Monday, March 29, 2010

Resonance of Fate - first thoughts

I was in Estonia last week, which is a pretty cool place. Although I was there for a very short time, Tallinn struck me as a cross between Helsinki and Prague. I hope no-one's offended by that. But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

On thursday, I had 2 conferences and a flight, and as I left the house in the morning, I saw that the postman had delivered Resonance of Fate. So, I glared at it, and tried to put it out of my mind, knowing that I wouldn't have a chance to play it until I got back. But get back I did, late friday night, thanks to various planes being broken and rescheduled. And I popped it in. What a game.

There's no gentle introduction to the characters. There's no background story on why these 3 are together. But, as time goes on, their friendship becomes clear, and the cutscenes are both well written and well acted, for the most part. I find myself chortling along with many of them, which is quite refreshing. In the first hour or so, the stereotypes are out. Emo boy. Headstrong young man. Childish girl. I figured they were going to be extremely one-dimensional. But they're remarkably likeable.

The actual maps that you explore outside of combat are probably quite beautiful, but I think they've been designed for a 60 inch TV screen. On my measly 40 inch screen, it's pretty hard to pick out details. Maybe I should just sit closer.

But, exploring is only a very small part of the game. The world map is nicely done - you have various shaped hexes you have to fit into the world to explore - you can either just plot the fastest line to each destination, or (if like me you have a bit of the old OCD), you can completely cover each level - which gives you some treasure and a one-way quick travel system (if you totally cover a level). The advantage of the hex system is that you can plan in detail and use the minimum hexes required, or just grind for extra parts and lay them down any old how. It's pleasing, and a nice distraction.

But, onto the combat. The combat starts without any tutorials (unless I missed something, which is entirely possible). But there's a pretty comprehensive in-game manual. The problem (if it is a problem) is that because it's a way of fighting that I've never seen before, the terms quickly became overwhelming in the abstract. That is, there's talk of hero attacks, bezels, tri-attacks, scratch damage, direct damage, knockdowns and so forth.
So, I started slowly. First, just killed a couple of monsters with the standard attack. Then started to understand scratch damage. Then started using hero attacks. Then realised I could jump. Then realised I could air-juggle. Then realised I could switch targets in a single attack. Then started to understand weapons charging (direct damage doesn't increase with charges, scratch damage does) Then realised how tri-attacks work. Then realised how to make them awesome. Then started upgrading weapons with custom parts. Then I learnt about body parts properly. And gauge breaks (although I still don't totally get them). And I've just started playing with double-wielding.

I'm going to write a more in-depth section on the combat, since I haven't managed to find any great sites online yet (I imagine most people are playing final fantasy, for example). But, I've been playing just over 40 hours now (although at least 10 of those are from leaving it on overnight), and almost every time I fight, I find some new nuance to the combat system.

One quick word about the custom parts - they're awesome. Sweet crafting and upgrade system for your guns (I just fitted my third barrel to a gun....)

So, currently, I'm very much enjoying it. Lightly amusing cut-scenes. Pleasing world. Neat exploration mechanic. Cool combat that not only plays nicely, but looks really cool.
Downsides: the town scenes seem a bit last-gen, and some of the lower-level random encounters can start to seem a little repetitive (but you can buy an accessory to remove the chance of these, or just run).

So, yes, on the whole, a good game. If you like RPGs that focus on numbers, this is for you.

In the video above, standard attacks at the beginning. Hero attacks start at around 1.35 and there's a (pretty poor) tri-attack at around 2.30

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