Posted: April 28, 2014
The game says I'm at around the ~60% completion mark at about 6 hours in; I feel I've had enough exposure to at least make a Yes/No recommendation. While there are certainly some frustrating elements of the design (which I'll list out below), I couldn't help but feel compelled to keep playing, albeit it after a little break. All-in-all, to draw a topical analogy, I keep thinking of the game as "Dark Souls-vania"; feels like a Metroidvania style game, with difficult (but often fair) enemies, and often unexplained elements.Personal Cons List
(with objective commentary):
-- Not much indication of where to go. This often lead to retreading the same areas over again hoping to find the little thing I missed the first couple of times (to advance the story/progression), etc.
-- -- The map seems arbitrarily color-coded (though I imagine there's some logic to it, that's not explained in any way that I noticed in the game).
-- -- The very brief "objective" listed on the on-screen minimap has no context, and there is often no way to have NPCs, who just explained some cryptic event you need to particpate in to advance, repeat themselves of that key information.
-- Stumbled into some seemingly impossible boss fights that I'd later discover were optional (and had to load my game out of to "recover").
-- Encountered a brutally difficult "escape" sequence in the game that was on a timer -- it was so easy to fall/be blocked into a pit that could be rendered inescapable, that I'd either have to let myself get killed, or wait for the 80-second timer to countdown before I could retry again -- this took me several (probably 6?) attempts before I made it through. Was extremely frustrating.
-- -- I see what the designer was going for, but being pushed into a pit with no
way out, forced to suicide/wait felt like poor design. At the same time, I could've very well gotten lucky on my first attempt, and never thought anything of it... but I just got stuck in one of those ruts where I kept failing over and over again, and it took a lot out of me.
-- There's a little climbing animation whenever you grab the ledge of a platform/wall, which feels a little lengthy. The locked animation frames remove your control for a period of time that can sometimes be frustrating when you're trying to navigate the environments over and over again, especially when there are enemies in "strategic" places that seem positioned ONLY to knock you off of them -- frequently.
-- I'm personally having a hard time following the story. It's all dialogue-driven, so keeping track of all of the various odd-sounding names and places can feel a little overwhelming sometimes. There are times when events or dialogue feels so abstract that I can't tell if I just encountered a random secondary scene, or if the main story is progressing.
-- The menus / interface feel a little clunky, but are servicable.
-- -- The focus meter has nice little light particle effects that shower into the screen -- this is sometimes distracting, as I think something is happening in the world, then realize it's just the interface. Distracts me more often than I would expect...Personal Pros List
(with objective commentary):
-- I find the combat to be fun, deep, and reasonably responsive (in terms of controls). There are definitely some engaging combat systems in the game -- which, after several hours, I finally feel like I have some control over.
-- -- There are some cases of personal frustration when I get locked into a juggle or a damage loop where I lose control, but invoking my "skill cancel" ability often seems to get me out of it -- not always, but it helps. There were a number of times where I got stuck in a damage / locked animation loop only to die because I couldn't regain control.
-- Seems to be good potential for replayability with the multiple characters and, from what I've seen, nuanced differences in the story for each. I started a second game, and played the monk character for about 60 minutes, which did immediately feel different in combat, and seemed to have a good number of unique spells available as well.
-- There are some interesting exploration / backtracking mechanics (in the vain of a Metroidvania game). Even though I do end up having to sometimes arbitrarily explore while trying to happen upon the next objective/event, there do seem to be enough games that I found myself discovering something previously blocked often enough that my interest doesn't wane too quickly.
-- The spell system is interesting, though a bit cumbersome when it comes to changing stuff. You can hold RT+B to get access to a paused "quick menu" for adjusting spells, which is useful, but you do end up having to scroll through up to 6 spells in each of four categories to change things around -- can feel a little jarring, especially when some of those spells really don't get used often (if they have a specific utility, etc.). However, the variety and functionality in spells is cool and interesting -- I do find myself mixing it up fairly often to make good use of all those tools, so having to switch this way, while annoying at times, is usually worthwhile. However, getting stuck repeating a boss fight until you learn the patterns means having to adjust to the desired combination of spells each time you start anew.
Anyway, I think that's about it. I do plan on continuing and hopefully finishing this game. I wouldn't call myself talented at games, though I've been playing for a long time, so I would say I'm skilled. In most games, I tend to pick one difficulty higher than "Normal", which is about where I usually feel comfortable -- right amount of challenge, etc. This game I'm playing on Normal, and I find it brutally difficult in places. There are bosses I've had to try a half-dozen times before getting the patterns and puzzle figured out to win, but it did feel fairly satisfying (and relieving) to do so. Those are the moments when the game felt so akin to Dark Souls. :)