A few weeks ago, I bought two games on Steam called Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World for $3 together (that's right,2 games for only 3 bucks :o).Recently, I've completed them and wanted to share what I thought about the games with you guys. First thing I'll say straight up is that I had a lot of fun with both of these games and getting both of them combined for $3 is a total steal.
The games are RPGs that are both tributes to the jRPG genre and parodies of the cliches and common themes found withing the typical jRPG. As such, if you've ever liked any jRPG games then you'll have a lot of fun with these games. The story and plot progression are absolutely crazy and hilarious (or at the very least amusing). Breath of Death VII has you taking control of an undead protagonist, one who roams a land completely devoid of humans who destroyed themselves in a war long ago. He then goes on a random adventure, picking up companions on the way. Cthulhu Saves the World has you taking control of the titular Cthulhu who must reclaim his lost powers in order to destroy the world (because that's just what Cthulhu does).
Littered throughout the entire games are references and parodies of many video games out there. While the main focus is the jRPG genre, you'll also find the game making small nods to games like Fallout, Megaman, and Zelda. More obvious references include nods to the Dragon Quest and Suikoden series. What I liked most about this game however is that despite all the humour that it has and the way it pokes fun at games, there's an actual good game there as it's foundation. The gameplay system works as a proper jRPG with well-balanced difficulty and a fast-paced turn-based battle system. There are branching stat and skill paths that you can take when leveling up which reminded me much of Xenosaga Episode III, except this game has more liberties as to which upgrades you can pick which makes you really think about what option you should take since it's possible to mess up a character (people who have played Breath of
Death VII will know who this is) which is actually a good thing since it makes you strategize and think about what would be best for your character. What I liked most about these games is that they also fix a lot of problems that some modern jRPGs still seem to have. Like I said earlier, the combat system is fast and doesn't drag on. Shops let you compare currently equipped items to the items they sell. The game uses a reasonable system that limits the amount of random encounters you can get in a certain area (if you want) and provides a good suggestion as to how much experience you should be getting before moving on.
It's clear that not only did the developers have fun with creating this game but they actually did work hard in order to create it. It's got good music, gameplay, and a story that doesn't take itself too seriously. I wholeheartedly recommend these games, especially since they're being sold for $3 together. To anyone who has played the game, feel free to share your thoughts or comments about it!
On a side note, I've been reading some rather annoying comments online about how some people won't even touch the game because it's turn-based. It got me wondering, since when was turn-based gaming considered "bad" by a certain amount of people? I know that there are a LOT of people who are totally fine with turn-based gaming (the majority) but I've started wondering about how it started being a bad thing to some mainstream gamers. Why do they make such a big deal about it being "slow"?
While looking up answers to this, I found a rather enlightening blog post about the same exact topic.
They think it's slow because... well, in most modern games, it tends to be rather slow. This is, however, not because it's turn based, but rather because it's turn based and it has to have somewhat "realistic" animations. First let's look at turn based board games - are they slow? No, they are not... a player is always playing, or considering his next move. They achieve this by having no animations or cutscenes or anything at all in the way of pure gameplay. If you play Advance Wars on the default game settings (combat animations on, normal map movement speed), a mission takes about three to four times as long as it does when I play with as much of that stuff "off" as possible. Final Fantasy Tactics is a great game, but if you play it a lot it does tend to drag way more than it needs to. I get to play so much more Fantasy General with all animations turned off. I think it's a very good thing for a game developer to ask this question:
"What percentage of the time your game is running is your player playing, and what percentage are they watching something un-dynamic happen?"Keith Burgun
and I can't help but agree. I think that one of the main contributors to this new idea that turn-based gaming is slow is the moment the ridiculously famous Final Fantasy series made its transition to 3D. Every time you summon one of those summon monsters, it's usually accompanied by a long animation that is usually (if not always) the same each time. Here are some good examples:
Knights of the Round - FF7 (this animation is around 1 minute long, imagine seeing it over and over and over...)
All FFVIII Summons (mashing the button gets rid of the monotony a bit I guess but it's not exactly something that keeps you thinking and engaged)
Bahamut - FFIX
Magus Sisters Overdrive - FFX
and so on. Now I have nothing against these animations, and I'm sure many of us will admit that they do look pretty kickass, but do we really have to be shown the exact same thing each time? Most turn-based games should have the option to either skip animations or turn them off because they do eventually get redundant. Luckily, there are games that manage to work around this in their combat systems.
Here are some games that I think did turn-based combat right:
Chess - Not exactly a video game but the strongest example. It's stood the test of time and is still played today, yet it has no visual flair whatsoever. I myself actually didn't understand the appeal of chess until I played it with a little kid during a family-friend gathering who was really into it (I lost that match :P). I realized was that I was engaged and actually having fun. I believe that the reason for this is that there's always some thinking and strategizing involved. There's rarely a dull moment. You've got to think about where to move your pieces, where your enemy might move his piece (even after your turn is done), and keep track of many different things. Now, if you inserted a long animation of a knight running through a battlefield and slaying an opponent when you remove an enemy piece, the game would drag on and get boring everytime that happens (unless the animation was dynamic/constantly changing).
BoDVII and CSTW Double Pack - Battle animations are short, battles are fast paced, and the enemies actually running out eventually (if you choose so) really encourages you to keep going and gives a sense of progress.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne - Battles are fast-paced which means that there's always interaction going on. Animations are, for the most part, quick. Furthermore, it helps that this game is HARD so you'll always be strategizing and doing your best not to die. A focus on exploiting enemy weaknesses and summoning and dismissing different types of demons during battle also adds a lot to the battle system.
Final Fantasy X-2 - This game doesn't use the turn-based system in its traditional sense but instead uses the Active Time Battle system where you have to wait for your characters' gauges to fill up during battle before acting (same for your enemy, except you can't actually see their gauge). Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX also used this and definitely benefitted from it a bit (very long unskippable animations still persisted and slowed things down though) but Final Fantasy X-2 used it the best in my opinion. During the battles in this game, something is almost always going on because of how fast-paced it is. Throughout battles, you'll be switching jobs, dishing out damage, taking damage, and continuously interacting with the game instead of just watching. Here's a video to give you an idea (skip to 3:54). That video might not be the best example but it gives an idea of how much can be happening.
Where do I stand on the whole situation? Personally, I think turn-based gaming is a lot of fun (but that doesn't mean real-time games aren't fun either, they're both fun given the quality of the game). I think that this whole "turn-based games is a bad thing" attitude that cropped up recently is because when technology progresses, video game developers are trying too had to keep up and impress people by focusing on crazy visuals while offering barely any innovation to gameplay. Better technology + better visuals = higher price point (the latest big-budget games these days usually cost no less than $50). This usually leads to gamers paying for good visuals and multiplayer (more gaming time) in order to maximize the money they spend , not necessarily the gameplay. Of course, the best way to show off graphics is by making an FPS which is, IMHO, an oversaturated genre these days, with only Bioshock and a select few other games changing things up by being very interesting. If you're making a turn-based game, visuals are obviously not going to be the main focus, but it's more supplementary (which gives the developers more time to make the turn-based gameplay more complex and elaborate). Unfortunately, developers are not willing to take this risk, and as a result consumers and devlopers go for the most visual game instead of the most interesting ones, which gives turn-based games, particularly jRPGs, a bad rep (Final Fantasy XIII being the best example).
So, what opinions do you guys have on this matter? Feel free to share your thoughts! :) (as long as they're reasonable of course :P)