Klint Kingdom Mysteries

Synthesis for the devil.

Alchemy was the foundation of the Klint Kingdom, but it was tainted by the ambition of man and twisted into a perverse practice. One later redeemed by the exploits of Reisalin Stout, affectionately known as Ryza, and her friends, as they utilised alchemical formulae to better the world around them. Solving problems through synthesis, helping the hopeless, and firing letters out of a literal cannon. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is an enrapturing narrative-driven JRPG featuring gathering, synthesising, duplicating, and feeding a Puni for reasons unknown.

Who knows what it may bring home.

I’m assuming that it delivers randomly generated raw materials, and that what you feed it, or how it develops, determines those materials. It could be the source of raw materials that are unobtainable elsewhere, or it could exist solely for its comedic value, or it could be source of Gems.

One that doesn’t require the continued deforestation of Limewick Hill. But, to be fair, those trees were unnatural, and not meant for mortal beings. One tree shouldn’t produce that many raw materials. Discovering it was a considerable boon, though. I was finally able to make use of the Multiplicauldron, thus bypassing the repeated synthesis of refined materials, and exponentially hastening my progress towards optional bosses, while satiating my desire to collect and organise things. I was slightly disappointed that the fifth great element, that of shadow, was unavailable until after the main campaign. And that, as a result, having synthesised everything that an alchemist could synthesise, it was barely a challenge. But, by defeating it, I could finally face the secret boss, which proved to be a challenge on Charismatic difficulty.

I’ve greatly enjoyed the time spent with Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, though. Even if I did tire of the Multiplicauldron towards the end of the main campaign. It’s a useful mechanic- and an appreciated one- but it’s a mundane process. Reduce raw materials into Gems, use those Gems, and then repeat. I was, however, impressed by how this instalment blended familiar mechanics with the usual modern conveniences. Not by cheapening the experience, but by making it accessible while retaining the complexity and extensiveness of its mechanics.

It was a rather refreshing experience.

Which is what I’d hoped that the Atelier series would be as a whole. Something different, but something satisfying. Something that I could enjoy for the countless hours spent synthesising recipes in the confines of an Atelier. And that’s exactly how I’ve felt with this particular instalment.

Throughout the main campaign I enjoyed watching each character develop independently, discovering their own goals and ambitions, and appreciated how each character had their own quests, which furthered their proficiency in combat. It was fun focusing on alchemical pursuits with Ryza and Empel, but then having to focus on defeating strong opposition with Lent and Lila. It was a rather prominent theme in the story, too. Which tied everything together quite nicely. I’m now wondering how they’re going to build on that in the sequel, and if we’ll see the same characters returning or an entirely new party. Or some characters returning and some new ones. Either way, I’d highly recommend Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout to those fans of JRPGs looking for something different but satisfying.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Rasen Pudding Pioneer

A delightfully delicious magical treat.

Synthesised from only the highest quality ingredients, which are freshly gathered every day and simmered over a medium heat in an alchemy cauldron for the perfect texture. Don’t forget to try our Kurken Island variant, too. Produced from locally sourced fresh milk, sugar, and most likely some kind of gelatin. Of the many things that I’ve synthesised- massive two-handed swords, billowing capes of mystical fabric, rings of untapped potential- the Rasen Pudding is arguably the greatest. It heals, it buffs, it jiggles, and it never depletes when paired with a Core Crystal.

Core Charges are now pudding servings.

Given his predilection for sweet things, I’m certain that Empel would agree that this is an acceptable use of this mysterious Klint Kingdom relic. Rather than using it to inflict elemental damage via bombs, remove status ailments, revive characters who’ve been knocked out, and so on.

We could do both, though. Not that I’ve been particularly diligent when synthesising consumables and combustibles, but I’m still learning how best to utilise raw materials and where best to use them. I’ve barely touched the weapon enhancement mechanics, Weapon Buff and Weapon Forging, but I don’t want to waste Gems on weapons that I’m likely to replace fairly quickly. I’ve explored the Gathering Synthesiser but once to retrieve a single raw material. And don’t even ask about the Multiplicauldron. I’ve only duplicated items that won’t yield much alchemy experience, as I’d rather synthesise from raw ingredients to unlock new recipes and further enhance Ryza’s alchemical talent. Not that the complexity and extensiveness of these mechanics isn’t appreciated, but they can be slightly overwhelming for entirely new players.

This is going to hurt…

Which, regarding the Atelier series, I am, as Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is the first of this series that I’ve played. I’ve previously purchased an entry in the Arland, Dusk, and Mysterious subseries. But I felt that the most recent release would be the most accessible, and would allow me to grow accustomed to the progression and mechanics of the series as a whole. And it certainly is accessible. But the mechanics exhibit unexpected complexity, which I couldn’t be happier about but know will result in hours of synthesising components in pursuit of perfection.

Or a really neat two-handed sword.

The Atelier series doesn’t conform to what you’d typically expect from a JRPG, either. Defeating enemies and grinding for experience isn’t as significant as synthesising powerful equipment, while progression through the main campaign is often narrative-driven and somewhat linear.

This is, of course, from my experiences with Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, which have been pleasant but might not necessarily be indicative of the series as a whole. But I’ve been fascinated by how engaging the alchemy mechanics have been, and how satisfying synthesising is. Exploration has depth and requires the use of different Gathering Tools, gathering is kept fresh and interesting by utilising those in new areas, morphing affords unprecedented flexibility and results in new recipes, items can be rebuilt to enhance their effects or traits, and everything feels as if it has its own purpose. Nothing feels disjointed or unintuitive. Adventuring has never been as wholesome or as fulfilling, and I can’t wait to see what mysteries we’ll unravel as we continue to explore ancient Klint Kingdom ruins.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Repeatedly Running Away

Evading the cold embrace of death.

Monster Hunter World is a contradictory collection of enjoyable and frustrating mechanics. I’m going to write a more comprehensive post once I’ve completed the main story, but now that I’ve ascended to the glory that is High Rank I thought I’d share my initial reactions. To be fair, I’ve probably seen the majority of the mechanics now. I’ve also seen some hilarious yet devastating monster behaviour. Like the Tzitzi-Ya-Ku who decided to run to several different locations on the map only to arrive and immediately run to another.

That was an expedition that didn’t go as planned.

Thankfully it was just an expedition, so I didn’t exactly lose anything other than the time invested and a few consumables. I’m rather fond of that particular mechanic, though. I like the fact that the monsters will eventually leave a location rather than wait patiently for their inevitable death. It gives both expeditions and investigations a reason to exist when gathering resources.

That said, I’ve encountered few mechanics which frustrate me more than the main story quests. They seem to be specifically designed for a full group of hunters, but they don’t provide any NPC support if you’re doing the quest alone. Not that the quests are actually that difficult. But they also seem to progress even if you don’t complete the currently required objectives. So you’re either being pushed through several objectives so quickly that you can’t tell what’s going on, or you’re frantically running back and forth trying to load every cannon you can see. It feels as though there should be at least a few NPCs helping you. Especially when the consequences of failure are so catastrophic, and yet you’re literally the only hunter trying to do anything about it.

Only one of these hunters will actually attempt to stop Zorah Magdaros.

Oddly every other quest works as you would expect it should. The assigned quests (not involving Zorah Magdaros) all have introductory encounters, the optional quests are varied and numerous, investigations are an excellent source of everything, and expeditions basically allow you to roam the world freely. In many ways the diversity of the quests really help to bring this entire experience together. It’s also refreshing that the developers acknowledged that you’ll be doing an immense amount of grinding and have provided investigations to allow you do just that.

It’s a much better solution than simply repeating story quests.

The crafting mechanics are quite refreshing, too. Not only can you mark pieces of equipment that you want to craft and you’ll be notified when you have the resources, but being able to craft items automatically removes so much repetition. It’s even better that you’re in control of what should be crafted automatically. These are simple but appreciated considerations.

The inventory management mechanics are so intuitive that I wish every JRPG, RPG, and MMORPG had them. Being able to allocate a set of items to a loadout and then simply refill that loadout after a quest saves so much time. You can even tailor those loadouts to different types of quests. There are so many minor but incredibly clever alterations to conventional mechanics. I was sceptical about Monster Hunter World, but I’ve greatly enjoyed my time with it and now that I’ve reached High Rank I’ve got new opportunities to take advantage of. On the other hand, this is where the intense grinding begins so maybe this is where it will start to wear on me. Either way it’s easily worth the price of admission and quite fun, too!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

To Hunt Many Monsters

How else would I make equipment from their remains if I don’t hunt them?

It would seem that some of them would like nothing more than to live in peace, though. They’re quite happy eating at their patch of grass until I come along with a sword and take their body parts. Maybe I’m the real monster. Maybe that’s why they keep sending me out on these quests. I don’t really know. All I do know is that I have a pretty cool sword carved from monster bones, armour crafted from scales and fur, and I’ve finally bought something new-ish for my PS Vita. Well, it’s new to me. I’ve not played Monster Hunter before.

But I might be playing Monster Hunter World as a result.

The Monster Hunter series brings together an interesting albeit clunky set of mechanics. I’m not sure how much Monster Hunter Freedom differs from the original, but I believe it’s a PSP remake of Monster Hunter G. I have no idea what has changed (if anything) and how much it has changed. It’s surprisingly content dense, though. Which is always a good thing for portable titles.

