I played about 15 hours of this then skimmed the rest on YouTube. I think it was a good decision to limit the cast size, but the instructor/teacher moe stuff is really boring and I didn't think any of the characters had interesting development. Rean is an awful character.
The Sky callbacks are nice, but really, fictional characters should just... not reappear... it's awkward because their writing is worse, and even more caricatured feeling than it was in the original Sky. I know the whole "big same universe" crossovers are a cool part of trails, but...
Visiting Hamel was kind of interesting. Idk. I feel like there were a lot of possible points the writing could have been cool (Juna being from Crossbell, characters reflecting on Hamel), but the truth is that almost nothing seems to matter any more. Every single villain just gets redeemed, entire war crimes get excused, the game is more or less mostly a pile of stakeless JRPG fluff with some nice moments here and there.
A fun RPG with an okay cast, although you can really feel the series shifting more towards a more recent type of anime RPG moe. None of the characters really left an impression on me, although I recall some nice moments with Lloyd and Elie. Honestly, I think Zero marks the point in which Trails games stopped really being that interesting (although I did enjoy Kuro) and I should have played something else.
Battle system is 'better' than Sky, but I still didn't care for it. It was kind of cool learning about Crossbell, but I thought the way you travel throughout the world felt kind of like an awkward in-between of Sky and the terrible pacing of Cold Steel.
Kevin and Ries's story is nice and well done, I love the bonus content and emotional wrap-ups we get for all of Sky's other characters. It's an amazing sendoff to the Sky series and sets up the rest of the trails games nicely (even if those later games aren't that great)
Gameplay-wise, the game is a bunch of long dungeons, some REALLY sprawling and maze-like. I was already pretty sick of the battles by Sky 2, so I wasn't really into them here, either. Thematically, I did like the weird, distorted dungeons that were warped versions of areas in Sky, but playing through them was just kinda whatever...
Love some of the music!
Not as good overall as Sky 1 (retraveling over Liberl gets a little boring, the Ouruboros stuff instantly feels repetitive, visiting each tower gets repetitive...I still don't really care for the battle system), but the main cast stuff is good and the final chapter was really cool by bombastic JRPG standards. Orbal shutdown phenomenon was interesting too, letting you revisit the world.
A nice end to most of the threads of Sky 1, but the emotional threads feel more tied up in Sky 3.
trails in the sky! trails in the sky! a fun, kingdom-sprawling, feet-on-the-ground explorative and npc dialogue/story-focused jrpg with a nice light romance plot, and plenty of problematic 2000s jrpg tropes (oh well)
For better or worse, I've played (Though not completed) all the trails games, and Sky 1 is still the best.
What I like the most about trails in the sky is its slow pacing - the way you get to know each town, read the newspapers, setting up many of the emotional plot beats for Sky 2. Joshua and Estelle are journeying on foot to get better acquainted with their little country of Liberl, and it really makes sense and feels good to walk from place to place, no fast travel or flying around.
If you like more lighthearted JRPGs I'd check Trails in the Sky out. (If the first hour doesn't hook you I'd drop the entire series)
A trash heap of classically bad 3D Mario design, ideas which feel designed exclusively for 3 year olds or bizarrely outdated-feeling levels with a difficulty philosophy of instant death traps, impossible-to-judge depth and slopes, floaty jumps, ear-splitting, unmutable music and 10-second load times, reminiscent of Sunshine and 64's worst.
A game that doesn't understand what makes an EASY platformer fun or what makes a HARD platformer fun. A bag of nothing, the wilted celery of platformers.
To top things off, has an open world to swim around that feels like they went "What if 3D World's overworld and level icons were the real thing?" Some ideas are better left in preproduction!
Death to Mario.
For some reason my experience with this has soured the more and more time I have away from it. A padded out Dark Souls 3. Feels like a job. Music and storytelling are... average... feels kind of retreading the same ground.
Feels like lasting proof that the Western AAA Open World formula doesn't do anything but make these grand, overly big, 100+ hour experiences.
Points for horse double jump and the teleporter gags.
