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Despairity

  • Liberty
  • 03/01/2015 03:46 AM
  • 1483 views

Video may contain spoilers.



Disparity is an interesting game that has promise but is let down by the battle system. Created for the McBacon Game Jam, it has some interesting concepts that, sadly, failed it.

Graphically, the game is decent. There are various instances of graphics being a bit strange when it comes to shading - in that some tiles are more detailed than others and stands out quite a bit in comparison. As far as I can tell the graphics are custom, especially the facesets which are quite interesting in style.

Sadly, in some cases the graphics are very flatly shaded but in others, are given a lot more shading and light source indication than those around it. This creates an odd look in the game and the assets that have more shading to jump out a bit too much.

Sound-wise, what is there is decent. The music in battles was sufficiently active that you didn't get bored by it and since battles were all rather long, that is a good thing. Sound effects could have been used more often - wind in the background to create more ambiance, but what was there fit well enough.

Technically, the writing is good. The story and characters are well-presented and there's some very interesting hooks going on to make you want to know more about the characters' pasts as well as their motives. Unfortunately, I was unable to delve farther into the more interesting part of the game due to the gameplay.

For the most part the game consisted on walking around maps, collecting a small amount of items that can help in battles and then battling. It's bland but it fits the theme of a wasteland. However... the battles are, by and away, both the most promising and damning feature of the game.

In battle you take command of one character while the other randomly spams attacks. The player must place certain blocks down that will redirect attacks in various directions, changing them from single-hit to instead hit three in a line, all while the other character and enemy are firing shots back and forth, and dodging each others attacks.

It sounds interesting and it does have promise, however there are a lot of issues with relying on the combination of enemy AI and random attacks. I found that battles dragged on far too long with far too little actually happening. Even if you did hit the right spots and direct the attacks from the enemy side back to them, the chances of those attacks hitting was quite low, especially when it came to the dodging aspects of the AI.

There was one fight (a boss fight) in particular that took over 15 minutes, where the only hits that connected with the enemy were the random shots from the AI character - the enemy AI was such that it was incredibly hard to hit him, due to his pathing knowing to dodge any attacks thrown his way. And when you did get him down to half health, he started throwing line attacks instead of single shots. The fact that it had taken me 15+ minutes to get him to half health and that my AI character walked into his attacks very easily, while he dodged mine, was very frustrating and ended in a game over.

It's a pity, because the battles have merit - there's a kernel of an idea there that is interesting and could be used very well given enough time and thought put into it.

You did have certain items that were supposed to help you in the battles, but I found them not very useful. The idea of them was great - an item that would protect you from attacks, or change your shots to heal shots (thus allowing you to reflect them back and heal yourself) but there was already so much going on in battles that they became just another thing to distract you or frustrate you when they didn't work. It would have been a lot more helpful to have an actual item that would heal instead.


Overall, the game had some interesting concepts that weren't used to their full potential. That is understandable due to the time crunch under which the game was made, but it was a pity as the battles became a stopping wall to an otherwise interesting story. I would give it a 2.5 if I were scoring.

Posts

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NeverSilent
Got any Dexreth amulets?
6064
Thanks a lot, Liberty! I very much appreciate the honesty and fairness of your review. This is exactly the kind of feedback I find useful. (Plus, you used a pun for the title, so you're already on my good side.)

If there's one thing I learned from this project, it's that coming up with an interesting mechanic is much easier than turning that idea into something that's actually fun to play. My failure to account enough for the player's perspective as well as the time constraints lead to some rash design decisions that you rightfully criticized. Currently, our team is discussing ways to redesign and improve the gameplay while staying true to the original concept, and I hope we can present something much less frustrating soon.

Just one more thing: Before the reviewing event, we explicitly asked for the current version of this game not to be rated yet. Would you be okay with changing the rating to N/A for the time being?

Again, thanks a lot for taking the time to play and review this demo! I promise I will keep all your points in mind.
Honestly, the problem most people seem to have with the battle system is something I thought they'd eventually figure out, sooner or later. I, for one, got the hang of it immediately, right with the first version Nev gave to me (granted, it was very raw and different from the final version, but the core mechanics were the same). I was even a bit worried the fights might be too easy, but welp, here you are ranting about the difficulty for half of the review. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Can't blame you, though, I personally feel like lack of tutorial & guide is the main culprit. I suppose I could show people how it should be done — once you know what to do the game becomes really easy. Though that's probably a bit pointless, as major changes will be made to the battle system anyway. ( e; Heck, did it anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCk60Qob_Ww )

P.S. Well, stuff aside, thanks for the review! Hopefully you'll like the finished game better.
Um, no. Lack of tutorial isn't the issue. At all. The ISSUE is that it forces the player to rely on random variables and enemy AI. You are subject to the whims of those two things and can do nothing to counteract them. That whole video was two fights. One I got through easily enough. Good, that was a good example of the battle, but that other fight was just bad game design. The fact that the player had to respond to randomness, yeah, okay, that's not a bad idea but it forced the player to only respond to it and have no way to counter-act it when the AI changed it's patter mid-battle, OR dodged your attacks.

See, the AI on the other fights allowed the enemy to walk into attacks but for that one (which I tried three times after that video, off video so that my watchers wouldn't have to suffer through it, and still could not defeat) was fucked up. Seriously. You could not hit him at all. And when you did it was completely by accident, not by plan. That, right there, is bad design.

Like I said, if you'd actually swapped the tables and made Zilla be the one to lay down the random skills instead, it would have been so much better, because you, as the player, could choose to use those skills... or not. And that choice makes all the difference in fun. And it would still work from a story point of view too - Ciss can control her fire, but that's all she can do. She can't vary it, she can't change the nature of it, ect. That's why Zilla still has the power in their relationship - Zilla can improve Ciss' abilities and make them stronger/more useful. The dynamic would still work (with a little tweaking).

