||[Dec. 1st, 2008|07:43 am]
|||||The Trooper - Iron Maiden||]|
Last Remnant: Probably Not an Adaptive Leveling System.
(I think all the monsters level up with plot.)
That said, I still dislike adaptive leveling systems. And, by the way, I don't hate Last Remnant. I actually have so much trouble (pulling myself away from it/keeping track of time) that I'm glad the game is brutally difficult and forces me to save a lot. See, the saves are timestamped. Thus, every time I save, I'm confronted with the time even if (I'm only vaguely paying attention/I was losing track of time deliberately, but I'm guilty enough to glance at it).
I swear, though, these days I pay more attention to leveling my characters and upgrading their weapons and armor than to the story. I guess it's because most RPG stories don't grip me as much anymore? Well, anyways, in that sense the battle system is more a testing ground for ideas than for anything else, and Last Remnant is well suited to that. Unfortunately, there's not much variety in the monsters, which make up something like 90% of the game's fighting. They're not even palette swapped, they're just levelled up. This means you can be wandering along just dandy, run into some roundworms, laugh at how weak they are, and get your ass handed to you by them when they pull out a new ability that decimates your party.
There also appear to be normal monsters and leader monsters, and I haven't found a way to distinguish between the two on the map. I think it's at least partially random.... Anyways, as you can probably guess, the leader monsters are more powerful. There's a large difference between trying to take two monster "icons" (that's what they call the monsters on the battlefield) that resolve into leaders and two that resolve into normal monsters. The other problem with attempting to guess your targets' strength is that they may resolve into multiple unions of various sizes. Again, since there's a difference of 2x HP and quite a bit of possible damage between a union of two and a union of four, this is quite important. Oh, and damage is generally considered to be equally spread across the four, so you usually don't kill anything until you've wiped out the entire union.
That said, if you manage to do enough damage to a single unit within the union, probably around 2x its HP, it WILL die. However, you can't target a single unit. This actually makes a bit of sense, since you're talking about squad-based combat between two unions that presumably have some grasp of the idea of "protecting the vulnerable" and "watching each others' back".
Well... you usually can't target a single unit.
I've noticed that the union led by David occasionally receives an option "Attack the leader!" that my other unions don't get. That does target a single unit, the leader. It's not easy to wipe him, but if you nail the leader, the unit's effectively disabled. They will not do anything. Now, the question is, why does David get that option when the other characters don't? I think it might be related to his unique attribute, "Leadership". All of the characters have a unique attribute. The main character has "Guts", Emma has "Love"(*), and various other characters have anything from "Eats a Lot" to "Murderous Intent". By the way, these level up alongside the characters, so you receive a message at the end of battle "Emma has raised Love!" or "MacGrudy has raised Eats a Lot!"
Actually, that's a good point to bring up. You don't have full control over your units. You issue an order to the union from a reduced list of the possibilities, which is based on the union's current HP, AP and condition, position relative to enemies, components available for item arts, and relative strength of the enemy union targeted. In general, I haven't found this selection to be supremely stupid, and it's usually quite clever. If the system thinks you might want to conserve AP or decide whether you want a really strong attack from one character or reasonably strong attacks from two characters that cost the same AP, it gives you options. You can examine each of the orders closely and know what the characters intend to do if you issue that order. It's not 100%. Characters have a habit of "rethinking" what you ordered them to do in special circumstances -- Emma, who usually goes last in David's unit, quite frequently realizes that the enemy is fairly close to death and she has a chance to kill it if she uses a combat art, so she just uses it. Yeah, that means she might use AP, but she also might wipe the enemy union. And it feels to me a little more... realistic?... that the units have some room for discretion in their actions. After all, each clash on the battlefield lasts for just a few moments, and during that time a trained combatant will be continally assessing the situation and making split-second decisions about what to do. Another example is if you issue a healing order: if the first unit to heal fills the union to the top, the other units may elect to drop their healing action in favor of attacking the enemy union they're currently engaged with, or they may just turn around and heal a nearby union that isn't doing so hot.
That said, sometimes the system does feel stupid. Some units will rethink into taking an action that wasn't really what you wanted. I don't think it's ever been a tactically stupid decision, but if you wanted that smidge more of AP or if you would have preferred to keep those healing items instead of topping off the union, you may end up unhappy. Also, it gives you a set of orders that do not encompass the full and complete abilities of your union, and that's occasionally frustrating. I have found myself wondering why it didn't give me the option to charge across the battlefield and blow all my AP on a series of really devastating attacks, and instead limited me to just one combat art from David. And if you're out of components for an item art, the option just never shows up. I was wandering around for awhile trying to figure out why the hell Rush's union never flipped up the order to buff them with Red Potion just to realize I'd only had a small handful of components and I was out. This applies to healing item arts as well, and genedefect and I have a hunch that this was what bit some of the reviewers out there who were bitching that the system didn't give them any option to heal when their union was close to death. I've always received at least some sort of option when my union was close to death (if they had a healing unit, which, for gods' sake, is basic battlefield sense), even if it required me to break the Deadlock I was in (which frequently draws a Raidlock from the enemy you ran from, which, if you're overmatched, may mean you're dead even after you just healed), and I frequently receive two: break the Deadlock to heal yourself ASAP without fear of counterattacks striking before you heal (but risk the above Raidlock), or stay in Deadlock with the current enemy with the healer healing, the others attacking, and the enemies' actions interspersed with yours (item arts are blisteringly fast, so they usually go off before the enemy gets a hit off, but sometimes you get unlucky).
Overall, I've found that making stupid decisions, like sending my magic union down solo into a group of three enemy unions, results in my death. Trying to fight too many enemies at once is also a great way to get your unions wiped.(**) Except for just being sheerly overmatched in some boss battles, if I die, it's pretty much my fault. And, you know, that's rather nice.
Having fun. More later.
(*) Which is extraordinarily funny, given she's the one that slugs the main character because he called David by his name with no honorific.
(**) You get more items at the end of battle the more enemy unions that are in the combat. You can actually get more items from just one enemy icon, as it may contain multiple unions, but I usually go for two or three icons. That comes out somewhere around three to six enemy unions, which I can usually face down with my three. I think I remember reading somewhere that you can assess the number of unions in an enemy icon before engaging it, but I don't remember how. Also, when I enter a new area or encounter a new enemy, I only pull one to verify its strength before I start going all out on them.