3/10/2022 (4 -> 3)
At the core of what kind of didn't land for me in Elden Ring was its philosophy of exploration - that secrets in secrets, or 'more areas' makes for more meaningful exploration. Finding secret areas in secret areas was cool... but after I found the 10th secret secret area with still no context except some item descriptions painting a brief picture of it, I felt it to be repetitive. Because you can just warp to anywhere instantly, it feels like I'm just zipping between theme parks looking for little item treats, not really like, learning or inhabiting a world. I think the high point for me was exploring Sellia for Sellen, or meeting characters before the Radahn fight, but idk, the rest I can already feel fading from my mind the way that most open world games' experiences tend to fade for me.
3/6/2022 - 40-hour update (still 4/5)
I don't have much to add but the way some of the (huge???) questlines take you through the world is still neat. I do think it's a bit immersion breaking when you have to hop to the wiki because you can't figure out a flag or a trigger, though - like when trying to find how to reach a part of an area, but you end up using a teleporter to get there later.
My overall take on the open world is that it's overall kind of... idk, it's there, I guess. In theory the open world is supposed to convey "A sense of journey", but you end up fast travelling all the time so the game still feels like "Dark Souls 3" but occasionally you have to wander on a horse.
It works fine to go from place to place and when you are searching for graces, but bonfire runs through the open world are very boring. The coolest areas are places that feel like a mix of the open world / legacy dungeons - like the Eternal City and Siofra River.
The level design is still really fun to walk around, but on a level-to-level basis, it feels pretty much the same as Dark Souls 3? I guess... there's nothing really mind-blowing about it, but it is fun. The way I'm being surprised feels a bit routine, but it's still fun.
I will say I was hoping for something a bit more exciting mechanically/exploration-wise, but at least Dark Souls mechanics are fun to move and fight with.
The world, though, really feels like Dark Souls 2 in the way it connects and how you're able to jump around between branches. The way (SPOILERS!) you go from Limgrave, to Nokron, to Deeproot Depths and then the Capital city felt very 'Dark Souls 2'. But level-design-wise... yeah, Dark Souls 3.
25-hour update (increased to 4/5)
25-hour update (increased to 4/5)
Most of my points are the same, but what I've changed on the most is the story, which finally clicked. The statement about the world lore being vague isn't really true - it turned out that NPC Questlines are the intended way of learning about stuff. It's possible I took a while to realize this bc my playstyle was to run around the whole map first.
The game uses questlines - which seem far and few between, but significant - to get you to go to certain areas you might otherwise ignore. In my case, I was doing a sorcery questline to help out my teacher, and it took me to a sorcery town and some caves I'd otherwise overlook. I also met a few other characters along the way, and ended up learning more about the relation of some sorcery schools and the main center of sorcery academia that were otherwise very vague beforehand.
I would assume that there are other questlines for other classes that I haven't found because I'm focusing on sorcerer stuff.
But I thought the way Elden Ring uses these JRPG-esque quests to create a little narrative of otherwise-scattered areas was really nice, and felt like a justified and interesting use of the open world. It feels like much more of a foothold in the world's backstory than were in other souls games, I think because they're driven by characters who are firmly planted in Elden Ring's world.
Sometimes the quests lack a few hints, so I'm wondering if the game did anything to help with that or if some quests are just meant to be really obscure.
The result is nice - if you're in an area with no context, you still get a fun landscape to explore with varied enemy placements (that may or may not be frustrating...see original review). If you're there for a quest, you get that plus some further explanation for the area. This sort of layering is in most open world games (and in fact has sort of existed in prototypical, janky and not-great forms in games like Saga Frontier or Legend of Mana), but usually there's a much bigger contrast between the "Here for business" and "Here for fun" modes.
I guess I can understand the open world size more - while I still don't like scouring for areas, maybe that wasn't really the way FromSoft was intending you to explore, maybe it was meant to be more of an even mix of self-exploration and lightly-guided questing.
ORIGINAL 3/5 REVIEW
(20-hour review, having seen most of the open world areas and a few legacy dungeons)
(20-hour review, having seen most of the open world areas and a few legacy dungeons)
Essentially Dark Souls 4, a longer Dark Souls game with an at-times distinct (relative to DS1-3) sense of exploration and the same frustrating and sometimes satisfying, Takeshi's Castle/MXC philosophy of difficulty design and reward.
Story and Art
Elden Ring (ER) drifts further towards TTRPG/DnD-esque storytelling than previous souls game. The game is very nonlinear, so it's more fun to roleplay as a character with certain aims and priorities. Unlike previous Souls games, players probably won't see all the places in ER.
20 hours in, the lore feels a bit vaguer and more scattered than before, it's harder to connect the pieces because of how far places are. There's still the Souls-style environmental storytelling of "something bad happened here." From what I can piece together the narrative themes don't push beyond the usual fromsoft dark fantasy genre bounds of tepid takes on
"Power" and "Fucked Up Dudes". I didn't have high expectations here with ER, but it's kind of disappointing nonetheless.
"Power" and "Fucked Up Dudes". I didn't have high expectations here with ER, but it's kind of disappointing nonetheless.
The visual setting is more Dark Medieval Fantasy. The areas are all cool in their own way, but the theme overall feels a bit well-worn...? Not sure.
Open World/Dungeon Design
The horse double jumping is really good. Actually this is like my favorite part of the game...
There's less of a sense of physical intimacy to the open world. The open world sections leave impressions but they're fairly vague - "I went through a misty forest", not as specific as say, the connections of DS1's forest to undead burg, etc. The impressions they leave aren't much stronger than those that the typical open world games leave (Genshin, BotW, Far Cry, etc).
Finding small/medium dungeons on the open world is cool, though, even if they begin to feel formulaic after a while (go through a bit of a level, find a hard boss, deal with a bullshit challenge or two, die a few times, find some loot).
Dungeons in this game come in S, M and L sizes. 20 hours in, it seems the S dungeons follow one of the following styles: Mines, Towers, Castles, Nature Caves, Tombs. The open world is split roughly into 6 big areas, each containing a few of these S dungeons.
The harder the open world area, the longer/harder the S dungeon. If you play a bunch of the same category in a row, they can feel samey, but you don't usually encounter enough in a row for that repetition to be felt.
M dungeons - I've only gone through one, Castle Morne - are more significant in size, kind of like a Dark Souls area. I haven't done enough of them to suss out patterns, but they have a few bosses probably. It does feel a bit "agh" when you finish one and get a cool weapon that isn't in your class. So actually in some ways, it's not exciting to find medium (or small) dungeons because it might just be an hour or two wasted.
L dungeons are huge - about the size of 3-4 Dark Souls areas. I've only explored one so far (the academy) though I'm aware of where most of the others are. These basically feel like Dark Souls, except without the tight-knit world context. So they feel sort of like 'really big dungeons'.
I like the idea that I can sort of look at the enemies near a dungeon and vaguely guess what kind of loot I can find - and sometimes be right! It's easier for that guess to be 'correct' for bigger dungeons, but it feels more random for smaller dungeons.
The open world, though, feels a little big. Not to a painful extent, but there are moments of 'guess i need to ride around scour for stuff!' There's lots of crafting resources scattered, but so far most of it feels pointless depending on your build, and it's hard to find the right recipes anyways. I can't imagine how I'd find a crafting ingredient I need without meticulously noting down where I found every item each time I need it. The game is still very wiki-brain, where you will end up looking stuff up and possibly spoiling yourself.
The positives of the open world is that the world really does feel like A Kingdom, where stuff is North of Stuff or Far South, etc. which is why I'm hoping the lore pieces itself together more.
I like the little notes that hint at places you should look for. Quests where you have to explore for forts on different sides of the map were neat.
ER's open world doesn't stray far from the usual formula, but it does feel a bit more compact than the average. I think there's room to be more compact, although the 'texture' of riding your horse to look for another dungeon is nice, you still do have those moments of riding as fast as you can, ignoring everything and trying to reach Point B. The open world was also used well to subvert Dark Souls' structure - letting you skip bosses, pretty much the whole game so far? Is a really good call. It turns the L dungeons into these things that feel exciting to think about exploring.