Not that I’ve tried yet but I’m assuming that online functionality will mostly be non-existent now. I don’t know if that changes anything. I get the feeling that the introductory tutorials implied that taking on the toughest monsters is something best done with friends. Then again, it’s not like I’d listen to that advice as I’d still try to fight them. It’s part of the fun. I’d be slightly disappointed to find out that it is literally impossible to fight certain monsters alone. But I guess I’ll find out when I get there. I don’t think it would make too much of a difference, either. Besides missing out on a potentially epic fight or losing the ability to craft certain armour. Or certain weapons. Which may not be that valuable outside of certain encounters anyway.

Monster Hunter Freedom continues the older video game design trend of not really telling you too much about anything. I have several statistics on weapons or armour sets that I don’t fully understand the importance of. If there even is any. I don’t even know what my defensive statistics mean. I’m just assuming that higher numbers are better. But whether those numbers represent a damage reduction percentage, a flat number that translates into a percentage at different Hunter Ranks, or a flat reduction of incoming damage is anyone’s guess

Which is a shame as I love statistics.

I just wish I knew what these ones meant. It is an interesting series, though. I do enjoy how each weapon or armour set has a particular strength and weakness, and how wielding each weapon class feels different to emphasise different ways to approach the same problem. Preparing for hunts is also a vital step in taking down certain monsters. Which is a nice touch.

You really do feel like a monster hunter. You study the monsters, learn their weaknesses, prepare potions and tonics, and can even use that knowledge to capture the monster rather than slay it. There is a certain amount of repetition as you’ll need to grind with certain quests to be able to fully craft armour sets. Or buy a Whetstone for the thousandth time. But, again, these are older video game design trends. I don’t really have a point with this post, either. I just wanted to talk about a rather interesting time I’ve had recently looking at a series I’ve not played before. I’m quite excited for Monster Hunter World but I’m still deciding whether it’s really for me. It does look like it brings together these clunky mechanics in a more cohesive fashion. Which would be great.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Ember

Awaken once more to a world in peril.

Ember is an impressive fantasy RPG in which, you, the last of the Lightbringers, must unite the three races and reawaken your dormant abilities. You were a great hero who was killed in a war many years ago, but have since been resurrected by a secretive order who believe you are the last hope for the world of Domus. You’ll need to learn much of the world, of who you were, and of the Embers. You won’t be alone, though. There are three others who will offer their services on the journey ahead. Each with their own area of expertise.

Character creation is incredibly fluid in Ember. The Lightbringer begins with balanced attributes and no particular specialisation, with each level offering the opportunity to spend two points in any of the four attributes you feel are most appropriate. Party members have their own classes which loosely define their roles, and their attribute points can be automatically invested.

Or you can decide how best to develop each character.

Active and passive abilities are all tied to the equipment the characters are wearing. There are three possible active abilities and two possible passive abilities per character, with each piece of equipment providing something from a different pool of abilities. For instance, ranged weapons will always sample from a pool of abilities exclusive to that item class. You won’t find the same abilities on armour. In this way, you can create diverse character builds. I built my Lightbringer around heavy two-handed weapon damage with healing, while Coren, the Warrior, held the line with high health and several crowd control abilities. Later in the story you’ll even be able to buy these abilities via Runes which can be freely attached to your equipment.

There be bears in this here forest.

Ember also features myriad of crafting systems. Crafted equipment is generally superior to everything else (of an equivalent level) available anywhere else, while brewed potions are also surprisingly useful. Cooked food is often completely superior to potions in the earlier areas, too. It’s a really satisfying crafting system. It’s quite simple, it’s easy to manage, and the only drawback is that it’s quite confusing figuring out how you craft items until you reach the Farmlands. As that is the first place (that I’m aware of) that sells patterns and molds.

There are a range of quests to undertake, too. Everything from exploring dusty caves, to visiting cities, to hunting down villainous curs. Exploration is encouraged as there are many side quests, random events, and hidden treasures to discover. I was impressed by how freely I could explore the world around me from the moment I left the starting area.

I was equally as impressed by the number of things that could kill me.

It’s refreshing to be allowed to explore without restriction in the earlier areas. I was expecting to be linearly pushed through a series of quests towards a particular location, then allowed to explore the rest of the areas I’ve passed through at a later date. Instead I’ve been lost in a forest for two hours collecting equipment, fighting enemies, and exploring various locations. Most appealing of all is that I can actually be killed. What makes this even better is that even at full price it’s only £6.99 on Steam. That’s an absolutely insane price for something that seems to be making good on its promise of a lengthy campaign, a gorgeous world to explore, and unrestricted adventure abound for newly resurrected Lightbringers.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie