HALI'S REVIEW THREAD (REQUEST YOUR GAME!)

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halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
All right, I'm back to complain about game balance again. Knowing where to go and being able to actually make progress there are two different things, and I just spent an hour and a half getting exactly nowhere in the snowy forest because everything that lives there is fucking horrible.

First, it was the ice turtles that froze my entire party with their snow dust, which was apparently a lucky break for them since it only happened once. Still, I was extremely annoyed to see their freeze lasts 50 turns, like every other non-permanent status problem in this game.

Then there was the phantom warrior guy, who loves to spam fatal attacks while you're trying to run away (and failing). For a while, I actually thought I couldn't possibly escape him, until a couple battles where I lucked out and got away. It's always a great feeling when RNG is the deciding factor in my success.

Then there was the tiny snow frog, who was also inexplicably hard to escape from, and who spammed an ice attack so powerful even my magic tank died in one hit. Then there was the little ghost blob that turned into a phantom warrior out of frickin' nowhere, even though the battle description said that takes a while.

And no matter how far I got into the forest, something always went horribly wrong and left me standing back at the entrance, cursing my devotion to the craft.

You said this game could be beaten without grinding. I'm beginning to think you're right, and that what you really mean by saying it is that normal battles aren't meant to be fought because they're all so stupidly frustrating. I can get wanting to have a complex battle system and have fights that Actually Matter, but this...is a nightmare.

If I had one piece of constructive criticism to say about this, it's that the big problem I have with the fights is that they feel like they each only have one solution, and you either have that solution ready and execute it perfectly, or you get shit on completely. It's one thing to have a specifically good solution to a problem, it's another for that to be the ONLY solution to that problem. With this style of game, it's basically trial and error. All I can do is go in with Aya, gather info until I die, and come back in with the "correct" characters/abilities needed to succeed. A game that requires knowledge in advance for you to progress is not well-balanced at all.

The only general strategy I've found that really works is to have Reimu raise the party's evasion and have Reisen berserk everything so they can't use the terrifying abilities you gave to every common enemy. But even then, it sometimes misses, and the monsters get in just the right moves to ruin my life anyway. I'm gonna keep trying, and I'll grind if I have to, but I gotta tell you I just find a lot of this questionable at best.
Have...have you been upgrading skills, by any chance?? There are upgrades in Tengu Village, if you haven't gotten them there. Are you also changing up equipment too?

The Half-Phantom is one of two Notorious Monsters, with the tiny frog being the other. That would explain why they're as hard as they are, but yeah, the blobs shouldn't have turned into the Half-Phantoms that quickly. I'll have to investigate that for sure. If the counter is too low, I'll increase it. Those guys generally have low HP, and when they transform, they still have the same HP as when before they transformed, I remember that much.

As for the statuses, yeah...kinda figured THAT would happen, seeing as I still haven't gotten around to fixing statuses since last we spoke from...SDM? Eientei? One of those two areas, and we already knew that that was going to be an issue at other points in the game. I'll be fixing that issue whenever I actually get around to fixing up the game.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
I don't think the frog was flagged as notorious when Aya checked it, but I could tell it was an over-hard monster I had no business fighting just because it has 2k HP. Both it and the phantom guy are a lot more common than they should be. Maybe I just got unlucky, but I encountered them both regularly, and most of the time, it meant the end of my attempt.

I have been upgrading skills and I have more equipment than I know what to do with. I also have more characters than I know what to do with, which brings me to the other problem I've been having: this game's variety is staggering. In some games, that's a major plus because there's variance to the gameplay and you can adapt your battle style to your preferences, or try different approaches to see what you can do. But when you consider how I just complained that battles are so hard that only one solution works, suddenly the variety becomes a detriment when 90% of it isn't worth using or even trying.

Like...I have so many characters and so many skills I honestly can't keep track of them all. Sifting through the party and checking their abilities is a royal pain because the party switching mechanics are extremely clunky. That field you enter through HRCS could use some serious work. It's nice to have a cute little hub to collect your party members, but not when half of them are wandering around randomly, or when the map itself is fairly tight without much room to maneuver. You also can't check their stats or equipment without adding them to the party first, so it's a lot of back and forth just to weigh your options. Sure, there's the unequip-all spirit, but that forces you to re-equip your whole party every time you use it, making you rebuild sets you might've been satisfied with. A simpler screen or a custom menu system of some kind would go a long way to making this more accessible. The walk speed bug is only the start of the problem.

And then there are the sheer number of skills and their effects. I go cross-eyed looking at most of these skills because you only have that one text line to convey a lot of information. I feel your pain here because I know how limited the engine is in this regard, but with how many elements and statuses there are, something more elegant is necessary. Personally, I recommend using the engine's built-in text symbols for your elements. Match them up as best you can. If you can show "Dark" as a skull and crossbones, that's just one text character vs. 4, and it would make the descriptions a lot less cluttered.