The best moments of the open world are when it feels like a mix of regular Souls, with some gimmicky setpiece - like scrambling for ladders in the mountainous area, or avoiding fireballs while crossing a bridge. The worst are when, well... it feels like an open world game LOL
Nothing has changed in the Level Design from Demon's Souls. Essentially every single level works the same way: hard placements of enemies, either in a funny interesting way, or a chaotic difficult way. You figure out how to best get through it by dying a lot, poke out from the main path to find loot, most of which you won't need.
The design is kind of janky in this sense - there's a lot of cheap deaths from difficult camera angles, bizarre enemy movement that requires memorization. Respawn times are slow and checkpoints are brief, which means retrying a segment of a level can get really boring. FromSoft has convinced an entire generation of players that this is Good, though, so oh well.
Level design having friction IS good for increasing the sense of meaning from exploration, but like other Souls games, ER's level design usually stands partially in frustrating territory, and rides its coattails in order to get people to overlook it.
But idk, having played every souls game.. it really does just feel like 'more souls' - like another volume of gag manga, or another joke book, another season of a long running anime series.
Lots of customization is nice. Gathering smithing stones is perfunctory and requires wiki-diving. That system really should be rethought - make it more like Golden Seeds, where once you find a smithing stone you can 'respec' it into other equipment. That would reduce the need for the sort of farming-esque dungeons like the mines.
Stat Respec should be easier and not item-limited. It would be more fun to be able to try out new weapons I find.
Combat is the same as souls. Jumping is a nice addition, but the same problems of weird camera stuff, difficulty to judge depth, some enemies being really huge, still exist. Most combat is about memorizing enemy behavior and rolling at the right time. Idk. It feels okay to play but the retry times are still really long and annoying.
Why does the game STILL not show you what a maxed out weapon's stats are? Gacha games have done this for years, and it's ridiculous to have to spend money on upgrading a weapon just to see its scaling sucks more than another similar one.There should be a simulator room or something.
I think ER should have a Quest Log. I mean, (Spoilers) some missions DO put markers on your map! The thing is, ER honestly doesn't have that many quests to begin with, so Quest Logs wouldn't hurt the experience in the same way they do to a game like Genshin or BotW. The "problem" of Quest logs isn't their existence, the problem is that Quests are used to add perfunctory content to a game whose base systems aren't very interesting on their own. ER's base systems and combat are fun, so they don't have this problem.
The map marker system should allow text input.
The multiplayer is still terrible to figure out at first! The message system sucks now because most messages are memes, so I don't even use it.
There's no excuse for a lack of accessibility options around difficulty except for stubbornness. Honestly, these games aren't even that hard to begin with so why not add them? People who don't want it won't use it, etc.
I feel like this game just EATS up time. Really most of the time you aren't doing anything hard, you're just walking or riding around a place. This is really an AAA problem in general, but it kind of freaks me out how these games are designed to be so smooth to swallow and consume.
I'm enjoying playing Elden Ring, but its fun moments of exploration are cancelled by its frustrating and bad moments motivated by the same design philosophy. Much of the design decisions feel thoughtlessly imported from previous souls games - the item lore system's organization, the multiplayer, level design and combat philosophy. You can spend an hour having fun exploring for dungeons or new places, but you can also spend an hour repeating a pointless mini-dungeon due to frustrating level design.
The open world is probably the most interesting AAA open world I've ever played, but it's still kind of overly big feeling at times. The exploration also feels somewhat.. empty after I've done it. Like finding new places is super cool, but it's always like... 'fucked up dude's castle' or something. I feel like the limit of medieval Souls and AAA Open World is being reached here, and while it's obviously very satisfying for many, something about it feels lacking for me, despite my at-times enjoyment...
This is definitely one of the go-to reference points for open worlds, but at the same time, the game doesn't feel as groundbreaking or inspirational and quirky as Dark Souls 1 did.
Definitely weird this game came out 25 years ago! It's a shame the creative 2D platformer got more or less abandoned by the AAA industry in favor of perfunctory puzzle platformers (Limbo, lol), metaphor platformers (... I'll let you imagine what I'm referring to..).
Somehow the precision here reminds me of Crash Bandicoot. The level structures remind me of the longer levels in Yoshi's Island (the throwing does, too), and the quick escalation of the drama remind me of the progression within shmups and the areas you visit.
Visually/sonically creative, I liked the dynamic music moments throughout.
