the archaic interface, the ancient hardware required to play it in its pure form the permanent death and brutal difficulty all weighed heavily on me as I finally decided to give this legendary first game in the series a go.

First off was the challenge of how to actually play the game. Originally the game was released as a PC booter on 360kb floppy. If your a reader of this blog you know I like to play these games on original hardware if I can and I have a great working 8088 based Commodore Colt computer with both a 360kb 5 1/4 floppy drive as well as a 720kb 3 1/2 floppy drive and 32MB hard drive. Now on some occasion convenience and fear of losing hard earned save file will allow me to bend my original hardware rule. case in point, Wizardry. Now I don’t own the original game and it does tend to be a little hard to find and pricey but what I do own is the Wizardry archives which I bought new way back in 1998. Now the cool thing is this collection has Wizardry I – VII on CD and obviously at the time this was aimed at Win98 machines BUT they cool thing is the games play just fine on original hardware and better yet they have been modified to play off of the hard drive. Transferring the game was a simple matter of booting up one of my Windows 98 PC’s and transferring the Wiz1 file onto a 720kb formatted floppy disk. from there I just made a file on the hard drive of my 8088 machine and transferred off the floppy onto the drive. It was really as easy as that. Now granted you do lose a little bit of the experience of playing the game off of floppies (the modified files from the archive do not support being played off of the floppy disk) but in return you get a faster and more reliable experience as disks are prone to fail randomly. The games have also been modified to automatically advance through prompts where disk swapping would of been required.

The game does tend to hang a bit on a 4.77mhz machine but this was the CPU expected for the game to run on at the time. There is a noticeable delay between inputting commands at times and them actually happening on screen. This doesn’t effect play for me but I can imagine more impatient players being annoyed. I tried hitting my turbo option and bumping the CPU up to 7.16mhz but this made some of the text bubbles such as the one displaying won XP disappear to fast to read. a NEC V20 at 4.77 may be ideal.

On booting the game up I was presented with this screen.

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Now, you may be asking what is wrong with that screen but when every screenshot of Wizardry you’ve even seen on the internet looked like this.

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You start to wonder whats wrong with your CGA card. After a bit of research it turns out my hardware was actually outputting the correct default CGA palette for the game and the reason all the screenshots I saw used the alternate palette is because they were taken via Dosbox. Personally I much prefer the default palette as its much easier on the eyes and just looks better all around.

I kind of started playing late at night on a whim and didn’t expect to get far but to be honest Wizardry drew me in like few games recently have. Before I knew it it was very late into the next morning. Sitting hunched over the keyboard with the glow of the Tandy CGA monitor I really felt like I could be back several decades ago playing this game in a time that it was new. Most of the fear and anxiety I had over this game melted away as I became more comfortable with its workings and gameplay.

Character creation is very straight forward and As I understand this is one of the first CRPG’s to be group oriented. You must first navigate to the training grounds using a fairly easy to understand system where the letter you press takes you that corresponding section.

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Your max group size for exploring the dungeon is six members but you can make many more and keep them as backup party members in the castle. I knew ahead of time this was a tough game that could require a lot of characters so I made eighteen characters making up three parties. Creation is easy with picking name, alignment and race followed by distributing points into various attributes like strength and intelligence and then choosing a class like fighter or thief. There are even advanced classes such as samurai and lord that can be attained by having exceptional stats though only one of my eighteen qualified to be anything and that was a bishop, a sort of red mage capable of mage and priest spells. The game is basically first edition Dungeons and Dragons broken down and directly translated to a PC format. Well, at least as well as early 1980’s technology would allow.