Sometimes you need to sit down and look at your game and say 'okay, I really do like this, I do, but it's not working so I need to be flexible'. If you can find a way to eliminate the major problem in this system - the AI and randomness of the shots (as well as items, honestly, they're practically useless) - then you'd be golden, but if you can't maybe you need to think about changing it up altogether, even if you have to edit the story a little.
author=Liberty
Um, no. Lack of tutorial isn't the issue. At all. The ISSUE is that it forces the player to rely on random variables and enemy AI. You are subject to the whims of those two things and can do nothing to counteract them. That whole video was two fights. One I got through easily enough. Good, that was a good example of the battle, but that other fight was just bad game design. The fact that the player had to respond to randomness, yeah, okay, that's not a bad idea but it forced the player to only respond to it and have no way to counter-act it when the AI changed it's patter mid-battle, OR dodged your attacks.

I know what you're talking about, yes, there is an issue with randomness which we are planning to work on. Personally for me it wan't such a big one and I could still enjoy the battles for what they were, but I'm one of the few, it seems. Perhaps that's why having more playtesters is mandatory.

author=Liberty
See, the AI on the other fights allowed the enemy to walk into attacks but for that one (which I tried three times after that video, off video so that my watchers wouldn't have to suffer through it, and still could not defeat) was fucked up. Seriously. You could not hit him at all. And when you did it was completely by accident, not by plan. That, right there, is bad design.

Again, if played properly that fight isn't hard at all, though I do admit I myself didn't like how long it dragged on for. Either way, we'll figure that out, too.

author=Liberty
Like I said, if you'd actually swapped the tables and made Zilla be the one to lay down the random skills instead, it would have been so much better, because you, as the player, could choose to use those skills... or not. And that choice makes all the difference in fun. And it would still work from a story point of view too - Ciss can control her fire, but that's all she can do. She can't vary it, she can't change the nature of it, ect. That's why Zilla still has the power in their relationship - Zilla can improve Ciss' abilities and make them stronger/more useful. The dynamic would still work (with a little tweaking).

That'd mean a major change in the plot and the heroines' relationship, actually. Idk, I can't speak for the whole team here, maybe we could discuss that, but I myself don't think it's a good idea. Sorry.

author=Liberty
Sometimes you need to sit down and look at your game and say 'okay, I really do like this, I do, but it's not working so I need to be flexible'. If you can find a way to eliminate the major problem in this system - the AI and randomness of the shots (as well as items, honestly, they're practically useless) - then you'd be golden, but if you can't maybe you need to think about changing it up altogether, even if you have to edit the story a little.

We do have a lot of points to keep in mind and are working on them — well, NeverSilent that is, so far we're just helping him out. Keep in mind that I did not have any real part in designing the gameplay so when it comes to that I'm just another player with his own opinion, like anyone else. And while I disagree with you on a number of points, I appreciate the honesty. Thanks again for the feedback.
You are the creator. You KNOW what is effective, what best to do in any situation. Good for you. Players don't know that. They have to do what they can. I played as I was taught - reflect shit back at the enemy. Every single time I did so, the enemy dodged as though he were the dodgeball World Champ. Like, seriously. I have no idea what else I could have done to win that fight - I tried four times total before rage quitting. That is a problem, a big one.

Like I said, the story is interesting. I thought the characters were also rather interesting. But the fact I couldn't progress is a major issue, even after fighting the same battle four times. I'm not sure I pointed it out in the review video (I did the first time I played it, but the sound was lost for that version) but even if a player fails a fight once, they should have learned from it how to proceed on their next try. There was nothing I could do for that battle in order to progress - I learned three things:
- He dodges all attacks.
- He hides behind some rock things.
- At half health he attacks in rows.

I cannot change my way of attacking to compete against that. I cannot use my bouncing shit back because he dodged it. It was completely reliant on luck whether he got hit or not and that is bad, bad, bad.
The rocks were fine. Great. He used cover. Awesome. The only good thing that switched up the normal style of a battle.
I cannot control Ciss at all so I cannot stop her from running into his spread attacks (or her own. Ugh.)

All I have control over is where I place the reflectors and which kind of 'stance' Ciss uses. And that did not help at all. Her stances don't DO anything to help with the battle.
One makes her attack stronger. Yeah, great, if her attacks would hit.
One makes her try to heal more - except she didn't. She kept moving out of the way of healing.
One makes her dodge attacks. Except she didn't do so enough to keep her alive.

As to the reflectors - again, they did sweet fuck all. Every attack I sent his way was dodged. Every heal I sent her way, even when she had the heal stance, was dodged. It was ridiculous.

It's a pity, because, as I said before, the idea is good. In practice, though? Not so much.
NeverSilent
Got any Dexreth amulets?
6064
Even though the boss fight is objectively winnable, I mostly agree with you, Liberty. While I watched this video and saw again how unreasonably much the curent combat relies on randomness, and how the enemy was evading everything you threw at him, I kept asking myself "what was I thinking when I designed it that way?" It doesn't really matter any more whether or not the fight is technically winnable and whether or not some describe it as "impossible" and others merely as "challenging" - it simply was not enjoyable. And that's not the kind of gameplay I want to make.

Even though not all of your assumptions about the way the game works are completely accurate, there is no reason for me to not take your feedback seriously and at least try and improve stuff accordingly. Because right now, just like you, I'm simply not happy with how the gameplay turned out. Which is what I'm working on fixing right now.
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