Even still, this is secondary to the concern that I can't keep track of how these elements relate to each other in any meaningful way. There's that one NPC in the Human Village that explains them, but the way they describe it is confusing, and I'd have to take notes to keep track of it. I mostly rely on Aya to tell me what works anyway, so maybe that point's moot. It's not like I can tell what type of skills the enemies are using beyond the extremely obvious, and that's assuming I see the skills they use in time.

Speaking of, battles suffer from the variety as well because they just get super-hectic after a while. Between my menus freezing for enemy attacks and searching through long lists of skills whose effects I can't identify by name, it's a wonder I get anything done at all. The skill list doesn't seem to be sorted in any meaningful way, and I know 2k3 just pulls their order from the database, and I know how unbearable that is to rearrange. It's just a big confusing mess to me and I'm always in a panic to pick the right thing because the enemy ATB bars don't stop while you're flipping through your options. My rush to flip through menus often causes me to miss the effects of enemy attacks, so I don't know what they did to who for how much damage, and I often find myself trying to navigate the menu of a dead person who can't make an action anymore. Why does their menu not close when they're KO'd?

Also, about the status problems that run for a long time, I know they tick down for every turn that passes, but when a hero is frozen/paralyzed/whatever, their ATB stops. They can't even spend their turns recovering because they don't get turns until the enemies and other party members make enough moves for it to wear off. Thus, cure or lose is how that usually goes.

There are things you can do to alleviate all these problems, but I shudder to think how many of them are built-in things you can't actually fix. This game is hard to play for all the wrong reasons.
Yeah, as Locke states, the game does pretty much suck, and a lot of it IS due to 2k3's limitations and issues. I do think that the "feature creeping" that the game has is another big issue (though had I NOT done that, the game would've been far, far worse in regards to well...everything battle related. Not even kidding, it was so bland and boring before, and a lot of skills the player has did literally nothing at all worth using). It's a big problem for sure T-T
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
from Xenomic
Yeah, as Locke states, the game does pretty much suck

Hey now, that word's not allowed in this thread. I know I'm griping a lot, but I don't think the game is that bad. It just needs a lot more than a few tweaks to whip it into shape. Engine limitations are an unfortunate truth, but there are plenty of things you can do to improve the situation. It's just kinda sad that a lot of those things are on a fairly large scale. If I were you, I'd hold off and let me finish this playthrough, then we can go over some ideas at the end. I've said a lot already and I don't know how far I have to go, but having a plan of attack for things to adjust would probably be useful.
Yeah, the engine limitations are what hurts the game the absolute most. DynRPG is the only reason a LOT of things are the way they are, because without THAT little thing, a lot of things wouldn't be there at all hue. And yeah, rearranging skills in the database would be a mess and a half (not only would it mess the order up in the skill lists for characters, but I'd have to readjust all common events that refer to the skills as well as all skill scrolls, which yeeeeeeeeah....T-T).

Aye. I don't think you WANT me to mention how much is left in the game too. ^^; But yeah, I'll just wait for now (and note what to fix when I need it, if I remember to note it down).
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6138
I'm also on record as saying that almost every video game I've ever played sucks, including FF6 which is actually my favorite game of all time. So don't take the fact that I think something has multiple serious points of critical failure as any kind of attack or serious disparagement. I just think that about everything because I like to focus on what could be improved about games. To me, that's what fuels game design energy. It's like building rage points to spend on a big attack, except the attack is bothering to actually work on improving games or making better ones.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
That's all well and good. I just prefer to use objective terms because even little insults like "sucks" don't convey anything meaningful alone. I know you're smart enough to back it up with something substantial, but there's still no reason to outright say it.
unity
You're magical to me.
12577
Yeah, if I've learned anything from making games (and replaying my old ones), it's that no game is perfect and there'll always be problems and imperfections. If you can't easily fix them (and that's understandable with things like an engine's limitations) just keep them in mind and think of how to correct them in future games you make.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
All right...I finally caved and decided to grind. I successfully punched through the snowy forest only once, and there was no save point before the boss. It wiped me out with huge attacks and was still faster than me, even though three of my four Touhous were holding Rabite feet.

So yeah, I'm grinding until the game feels fair again. I'm also experimenting with the different characters to get a better feel for them and how they fight. Some of them seem like their options are extremely limited, but I may need to invest in more skills...which my newly fattened wallet will help with once I get them all to level 18 or so. They're all about 15 now, and they're seriously struggling with basic snow forest enemies.

Xenomic, did I mention I don't believe you when you say this game is possible without grinding? 'Cause I seriously don't. In fact, I would say that if you want to keep the bosses at zero experience earned, then do a low-level run yourself and see if you can beat the game while fighting only the required battles and surviving off the money you find in treasure spots. If that proves impossible, reconsider your design choices, FF6 be damned.
Ah...the save point was...to the left of the obvious boss pathway (I thought it was obvious, guess not), which...also had a full heal hotspring.