The first thing I like about this game that in my eyes elevates it over titles like Ultima is that its far more focused. You have one town and then a big as dungeon to explore. Its a straight forward task. The “mad overlord” of the castle encourages adventurers (you) to explore the giant dungeon under his castle as a sort of test. The main goal being to retrieve a talisman of great power from a evil and powerful wizard on the lower level. No vague story or random wondering about a world map not knowing where to go next. Sure the graphics are simpler but the focus on task at least for me makes it much more suited to the technology of the time. Now you may be thinking “but Akalabeth is kind of like this and you hated that game.” Yes but where Akalabeth feels like a high school effort while Wizardry is a refined and enjoyable experience. Maybe it’s my background with D&D that struck a cord with me and Wizardry but I do feel at least initially that this is the better game. I can put it like this, think of doing lap around a race track, once with a riding mower and once with an f1 race car. Your basically doing the exact same act but the mower is so boring and unexciting you may as well walk…or just go home. The f1 though makes the experience exciting and enjoyable and that is Wizardry, that is if your into early CRPG dungeon crawlers.

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Upon equipping my “A Team” party and entering the dungeon one this I very happily noticed was the lack of the common early CRPG dungeon conventions of hunger/fatigue/light sources. But you may be thinking “but wouldn’t you like these little details that help make the game world feel so much more alive and realistic?” and I would say NO! Maybe some of those things are fine with later games such as Eye of the Beholder where the effect wasn’t so bothersome thanks to spells and abundant rations but with early games where your already fighting with a archaic interface things like keeping track of hunger of fatigue is just well…fatiguing. Things like hunger honestly just feel more like annoyances in these types of games to me as does always having to bother with keeping a torch or some other light source available. The lack of these annoyances actually make Wizardry flow much smoother. Now there is a system where your character will age and eventually die by spending to much time healing at the Adventurers inn but I found a way around that by simply having a priest heal hp in a dungeon and then resting for free in the stables to relearn spells. you don’t have to worry about aging this way.

This all isn’t to say Wizardry lacks details because it doesn’t. There are light spells that allow you to see secret doors although I haven’t found any except ones to empty rooms. There is also a very interesting battle mechanic where sometimes you don’t immediately recognize the monsters your facing. I’m not sure what determines this but many times you enter an encounter against something generic such as “small humanoids” and it isn’t revealed until the battle progresses that these are Kobolds or perhaps Orcs

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Speaking of battle as I first ventured into the maze I discovered that certain rooms are fixed to usually create an encounter that ends with a treasure chest being found (more on that later). While you can also come across random encounters as you traverse the wire framed maze. Sometimes you will even encounter friendly monsters and are given the choice to fight or leave. If your a good alignment character and choose to fight a friendly monster you run the risk of becoming evil, something I found out the hard way. Evil and Good characters will refuse to party together.

20150815_222358_LLSThat’s….unexpected

Combat works by only the first three members of the party can physically attack while the back three members are relegated to flinging spells or just standing around. I’ll talk about that treasure chest now. On winning a treasure chest you have to make sure you inspect it to see if its trapped. Obviously thieves are better at this task. next you have to choose to disarm the trap if you find one and then you have to type in the type of trap that your inspection discovered and hope its correct (spelling counts). Its kind of feels clunky and overly complex at first but it works. I certainly know the correct way to spell “poison” now.

Knowing the reputation of this games difficulty and the permanent death of slain characters as well as lack of saving and going back to previous saves I proceeded very cautiously. I did loose a few characters which I usually just deleted and then created new ones but it wasn’t as hard as I expected. The fear of death in Wizardry is actually quite tangible and lends itself to the game. I really do wonder every time I delve into the dungeon if all my characters will come back or if I have enough gold to chance a resurrection at the castle temple.

Mapping is a must for this game and if its not obvious from the release date this game has no automapping feature so you need to do all your mapping by hand. A task I’m notoriously poor at. Take a look at my sad effort to map out the first dungeon level.

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I never can tell where to make my starting point and the maps routinely go off the edge of the paper and force me to mishmash of sections across the paper linked by letter codes. I found the first level fairly simple but I’m sure worse traps and terrors lie ahead. I actually spend a very long time leveling up on the first level and had three groups of about level six before I even dared scout out level two.

