Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chamberlain and Chance on Dragon's Crown.

This time, Chamberlain's gaming wanderlust denies him the desire to settle down with Dragon's Crown, while I find myself utterly enraptured.  Chamberlain, of course, writes the kickass blog Infinite Backlog, which you really should be reading.

We do discuss some bosses here that are best left a surprise - if you're cool with spoilers, read on brave hero!

CHAMBERLAIN : Just finished it with the elf. It was definitely good but I do not feel compelled to play it through again.

CHANCE : Do you feel compelled to keep going through Hard mode or Infernal and max out your Elf-chan?

I kept trying with the Elf but I found I preferred the decisive WHAM!s of the Amazon or the wide options of the Sorceress.  Amazon is definitely my #1 for fun factor - I found I spent too much time with my Elf positioning to kill things, and not enough time killing things.

CHAMBERLAIN : Not really. The same thing happened with Odin Sphere. Yes, it was beautiful, but the repetition of environments eventually wore me down. It’s like going to the art museum every day: eventually the old masters stop doing it for you and you need to slum it in the new age gallery.

Judging from the skill tree there are two very different builds for the elf: dagger and bow. Dagger looked to do a ton of damage but the number of times she could create a dagger were limited and you have to get up close to use it. Her hit points and defense just don’t back that up so I went with the bow skills. Once I had three dodges I could stay off of the ground for ten seconds at a time firing charged arrows.

I would not say that it made the final dragon easy but I did not have to worry about the skeletons on the ground during the second half of the battle because I was never touching the ground anyway.

Which boss was worse: Killer Rabbit with the one hit kills or the Wraith?

* * * 

The Wraith ain't so bad.  It's his undead army that mucks me up.

Dragon's Crown includes a fantastic set-up and boss experience.  On your first time through the Lost Woods, you meet a hermit called Thomas with great goat skull on his head, replete with curved horns and black cloak.  He advises you the safest way out of the forest is by boat, which leads you straight into the nest of the Gazer - an extra-dimensional demon who is by far the hardest boss you've faced up to that point.  

Upon defeating the Gazer, the narrator remarks that Thomas probably directed you down the most dangerous path, that jerk.  On subsequent visits to the Lost Woods, however, you may take the B path - and come across an even more dangerous creature.

It isn't until you take the B rout and meet this most heinous of foes that it occurs to you - yes, "Thomas" is very close to "Tim", and yes, he looks a lot like John Cleese's character in that classic scene from a thirty-eight year old movie.  The rabbit even has a move where it dashes through the air and one-shots you, complete with an image of a skull shattering.

It's absolutely wonderful.

If you take too long in trying to defeat the most foul, cruel and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on, a crew of holy knights show up and bomb the fuck out of it with holy hand grenades.  So I hear - I've never seen that scene myself ('cause I, y'know, kill the rabbit).  I've also never run from the Red Dragon or Medusa - but I hear you can!

Yet another reason to adore Dragon's Crown.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

This rabbit will kick the fuck out of you.

* * *

CHANCE : I personally gave more deaths to the Wraith - if his summoned zombies are able to grab me, they kill my Berzerk rush and then he whacks me with his giant scythe.  By now, though, I've killed both of them fifty times - I know to bust out Iron Will (cannot get knocked down - helps with Berzerk) and get out of the way when the Rabbit's shadow rears up, and I know to not even bother with Berzerk on the Wraith, pop War Paint (essentially makes me do 3x damage) and use my air attack - a very-controllable pinwheel - to buzzsaw him to death.

For me, Dragon's Crown's yet to stop being fun.  My Amazon's level-capped, but when I get home at night I'm not interested in trying out The Bureau or seeing how The Walking Dead runs on my Vita - I want to go into the Chaos Labyrinth and keep grinding gear for my Amazon.  I think it's the most eminently playable game Vanillaware's ever done.

CHAMBERLAIN : I thought I could keep going. As soon as the credits were done I equipped my new bow and headed over to the chaos tower (I probably have that name wrong… [ed: Chaos Labyrinth]) My disinterest was immediate, though that says more about how I play games than the game itself. As soon as the game ran out of new things to show me I was done.

