Sunday, July 20, 2008

What'cha been buyin'?

I went on a shopping spree yesterday, my wardrobe ended up growing substantially. Among the new additions were two awesome Super Mario t-shirts.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Skill trees

I have never been a big fan of skill trees. RPGs are such huge time investments that Im terrified of spending my skill points the wrong way and messing up my character. Not having to make any decisions is comforting, then I cant screw up. Im the same way in real life, this isnt just a game thing.

But if we can get past my mental quirks and decide not to use skill trees as an analogy for any bigger problems in my life we can focus on the many benefits they can bring to role playing games. Other then letting you design your character to your liking and adding a more personal flavor to the gameplay experience they also make leveling up your character more rewarding. Let me explain this.

Grinding in RPGs isnt fun in itself. Watching your characters grow as a result of the grind is whats fun. If you know beforehand what reward you can get it will give you something to aim for. Knowing that you will be able to spend the skill points on something that actualy matters also gives the grind more of a purpose.

The reason why Im rambling on about this is again Etrian Odyssey. The excellent use of skill trees in that game is what makes the endless grinding worth it. Knowing that the one skill point you get after half an hour of killing the same thing over and over again will make a difference makes it worth it. A small increase in attack and defense just wouldnt be enough of a motivating factor.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rougelike elements

Mystery Dungeon games or Rougelikes as they are also called are a very niche type of rpgs with some distinctive features. Etrian Odyssey isnt one of these games but it does borrow some ideas from the genre.

In Rougelikes you can usually see all the enemies on screen and they move one step for every step you take. This adds an additional level of strategy to navigating the dungeon. This isnt the case with most enemies in Etrian Odyssey, you meet them in random encounters. The more powerful boss like enemies called FOEs on the other hand you can see on the map. These nasty over powered things will patrol the dungeon and try to hunt you down if they see you.

Since these FOEs are often far stronger then your party you will have to try to avoid them. This adds not only an element of strategy to the game but also an element of dread. I would compare it having Nemessis chasing you in Resident Evil 3. Having a huge FOE breading down your neck when you are exploring a new area of the dungeon can be nerve wrecking. Knowing that if you choose to go down the wrong corridor and it turns out to be a dead end you will be trapped.

Of course like in most rpgs once you have leveled up your characters far enough you can revisit the earlier floors and kick the shit out of these previously invincible monsters. Most likely they are also carrying some sweet loot.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Generic anime characters to the rescue

If you are going to spend 50+ hours crawling through a never ending dark dungeon your game is running the risk of of becoming just a little bit gloomy and depressing. Etrian Odyssey tries to reddeem this with cute and cheerful anime characters.

They lighten up the mood quite a bit and Im happy that Atlus went with this character design. Even if they might feel somewhat out of place. This is not the type of game where you expect your knight to be a 13 year old girl with an over sized sword.