The stat adjustments upon leveling is still one aspect I don’t quite understand. You seem to gain and also lose points in attributes at random when you level up. Fighters do tend to get more HP them say a mage but there are times a fighter will only gain 1 HP on a level up. Other times stats seem to be reduced without reason like a mage losing IQ or a fighter strength. Nothing seems to correlate with this. For instance its not caused by a fighter not fighting or using physical attacks and it all seems completely random. It is especially annoying when it seems like at times you lose more state points then you gain at a level up.

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Most of level one was pretty empty with the exception of the stairs to level two and a section where I was unable to see around me. You really need to map to be able to navigate this area and found two interesting rooms. One was a strange wizard that teleported my party back to the castle and the other was a elevator which stopped at floors one through four. I found this a little odd as I’m not sure if anything is stopping a player from just leveling up South Park style on level 1 and just taking the elevator down and skipping floors although I can see how this can be very convenient for higher level characters to skip floors. Unless there are specific items that must be attained on other floors but so far I haven’t found anything unique.

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At this point I’ve mapped out most of level two but will probably gain a few more levels before daring level three. Caution seems the best policy in Wizardry so far. I have encountered a few interesting rooms on level two where I cant progress such as a door that states noone in my party is strong enough to open it as well as two rooms that envelope my group in mist and force me to retreat from the room. I’m unsure if these rooms are just for dramatic effect or if I will need to find an item or solve a puzzle to access them.

I’m so far enjoying Wizardry much more then I anticipated I would and am looking forward to delving deeper into its depths.

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RPG Beaten: Breath of Fire

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So, having left off last time there was a big battle going on under the ocean next to Prima which culminates in a battle with a general that transforms into a giant crab. This also seems to be a common theme as generals of the dark dragon transform into various giant animals such as squids and the aforementioned crab. Following the battle the fish man gets his guild license back and this gives you the ability to transform into a fish to reach the new areas and towns. Its at this point, rather late in the game,that your introduced to Jade, a top commander of the empire and his four commander underlings via a cutscreen. This kind of thing is pretty common in RPG’s where you have a series of generals you need to defeat, usually each with their own sort of theme. Things are not really any different here as you have a mage looking guy, a strange midget, a big muscle guy and a token female general. I don’t really mean token female general in a bad way but it is what it is. Honestly she possibly has the most fleshed out background of the generals.

20150805_201912_LLSThe game sports several anime style cutcreeens throughout

Progresses continues rather like the rest of the game now traveling between towns usually fighting a general in each new town. The first town called Gust is being terrorized by the mage guy and he has a plant that is producing pollen that is driving townspeople crazy. Some SNES mode 7 effects are put to use though as in one part your shrunk via a potion attack and have to make your way through mouse holes and battle roaches over a horde of cheese.

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The second town is where you meet your final party member who is a mole man though I rarely used him. To get him though and to progress you need to battle the second commander whom dwells in the dream world. One place I didn’t like was the main tower here as its a invisible maze. In all honesty it isn’t hard to navigate but I still disliked it. It involved a standard dungeon except certain tiles would render the walls invisible and you had to grope around to find the correct way.

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The thing that really annoyed me though was a theme common to Breath of Fire and that’s pointless back and forth. when you initially enter you must make it through the first level only to get to a point whee you have to leave, do another task, and then return and redo the first level along with the rest of the dungeon. This happens a lot throughout the game where you seem to be making progress, have to stop and leave to recover some item or do some task and then redo the previously trekked area. It just comes off a lot of the time as busy work or padding. For instance in the last dungeon you enter it only to find at the start you have to leave and go back to the mole town to learn how to use some random tool so you can progress. It all just seems unnecessary and it can be a annoyance to always have to stop progress to go backtracking, even if its only for 5 or so minutes.

Once leaving the dream world and moving on The next dungeon is also pretty graphically pleasing as at one point as you ascend the tower there are different weather effects such as rain as well as different terrains like desert, cosmos and a cool sky floor tile with moving clouds.

