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

Burdened By Sin

Past misdeeds reveal themselves.

Much like the innumerable secrets of the Well of Khalaza do as you traverse its poisonous miasma and delve deep into its many labyrinthine realms. Seeking great treasures but usually encountering great dangers. Or trolls who like to throw their faeces at you. That was arguably the most unpleasant realm of them all. Being shrouded in suffocating miasma is expected, but being plastered in poop isn’t. Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a delightfully enjoyable dungeon crawler in which you explore a mysterious well with a brigade of puppets and a curious book.

A curious book with a soul.

Where that soul came from and how it ended up in a book is eventually explained. But what’s important is that we’re exploring myriad dungeons. True adventuring spirit needs no form of exposition whatsoever, as we’d only ignore those directions and stumble upon mysteries of our own.

I hadn’t anticipated that there would be so many mysteries to uncover, but that’s how Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk creates such an enrapturing adventure. There’s always something new to discover or a new challenge to overcome. There are few things that I enjoy more than encountering a boss that feels insurmountable only to eventually defeat it, either by utilising different Pacts or employing different Facets. Pacts are interesting as you don’t typically have any that represent traditional archetypes, as most are thematic, and grant a handful of abilities, but rarely feel truly powerful. I’ve mostly made my decisions based on how many puppets they allow me to use and how they fit into my current formation. You could have up to fifteen active puppets were you to use five three puppet Pacts.

It did become tiresome relying on certain Pacts to defeat certain bosses, though. The majority of these bosses were optional, and all required powerful puppets, so you’d need to invest heavily in the Soul Transfer mechanics to be able fight them, but it wasn’t fun having my progress halted due to an arbitrary requirement. I don’t know if it’s even possible to defeat them without those Pacts. I don’t think that you could, as they usually deal ridiculous damage to the entire brigade on the first turn and it’s unlikely that you’d be able to recover on subsequent turns.

It’s a fairly trivial criticism.

And I don’t have any other issues with the combat (or character development) mechanics, but it does considerably diminish your efforts when you simply can’t fight something. Especially when spending hours grinding through Soul Transfer mechanics is a significant part of the experience.

It is, as a whole, a uniquely bizarre dungeon crawler that has engaging exploration mechanics, but does require the aforementioned hours of grinding to experience all of the content. Which doesn’t necessarily bother me. And it might not be required should you ignore the optional bosses, whereby Soul Transfer might never be used, especially if you’ve not altered the difficulty level via Witch Petitions. Not that I regret raising the difficulty level. It’s an actual challenge and (the majority of) bosses are a threat, which resulted in utilising numerous mechanics just to survive encounters. For those reasons, I highly recommend Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk to those who enjoy dungeon crawlers and/or JRPGs. It’s an unconventional but incredibly satisfying dungeon crawling adventure.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Wading Through Miasma

Where no puppet has gone before.

We’ve ventured through a vast underground expanse, a whimsical kingdom of wonder, the ruins of a civilisation with an absurd troll infestation, and a wondrous garden teeming with giant insects while exploring this bizarre dimension and we’ve got more to discover yet. I’m still not sure where we’re supposed to be going, though. Or why we’re supposed to be going there. But that’s a trivial concern. Objectives are for those who don’t have a true adventuring spirit, and would prefer to follow quest markers to their destinations rather than wandering aimlessly for hours.

I don’t need to be told where to go next.

I wouldn’t go there anyway. I’d break through a wall and discover hordes of dangerous slimes who halt my progression, only to find an alternative route (avoiding the slimes) by falling down several floors, and then encounter poisonous miasma that I can’t walk through without taking damage.

Making the entire expedition (mostly) pointless. But then I’d return, able to traverse the poisonous miasma unharmed, and with significantly stronger puppets, only to be slapped senseless by an incredibly aggressive fish. And then I’d do the same elsewhere. But that’s what makes the exploration in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk so exciting. You’re given vague hints about your next objective and where you should go to complete it, but you’re encouraged to thoroughly explore each floor and to discover your own pursuits. Including, but not limited, to: defeating optional bosses, searching for keys, opening countless chests with those keys, solving puzzling events, breaking through walls (or falling down holes) to uncover secrets, stumbling upon new realms, or simply trying to uncover the entire map.