I found the level design to be a bit all over the place - the lives system feels very of the time, it adds a lot of pointless tension, especially to boss fights. You can lose lives pretty fast to slip ups (bumped into a pit, etc), but I never actually had a game over on my playthrough.
At its best moments, chaining the double jumps feels fun. At its worst, the tiny windows and overly nuanced controls of performing these moves got in the way. The game's levels sometimes use puzzles, which can be interesting, but in many cases execution is difficult despite the solution being obvious. Not to mention the awkward jutting in of the health system and slowly being whittled down as you try to execute a puzzle correctly.
Many of the puzzles have cycles that slowly run out of sync (e.g. an obstacle and the enemy you need to grab), which can make figuring out proper timing more frustrating than it needs to be.
I like to joke that the instant a platformer has the tiny, 1-tile width platforms, it's run out of ideas - a moment which came a bit early in Klonoa IIRC.
Many of the later levels run way too long, 15-25 minutes on a first playthrough. I think the moveset just isn't versatile enough for this game to be that interesting to move around in... it honestly felt kind of like a exploratory platformer + puzzles + perfunctory precision platforming. However, the overall arc of the game feels great - reminds me of recent longform indies. The story is simple and cheaply sentimental, but the way the 12 stages escalate drama and take you through its world was fun and what kept me going.
The problem here is kind of in the moveset... I think the level designers did a good job with what they had to work with (honestly, an enemy-dependent double jump and a near-useless flutter aren't much). The levels are visually creative, though the camera does move too much.. some of the middle levels made me a bit sick.
I do appreciate the development team's dedication to making such a tightly-knit game - the density of just, level, cutscenes, bosses, is kind of neat and I like how there's not too much filler.
A well-condensed version of the grindy mobile casual puzzle genre (Merge Fables, etc). Is the game very lizard brain? This game immediately has the problem an endless number of competing tasks, each of unknown worth, each costing 100-1000 little swings of your shitty level 1 pickaxe.
It also has the 'wiki' effect to it: I just spent 10 minutes leveling up, all my skill points go towards unlocking things I can't learn about at all. What do I spend it on? I don't know, a market. Okay, I buy the market. Now I need to get leather... oh, I need another skill point to unlock that tree, okay... where is this game going? I am a little curious to find out, but it's hard to engage with.
It has the spirit of a designer who loves their work, but at the same time, proves that if the design you're making is dull, it doesn't matter what scale it's made at - it'll end up dull. It's weird the game also glorifies the 'hard working solo dev' narrative, when this game... isn't even a solo project? What the hell?
I mean, okay, wholesome aesthetics, "Easy to accomplish something" gameplay, I see the value for that in our world, everyone needs their lizard brain rat cocaine game, but at the same time there's still something bizarre to me about the unique stresses games like this impose (endless task lists, progress that feels menial beyond the fact that you sure spent a lot of time holding down the pickaxe button!) Which is why the kind of friendly, hand-made aesthetics feel a bit off to me...
I don't think a foraging/building game necessarily needs to have waiting/grinding be a part of it. Rollercoaster Tycoon's free mode comes to mind.
A game that hides the thrill of unlocking things behind pure waiting, only to have you wait for the thrill of unlocking another thing, is missing the fact that games can actually have something interesting going on in them beyond just grinding or unlocking things! There's nothing wrong with those things, but I just think the execution here feels a bit shallow (so far..)
Cool interactive fiction that is the fallout of what one could see as an large-scale JRPG where the heroes failed. Instead of being told from one perspective, we get to hear about the failure of this quest from 5 different perspectives (each told with a different grammar of interactive fiction). What results is a number of conflicting, emotionally varied stories, revealing different facets of characters. A cool experimental work!
It's arguably a terrible game but it's really memorable the way its kinda melodramatic story, at times really good art direction and linear flow come together. Strong atmosphere despite uh... spectacularly bad fundamentals.
A shockingly bad action game that somehow is worse to play than Evergrace 1. It's a shame because the Japanese voice acting and story make it pretty fun to follow.