I mean, I HAVE done low-level runs of the game before with the No Encounter accessory. I've actually been streaming the game right now, and already at end of Eientei while gaining only one level on a couple characters. I have a thread open in General Discussion that I update whenever I start streaming so...if you ever want to catch those. It's random, but I always post right before I stream.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
Okay, so you factor out random encounters...but I still can't imagine how you keep up HP-wise. I'd expect you know exactly who to bring, what equipment to wear, and what skills to use for every scenario, but I've been one-shot by so many things so far that it just blows my mind to hear you say it's doable. Is this secretly the greatest game ever designed? Do you have to do everything exactly right to make it work? How big a factor is RNG in your success? 'Cuz it's been the bottom line for me this entire time.
Oh trust me, I've been cucked a lot by RNG in my runs. And sometimes I do, sometimes I just wing what I bring. Sometimes I just forget to bring things and it works out in the end! Sometimes I forget the gimmicks to my own bosses and die!

(But how many times have I said that my game isn't that great?? I don't think it's the greatest game ever designed, not even close).
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
Well, my computer at home is too old to load Twitch, so I'll try to catch the vods sometime, if only to see what you did differently.
Righto. I'm at the end of Underschool myself, so I should be able to catch up to where you are in a stream or two. I personally DID grind on the Tewis on the Eientei escape, but I haven't grinded on anything else (I mistook one of my viewers saying RUN as DON'T run somehow...oops...).

Also, speaking of the game, have you been getting 100% doublecasting with Patchouli and Auto-Haste on Sakuya?? Because both of that is NOT supposed to be happening. I think I fixed the issue with Sakuya's Haste, but Patchouli...that's going to be a problem, because apparently the Random variable gets stuck at 100 every turn, which just screws with things as you can imagine...
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
Yes, Patchi has always been casting twice for me. I wasn't sure if that was just a "her" thing or what, but it's been useful so I didn't complain. I haven't used Sakuya a lot, but I think she has been getting Haste automatically...not that it's much help since guaranteed escape is about all she's good for. Her x2 damage to plants weapons do zero damage to non-plants just like her silver daggers with undead.

By the way, couple random things: Momiji has no frozen sprite, so he vanishes if Cold Dust works against him. Also, some of the other characters' frozen sprites are off by a pixel, so you see bits floating at the top of their frames.

And lastly, those bubbly spirit things that transform into phantom assholes recover 9999 HP when they change, so no, they don't keep their previous health.
Yeah, I just fixed the weapons for Sakuya and Momiji so that they do damage to other enemies now, hopefully. And yeah, I'll have to look into that. I know it's gonna suck not being able to have 100% DC, but that's not intended. ^^;;

Oh...riiiiight. Statuses are still not 100% fixed I guess. Greeeeeat.

...Did I actually change that?? That's...not cool. Not cool at all. @_@


EDIT - I just fixed the bug with the random variable, so no more 100% Doublecast or things breaking! It was some junk code that didn't do anything. There's some other things here and there that I fixed earlier in the game too, and as I keep going, I'll keep trying to fix what I can, especially before you get to them if possible. I also moved the save point in Winter Forest closer to the boss (the healing spot is still in the same spot as before, to the left). We'll see how it goes for me when I get there, I accidentally grinded the Tewis in Eientei's escape (the ring of Tewis) because I thought a viewer said to NOT run from them, but he said RUN. Oops...well, I only got like 1 level off of them per character, but I WAS able to buy out the skills for everyone (except Reimu), so...yay?? I'll try going No Encounters or minimum encounters, because even I need money, and no encounters would be....hard.


EDIT #2 - So, just got past where you are in today's 8 hour stream. Only played that long so I COULD bypass you a bit, but yeah, see your point with the Half Phantom. The biggest issue with them I found is they're way too fast, with a speed of 145, and this was with me bringing a level 11-12 party into the area. I couldn't fight a single one at all, so I had to run everytime I encountered one of them or the blobs (the blobs are set to every 5 turns to transform, which....yeeeeeeah....that's not enough time at all). I have a list of things to fix before and after Winter Forest, but yeah. When you fought the boss, did it so happen to use Mighty Guard??
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
Almost a month later, I'm back! I had to take another little break while I finished up a project, that I'll be attempting to share here shortly. For now, though, Touhou Fantasy is back on my plate!

Thank you, Xenomic, for providing me with an update. I just got the last of my party members to level 15 today and we're ready to go on a shopping spree before we try the winter forest boss again. I can't remember if it used Mighty Guard because it's been too long since I last fought it, but here's hoping it goes better this time.
Yeah, it won't use it unless under a HP% now, so that's one thing. I remember that when it DOES use it, the fight becomes STUPIDLY difficult, so that might've been what caused the problem. I do have more updates to come (including updating the story a little bit, which I could toss to you in PM if you're interested since it's earlier in the game), but need to get back to streaming the game more myself (took a 2 week break because Twitch decided to force log me out due to username/password being the same, and I tried to contact them for 2 weeks and said fudge it, not hearing back from them so made a new account yesterday).

Also man...I am kinda feeling the burn of NOT leveling up the other party members. Some of them are actually a lot more useful than I gave them credit for...would've made the one boss that I spent 2 hours on SO much more bearable...blech...
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
15558
from Xenomic
I am kinda feeling the burn of NOT leveling up the other party members.

But I thought you said you never have to grind My heart bleeds for you.