Archives for posts with tag: review

I decided that whenever I finish a game I’m going to do a quick and dirty analysis of those games. Basically what works, what doesn’t, and what’s interesting.

First up is Mages of Mystralia. A game made in Canada, yet named itself after Australia for some reason. You play as an apprentice mage called Zia who looks at the sky one night and accidentally awakened her magic and blew up her house and family.

So here is the hook of the game, you are an apprentice. Which means you have to learn your craft. You start with four basic spells. A close range attack, a fireball, a spell to make terrain, and a shield/movement spell. But with each of these spells they have lots of different runes that can be attached to your spells which will change how your spells behave. This is the best part of the game by far. As a filthy a smashed avo eating millennial, I like my Harry Potter. And every kid who read Harry Potter has at one point wanted to go to Hogwarts, study magic, and make my own spells. Most games, you have a set list of spells that you unlock when you level up. Mages of Mystrafrica is probably the closest any game has come to that fantasy with its mechanics.

But the other spell tome has to drop eventually,  Mages of Mystrermany decided that rather than focusing on the best part of the game it would focus on combat; The part of the game that makes most of the magic system’s depth, redundant. See there is no value in crafting the perfect spell for any given combat scenario because its most effective to mash your fireball until all the goblins are dead (at least until you unlock the rain augment, then you spam rain with fire instead).

Now there are parts of the game that do reward you for exploring the depth of the magic system, but this is all side content. You have to go out of your way to experience this stuff, and usually with a lot of backtracking. For example you will find puzzles that you have to come back to later because you just haven’t found the correct spell augments yet. The result is a structure such that shepherds you along the critical path, despite the side content being the most engaging part.

So roundup time. There is an amazing game at the heart of Mages of Mystrundepants, but they forgot to focus in on and execute on that core fantasy. If you are ever planning on including magic in your game, a similar system of having different combine-able spell effects is a really good idea and you should look into it, just remember to tighten up your controls and don’t throw countless waves of boring mobs at the player.

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I finished playing Pokemon Sun and Moon a while ago. And I enjoyed the game, the new Pokemon are awesome, and Alola is stunning. But I was bugged by a lot of things in the game and I want to write about them. See, Sun and Moon made some horrendous errors in its design. Chief of which is how it handles story. The story is handled so badly I had the following thought: Pokemon should just stay far away from ever trying to do story.

Sun and Moon is the second time Pokemon has had a greater narrative thrust. And just like the last time narrative was a focus (Black and White) the game suffers for it. The moment you add narrative to a game you have a whole new set of things to worry about. What the plot is, how the plot interacts with the game-play, how you will deliver the story, and what message you are telling through your story are a couple of vital things to consider. It is excruciatingly clear that none of these things were considered during the development of Sun and Moon. The plot is the same plot that the series has had since third gen. Which would be fine if the story was handled like in X/Y in that it takes the backseat. But the story actively intrudes on the player’s ability to play the game resulting in an opening that takes forty minutes before the player gets their first Pokemon. The story is delivered via cut scenes that involves the player either reading boring dialogue or watching awkward animations. As for the message the game creates, I hope the message made was by pure incompetence than active choice. If it was active choice, then as a lifelong fan of the Pokemon I might stop playing Pokemon due to how awful that political stance is.

So what is the message that the story conveys? People who are animal rights activists are evil bastards who will take over the world and enslave the very animals they say they will protect. The villains of Sun/Moon are the Aether Foundation which is a group dedicated to the research and preservation of Pokemon. In other words Sun/Moon is mentioning the elephant in the room when it comes to Pokemon. That being that Pokemon are essentially slaves, people catching Pokemon are not that much different from poachers and the entire Pokemon world economy runs off cockfights between Pokemon. We all know these things, I remember noticing this as a kid. But we ignored it because the game said it was all good and didn’t draw attention to it and so we suspended our disbelief. If Gamefreak (Pokemon’s developer) legitimately wanted to tackle these issues they could add mechanics which showed that the player is being an ethical trainer. For example rather than storing Pokemon in the PC they are sent to a sanctuary where they are free to do what they like (Which does actually exist in Sun/Moon as the Poke Pelago). Or if a Pokemon dislikes a player enough then it can run away. And before you say that would suck if a Pokemon you had ran away, just remember as it is, you have to actually try HARD to get a Pokemon to hate you. They could have lots of side missions where the player shuts down Pokemon poaching operations, or liberates them from abusive trainers. You could have endangered Pokemon that you aren’t allowed to catch like regular pokemon, that you can only obtain by doing a small quest to win the trust of these endangered Pokemon or increase the population to a healthy level. What Gamefreak should NOT do is create straw-men of animal rights groups and plonk a big fat evil sticker on their heads like in Black/White and Sun/Moon. Because by doing this Gamefreak is saying that animal rights are not legitimate and that animal conservation is evil. And frankly that’s just straight fucked up, especially when we are experiencing a mass extinction event (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_extinction).

I will also briefly mention that one particular reading of these games are that they are an attack on PETA. For those who don’t know PETA is a real world “animal rights movement”. Which like Team Plasma or the Aether Foundation is evil, but they are evil for different reasons. They basically kill all animals that come into their “care” (over 90%) and even steal people’s pets and then kill said pets. Needless to say PETA is fucked up. But I doubt Sun/Moon is having  a go at PETA. It’s an American charity that does not even operate in Japan. And even if they are, that message will be lost on the primary audience: Japanese kids.

 
So that’s my rant about Pokemon Sun and Moon. There was some really cool stuff in these games but the story was so bad I really wish they hadn’t bothered. It ruins the pacing of the game, it sends an awful message and it actually makes the game worse as a whole. And I really hope Gamefreak just doesn’t bother with the story for future games.