A notoriously unsolved problem in 3D is how to handle 3rd-person combat and aiming. It's very hard to judge depth from enemies and where attacks are going to hit. The modern approach, of course, is lock-on: this has the effect of hackily flattening the game into 2.5D combat, where the other problems (judging depth/attacks) are further band-aided by the use of dodge rolls and iframes, combat becoming a visual Simon-Says.
Forever Kingdom (Evergrace 2 in Japanese) has no lock-on, it also has tiny weapon hitboxes. You're constantly whiffing your attacks, having to switch out weapons when one of your attacks heals the enemy.
These problems aren't a game-breaker - they plagued Evergrace 1. This game is built around using elemental skill combos by triggering two other NPCs' attacks - but you can't line up their attacks that easily since they have AI which tends to stand back and guard.
That still makes for a playable game, but where I draw the line is how poorly the camera is handled in interiors. I have programmed cameras for 3D games before (including a technical platformer) so I'm aware of how tricky it can be, but the way the camera is handled in this game is actually broken. The game seems to have some kind of prediction system of trying to find the best 'view' for a scene - the result is that when walking through corridors or empty areas, the camera will just start gradually swinging or jutting forward. The result of course, is motion sickness!
The game expects you to use R2 to swing the camera forward - this is what Evergrace did, and while clunky (The R-stick is right there... why not use it??) it was fine. In Forever Kingdom, almost always after using R2, the game will just randomly swing off to some other direction.
There's also screenshake from a lot of stuff for no reason. The worst offender is an early dungeon where a troll is rampaging about - never mind that you can't even evade this troll - but every time it steps (4 times a second), the screen shakes a lot - which of course is more motion sickness!
Other design quirks - half of the treasure chests are empty, or trapped with a little imp that latches onto you for poison damage (You can't get it off or attack in this state). Enemies drop chests with collision, sometimes boxing you into a corner. 90% of these chests contain nothing.
Stores are accessed via a save point. In the store is 6 small stores, staffed by identical tiny blue elephants. Sometimes the elephants aren't there. So you can't buy headpieces at one save point, while you can at another... furthermore, the music cuts out whenever you open a shop menu or the pause menu, which is frightening...
Anyways, if you don't use R2 too much the motion sickness is manageable, but it's still a pretty rough game (and there's a bunch of other small complaints...) Worth trying if you liked Evergrace 1 (Forever Kingdom does have some great music and visual vibes), but if not then I would just pass!
I think it's a step in the right direction for Pokemon, but it uncritically combines too many pre-existing open world design patterns (repetitive tasks, an overall game pacing that feels predictable) with old pokemon design patterns. The Pokemon battle system is still as flat as it's always been (Competitive pokemon aside), the game quickly falls into a pattern, and it's a really weird Gameplay Texture to accumulate hundreds of unused pokemon in your pastures because you're trying to fill out entries. I think the battles need to be totally reimagined if Pokemon is to ever become a great game. The same goes for pokemon capturing. Maybe Pokemon can look to a game like Bugsnax for more creative ways of capturing?
I thought the JRPG direction was a good idea for the story, and some of the quests almost reminded me of Yakuza quests at time (a focus on aspects of a big town - e.g. the quest finding Pichu in someone's house). Still, it's weighed down by perfunctory-feeling writing... I don't think Pokemon needs to feel like it's compromising itself between a child and adult audience, most of its fans are adults by now. This doesn't mean a darker story, but one that actually... has some teeth and theme to it? Well, to the game's credit, maybe it Does go there (especially since we're the Galaxy Clan).
I only played 10 hours and then a bit of another person's file who was much further - the various mounts and ways you unlock the world metroidvania-style were neat!
Well idk. Maybe I'll finish this game later, I don't dislike it or anything!
The game has a sort of subtle sense of humor that was interesting. Maybe a bit stereotyped... I mean, the name of the game... has a bit of those early 2010s "Things Asian Parents Do" youtube vibes, but it's interesting as this comes from a Chinese developer.
That being said, as far as stat life sims go, it had some fun systems like the stat grid. It got tedious/boring after too many times though, and I wasn't interested enough to play the game past one generation. The girl friendship system just felt totally random, and the endings weren't that satisfying, at least the one I got. Maybe if it was a bit easier to hunt for endings or something, I don't know...