I didn’t listen to their warning…

There are surprisingly comprehensive and meaningful character development mechanics, too. Each puppet is assigned a Facet (its character class), a Nature (which defines its base statistics), and a Growth style (which affects the statistics gained each level) at creation. You can alter its growth at any time, but other aspects of its creation are fixed. However, through Soul Transfer, you can rebuild every aspect of a puppet by reverting it to Lvl 1, with its accumulated experience heightening its Soul Clarity. Resulting in a far stronger puppet with each reincarnation cycle.

It’s a complex but satisfying process.

One that could result in ridiculously powerful puppets if I understand the mechanics correctly. I’m not sure how much they retain of their prior incarnations, besides chosen skills, or how greatly Soul Clarity affects their growth, but my recent attempts have yielded favourable results.

Party-based dungeon crawlers can be fairly bland if the character development mechanics are unexciting, but Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk has surprising depth to its party management and allows you to build a roster of characters to be utilised with specialised Pacts. I’ve only seen something similar with Infinite Adventures. But the party compositions are much more interesting here, and encourage the creation (and use) of numerous characters with different Facets. Conversely, the individual Facets are less interesting (and varied) than the character classes in Infinite Adventures. They’re more reliant on being paired with other puppets and being stronger together. But both have presented interesting concepts for those who enjoy party-based grid-movement dungeon crawling experiences.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Amorphous Experiences

Exploration is at the heart of every great adventure.

Whether you’re exploring the irradiated ruins of post-apocalyptic societies, the vast expanse of space, or the vibrancy of ancient Greece there’s always something new to see or do. I seem to be drawn to these experiences nowadays. I don’t really know why, though. Whether it was a conscious decision wrought from previous experience, such as the hours spent scavenging the desolate landscape of the Capital Wasteland, or whether it was the various MMORPGs that encouraged me, is hard to say. But it’s been an interesting transition from the countless JRPGs of my formative years.

Not that I’ve abandoned JRPGs entirely.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom were both excellent JRPGs. I’ve just decided to invest hundreds of hours into the most recent releases of the Assassin’s Creed series, too. Mostly because of those pesky question marks. Oh, how they haunt me.

Prior to Assassin’s Creed: Origins I’d never experienced anything from the Assassin’s Creed series. While that entry (and those that follow it) are considered the black sheep of the Assassin’s Creed family, I found myself wholly absorbed by the sheer breadth of content available. It’s an incredibly competent RPG with an enthralling main campaign story. I feel the same way about Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, too. Not that I’m anywhere near finishing its main campaign. It’s like a towering chocolate gateaux, where each layer of sponge is a new task to complete and each chocolate curl playfully dusted atop its peaks is a new mechanic. While it may be incredibly alluring- and undoubtedly satisfying- it is best consumed in smaller portions. It would be unwise to attempt to eat a chocolate gateaux of such magnitude in one sitting.

Some doors are better left closed.

Not that I’m complaining. I couldn’t be happier with these purchases, not only have they exceeded every prior expectation but they exhibit complexity often woefully absent from modern RPGs. Divinity: Original Sin has similar immensity, as does its sequel, Divinity: Original Sin 2, both featuring noteworthy character development mechanics. I’d always considered statistical development to be the staple of any RPG but I’ve found many RPGs to be sorely lacking. Offering no attributes (or abilities) to invest in, or affording insignificant progression for doing so.

Which is why the release of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has inspired me.

The original release, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, is an outstanding RPG, and one that I’d like to revisit. Naturally, the remaster would (arguably) be the best way to do this. But I’ve still got a handful of achievements to unlock in the original release, and I’d like to attempt to unlock those first.

As a result, I’ll (eventually) have two character builds. I’m considering a Finesse/Sorcery hybrid build for the original release, while I’ll probably settle on a Might build for the remaster. I’ve not actually done one of those before. I’ve built a Might/Sorcery hybrid before but never solely Might. I’ll be focusing on various quests in the original release, as many of the achievements I’ve yet to unlock are related to certain quest lines. While I’m greatly interested in the post-release DLC, Fatesworn, in the remaster, as that promises new content. I’ve been intending to revisit Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for some time, but much like Dark Souls or Fallout 3, which I’d also like to revisit, I’ve not set aside the time to do it. I’m always busy with something else. But I’m going to try to make time for these (and my creative pursuits) in the future.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie