|[eM] -eNCHANT arM-
||[Feb. 5th, 2006|10:49 am]
So, I am officially 15% of the way through the game. It's a little strange to be able to pinpoint exactly how far you are in, but whenever you save the game, there it is. I'm not sure whether it's a good idea or a bad idea - after all, I'm the kind of person that thinks 'I'm halfway in? But that means that I still have another 100% of what I've already done to go!'
Here's a mini-review for the amount I've played so far.
The graphics are gorgeous. Some of the faces are a little odd, and I think they could have put more effort into some of the coloring and the models for the human characters, but the game is just beautiful.
The music isn't bad, though I think their battle theme is a little over the top. (Now, Shadow Hearts II's battle theme was over the top too, but it was also incredibly good.) The opening song is catchy.
As for characterization, the first three party characters, Atsuma, Touya and Makoto, were the ultimate in cliches. That nearly threw me off of the game entirely, actually. I still find it frustrating that Atsuma is just so dense - it's like From Software read up on the RPG thing, possibly some of the cliches, and said 'oh! The protagonist is supposed to be dumb!' and took it to an extreme. However, after around 10% of the game -spoiler- happens, and that puts him in a different situation where he appears to be acting somewhat differently, and in a much less irritating fashion. Part of the frustration may have just been that Touya and Makoto treat him like an idiot and Touya coddles him while they're doing it, so I'm hoping for some character development as the game progresses.
Plot? Not bad. The normal cliches are still there, but the content of the -spoiler- event surprised me a bit, and I'm willing to follow where's they're going with the game.
Game system. This is part of the meat of every RPG, and From Software really took a different approach in [eM]. Battles resemble a mini-tactical RPG. The player and the enemy each have twelve squares arranged in a 4x3 box, which are connected along one of the 4-lines. The placement of your characters at the beginning of the battle is random, and so far most of the characters have a movement of 2. The system is turn based, where you may move your characters in any order. You select movement and actions for each character, then the results of the turn are displayed and the enemy gets his chance to move. Most attacks affect a range of squares, so positioning is very important.
At the end of the battle, you get money, experience, and skill points (which you can spend to level individual stats or acquire skills). The state of your characters with respect to HP and EP is not saved - you start every battle fresh from that perspective. However, with each turn that passes, every time your character takes damage, and possibly some other conditions, you lose a Vitality Point, which is saved across battle lines. If your character falls to 0 VP, they now start all battles with 1 HP and 1 EP, rendering them next to useless. This encourages the player to try to finish battles as quickly as possible, and forces the player to switch characters out frequently. With the Golem system, you can keep eight characters in reserve at a time in addition to the four in your party, so switching out isn't so much of a problem, but it makes you rework your strategies often. Now, the characters in reserve get full XP, but do not gain SP, which puts characters that you're not using at a slight disadvantage.
If you lose a battle, you can restart it. Your characters are placed randomly every time the battle starts, so if you get a bad draw and lose, you can roll the dice again and hope for something better. You can also save at nearly any time during the game. As the tutorial was explaining this to me, it said again and again how easy a system it is, but it's surprisingly challenging. The key is the VP system. The first dungeon I cleared after the tutorial had not a single VP recovery spot through the entire thing, and I had almost lost Atsuma by the time I got out of the area. I HAD lost both my other human characters and one or two of my Golems. If there had been a boss, I could have been in some serious trouble. Also, the individual battles get much more difficult. Really, the game tricks you into thinking it's going to be easy, but after you get out of the first 10% it ramps up the difficulty significantly.
Put all of this together, and [eM] has a very different system. It encourages the player to play entirely differently from how they might in other RPGs, which is refreshing. It's nice to be able to basically just go all out on enemies, without worrying about conserving magic to the end of the dungeon. However, you do have to worry about conserving characters, and there's a strong incentive to finish battles as quickly and cleanly as possible.
Bwah... I'm hungry.