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The second commander is actually a very interesting fight. interesting in that I thought my game was corrupt when it initiated. At the beginning of the battle the commander is a jumble of pixelated blocks and only as he takes damage does he come into focus. I thought this was a really neat graphical trick but I was seriously freaking out at first thinking my game was corrupt.

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The next commander in the next town is the token female that I mentioned earlier. She has command over time and the neighboring town has been frozen in time. The preceding dungeon is another example of the game doing unnecessary padding. once you navigate the entire dungeon and reach the top there is a brief cutscreen and then your group is teleported away via a time distortion and you have to go through the dungeon all over again to finally get to battle the boss. Basically you have to do the entire dungeon twice.

After this point there is an admittedly neat plot where the winged girl Nina is hurled back in time. It turns out a winged girl your group met earlier in a town whom had amnesia is actually the adult Nina and this leads to a quest of running around trying to find and gather 4 items for a tonic to return her memory. After this is done and she regains her memories she has the ability to turn into a bird and now acts as Breath of Fires airship allowing travel across the globe.

At this point its a good idea to go around and gather the dragon armor as well as the hidden magics. you NEED the ultimate dragon form to get the good ending in the game. I’ll fully admit I knid of cheater here and looked up where a few items were hidden but I don’t feel one bit bad. For one thing I’m only really replaying this for the benifit of the blog and second I had already beaten this game back in high school and I definitely remember I had found the ultimate dragon form and weapons. How I did this without a strategy guide or the internet I have no idea. I guess I was just more thorough and had more patience back then.

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Finally reaching the Capital of the Dark Dragons we have yet another instance of padding. after slowly acceding the tower to face the Emperor you are met with a mysterious figure blocking your path that tells you that a special weapon is required to face the emperor. So now you must slowly descend the tower, exit town. travel to an island city, have a conversation to retrieve the item, return to the city and slowly reascend the tower. This is all right after you previously found that the elevator was broken and you had to backtrack to a previous town to get parts repaired. I know these kind of “fetch quests” are common in RPG’s but it just feels like the ones in Breath of Fire are especially frequent and pointless, constantly slowing down the flow of the narrative.

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The battle with the emperor leads to another plot twist I saw coming. The mysterious benefactor was actually commander Jade who wanted the emperor dead so he could take power and resurrect the insane goddess of destruction because….of course resurrecting goddesses of destruction is always a good idea. This leads to two more dungeons before finally facing Jade and then the Goddess. You can still beat the game without your ultimate dragon form but you wont get the best ending and it will also be much harder as the final bosses like Jade have a ton of hit points. This as I’ve touched on earlier is something I really dislike about BOF. The majority of the boss battles are really just battles of attrition as you tediously wear down a massive pool of hit point. I actually initially fought Jade without my ultimate form but after what seemed like an eternity depleting his HP he did that stupid trick where he had a huge secret second bar of health and I just threw my hands up at this point.

20150811_180916_LLSBehold the…Alien goddess?

The final battle with the goddess was not challenging at all with my final dragon form but I liked the H. R. Geiger style alien form she had complete with retractable jaw attack. The ending cutscreen is actually kind of short and sweet for sutch a big name SNES RPG and “the end” screen up in probably under 10 minutes.

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Help: 1 I did look up where the final dragon form was as well as how to get the dragon equipment to achive the final form. I have no regrets as I have previously beaten the game without help in my youth.

Year: 1993

Platform: SNES

Length: (2/3)

Difficulty: (2/3)

The Grade

Game World – The game world of BOF is pretty good although somewhat typical for a JRPG of the time. The cities are world itself can be a little “samey” as far as style goes but It is interesting that instead of different nations of people you mostly have anthropomorphic animal cultures though none of them really stick out. The world is large but just doesn’t feel as fleshed out as say a Final Fantasy. The day/night cycle is something rarely used in this era and especially on consoles. The hunting and fishing as well as the fact that some parts of the game change a little as you go back does add a nice touch to things overall. There were also a lot of little details that tend to stick out in my mind like spiders dangling from archways, mice running around,water dripping and all your current selected party members being show on the world map as you travel. Grade: B+

Controls –  Controls are SNES standard though its can be a little odd to access the menu with the select button and the map with start. Grade: C

Game play –  The overall game play and progression is fine but unfortunately the flow is often interrupted by tedious fetch scenarios that sometimes force you to redo entire dungeons. There are also several sections of dungeons where it almost looks like paths to other sections but in actuality they are windows that drop you down to the base of the given tower. It was also somtimes not to intuitive about what party members powers did what on the main world map. Boss fights especially later ones just become battles of attrition that drag on, especially with the hidden health pool. Grade: C-

Plot – The plot though typical is presented fairly well and other then the typical twist you saw coming from a million miles away with Jades betrayal of the emperor things were very straight forward. At the very least it was nice it stayed kind of minimalist with “stop emperor, stop goddess” and didn’t get to odd or metaphysical. Grade: C+

Graphics/Sound – The graphics were pretty good overall for the SNES and it had a good smattering of effects throughout the game such as anime style cutscreeens, mode 7 effects and some interesting things done with distortions from the underwater and the gravity well. Some of the backgrounds such as the sky floor at the tower as well as the cosmic galaxy floor stand out in my mind. Overall I would say it was a little above average for the SNES though there’s something about the small sprites overall that looks kind of odd to me. The music wasn’t bad. some tunes like on the tropical island city were fairly memorable. Grade: B

Protagonist (Main Character) –  There is no character creation as is typical for console games and leveling is a standard format of gathering XP to set levels to gain set stats. There are no real classes but each party member has strengths such as fighting or black/white magic. BOF does some really interesting things I don’t recall seeing before such as fusion magic that fuses a few party members into one powerful member as well as each member having a special ability when they are put at the head of thew group. None of them are deeply fleshed out but they all have a little back story as appropriate to the scale and type of game this is. Grade: A-

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – NPC’s are passable throughout the game and again are par for the course for the era with most having fixed lines though many do tend to change ones larger events have been triggers. Towns are all nicely populated and NPC inhabitants of the world different greatly. The main antagonist throughout the bulk of the game, the emperor is largely behind the scenes and silent. In this aspect hes not given much screen time or development. In fact none of the main villains really are. everyone is pretty much just driven by the need to gain more power. the inclusion of the sub generals is nice and a few of them are a little fleshed out. The final enemy the goddess really only shows up at the final few minutes of the game. Grade: C+

Weapons/armor/items/magic – There is fairly wide selection of spells that several party members can learn in both white and black flavors. The thief character also has fusion magic he can learn from hidden masters and the fish man even has his own unique underwater magic. Weapons and armor are varied but no overwhelming and generally follow a standard pattern as dungeons and town have better equipment as the game progresses. A few powerful items though can be found pretty early and the B. Rang a weapon that the main hero finds probably a little less the half way though the game tends to dominate your usage for him for a chunk of the game. Grade: C+

Enemies –  I liked the variety of enemies, many of whom were familiar staples but with a little flavor or style added. The zombies crawled and the giant squid has a gaping maw on its head. There of course was some palette swapping going on but it wasn’t overwhelming. Some of the bosses were fairly inspired in design such as the goddess’s alien design and the battle with the commander that initially starts out pixelated and becomes more focuses as you attack him was fun and different. Grade: B

Stability N/A

Overall – Breath of Fire is a great game for the Super Nintendo and well worth your time but it gets held back by a few things namely the fetch quests that seem unnecessary and break flow as well as the tedious boss battles that devolve into giant battles of attrition. It does do many things right with a simple yet fun plot and world, a number of pleasing graphical effects as well as several innovations like the day/night cycle and the very interesting way it treats your party such as the the lead character determining the parties overworld abilities.  Grade: B-