Monday, February 17, 2014

All better

After my little rant on Saturday night I did enough research on Lightning Returns to realize that I was playing it wrong. I will not go so far as to take full blame for my initial experience being terrible as a few words of explanation would have save me from wasting most of my weekends progress, but then again this is a Final Fantasy game. They haven't made sense for years.

Here were my two mistakes: Easy is Normal and Normal is Hard and should be reserved for the first New Game+. Check. It's dumb, but fine. Second, I assumed that the game wanted to be played in the same linear fashion as almost all other Final Fantasy games. Arrive at town, do all quests in town, finish main quest segment, watch dramatic cut scene, repeat. This is completely wrong and that mistake along with mismanaging the clock led to me being in places that I wasn't ready for. When I realized that grinding monsters doesn't really get you anything and that all quests that did benefit me were locking because it was 2:00 in the morning and oh my God I am getting wrecked by random encounters and the world is going to end in five days my brain broke.

'Stop. Breath. Do something you hate because you really do want to play this game - start over.'

I made more progress in three and a half hours last night than I did in six over the previous two nights. A good chunk of that is skipping over Hope's boring expositions. I really want him to shut up. But I also figured out how to abuse the stop time ability. Instead of wandering around the first town waiting for an event to open up I took the train over to the next one and started on the main quest there. If I do it right I should be able to finish it before I need to head back to the first one.

Why didn't I do this the first time? Simple: the game never told me I could. This is the same problem that Beyond: Two Souls ran into: it makes some effort to fight boring gaming tropes but never gives you a hint about what it has done. In Beyond: Two Souls I never crossed the street because I assumed it was not possible. In Lightning Returns I did not leave the town that hosted Chapter 1 because Chapter 1 was not finished and I assumed I could not leave until it was. Foiled by previous experiences.

Lightning Returns is fun, now. I have a better idea of what not to do and the plot is surprisingly depressing and interesting. I have no doubt there will be a twist that ruins it but for now the basic idea is thought provoking: people stop aging and the world is going to end. What do they do to pass the time? Throw in a protagonist who has been asleep for the last five hundred years and is on a literal mission from God and you have a game as potentially depressing as Neir.

And I thought that couldn't be done.

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