Gaming wanderlust, I suppose.

CHANCE : Aw :(

That's my whole paragraph.  That word.  Aw :(

Well, speaking of new things, Rayman Legends is out in like seven days and it's getting sa-weet reviews!

Although - it's worth pointing out - Dragon's Crown is a game that, by design, is meant to be played multiple times across multiple difficulty levels and multiple characters.

Also, if you've never fought a Dark Goblin or Dark Pirate, I can assure you you haven't seen all the game can offer because those little buggers are death incarnate.

CHAMBERLAIN : But it is just a pallet swap with more hit points, right?

There is about twenty hours of original content in the game and I loved every minute of it. As soon as I get the ‘been there, done that’ feeling I tune out. So much of my enjoyment of playing a game comes from discovery and surprise that repetition, even if what is repeated is excellent, kills it for me.

I never play a game more than once and having to replay sections because I lost save data is absolute torture. Dragon’s Crown almost makes it past this because of how good it looks and how much fun the combat is, but it still trips the disinterest switch in my head because after those twenty hours everything there is an arbitrary ‘the end’ moment and everything after takes place in the same environments as before.

My deficiency, not the games. For the record, there are very few movies that I will watch more than once and I do not enjoy reruns of television show that I love. I think living off of the GameFly queue has done this to me: there is always something waiting.

CHANCE : It's more than just a palette swap.  New moves, new abilities, et cetera.  The black goblin knights will get right up in your grill, stun you, and slicesliceslice you to death.  The black goblin mages will polymorph you, and then summon a dozen frog allies to frog-stomp you to death.  The black pirates will teleport in, hit you with webbing to freeze you - and if it gets someone in the webbing, it will butcher a stunned character in two seconds flat. They also have a screen-wide dash slice that does major damage - and if they don't hit anything, they'll disappear for a few seconds.  Like gone, off the screen.  And you're desperately jumping and dodging around hoping not to be hit and then he pops on screen and you tear down to the ground and WHAM! it with a shockwave attack that will hopefully proc petrification on him so you can run in and kill him before he breaks free.

A lot of the bosses have different behaviors on the harder difficulties, too - I swear on an Inferno Chaos Lab run this morning I saw the Archdemon bust out a move I've never seen him use before - he teleported and slammed into the ground so hard it buckled all the earth across the screen.  I've really had to change up my tactics for a lot of the mobs.

But anyway - I get what you're saying. There's no new art to see, no (really) new enemies to face - but I really appreciate that the game is so welcoming to players who would keep at it,

I see the same sort of value here that I found in Demon's Souls or XCOM: Enemy Unknown.  I wouldn't suggest that Dragon's Crown's design is quite up to that incredibly high-caliber level, but it is a game that I feel one could get so much joy out of and pleasurably invest so much time in.  Like Far Cry 3, this is a game to play and play and play for play's sake alone - which is very tasty and far too rare in a triple-A title.

If I was seventeen and this was the only title I could afford 'till Christmas, I would be very happy with it.  I can see myself investing hundreds of hours in this game.

* * * 

And lo, while Chamberlain and I both found Dragon's Crown to be an eminently enjoyable experience, I've been able to enjoy it for far longer than he (my save file is approaching ninety hours).  I've been kicking myself for the past week for not getting a review writ - but I still don't feel exhausted with the game, yet.

I'm still enjoying trundling along with my young Sorceress, crowd-controlling monsters and dropping house-sized rocks on bosses.  I still find going up against three zones of the ridiculously challenging Chaos Labyrinth in a row and unlocking a new floor (unlocked the 14th today!) fun, and nicely rewarding.

I've no idea when I'll be done with this game.  If you find pleasure in the simple playing of a game and don't mind the repetition that comes with replaying, you'll find much to love here.

If you're like Chamberlain, though, it's definitely worth noting that the game has about twenty hours' worth of art and material to show off - and after that, it's all re-mixes and a steadily escalating challenge (some reviewers have gone so far as to call normal mode a tutorial).

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