Copyright Adam Schlosser
Contact:
aschloss@gmail.com


Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser


Posted by Pip

F351- Insert Coffee Module

You can't get Builder with the same trick twice!
And Gluttony has the right idea. That dude is glowing from the face so you're on your own, Envy!


Quick Critique: Dragon Quest 8 (3DS)

Re-release or not, Dragon Quest maintains its position as a C-tier RPG. Dragon Quest just... exists. It's not awful but it's not great or exciting by any means. It's harmless. It's a game you play while doing something else, like watching TV, surfing the Internet, or listening to a podcast. I spent most of the early parts rewatching It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and that seemed to work out pretty well. I never played the original version of the game, so if anything I mention is a new feature or spoilerish, sorry?
DQ 8 has terrible pacing. The first task is to talk to everybody in a town followed by constant running back and forth between people or places. The whole game suffers from a lack of motivation. You're just kind of wandering around trying to find a vaguely defined bad guy, who then gets away, and you have to meander around until your paths cross again. The time in-between is usually spent doing filler quests that typically involve helping royalty. And royalty in the game is constantly corrupt or incompetent but it treats saving them with the utmost importance. Almost all the interesting stuff in DQ8 happens before the game and is rushed over in flashbacks rather than being something you experience.
The game couples its lack of purpose with a terrible sense of direction where it doesn't guide you to what to do next or where to go. Without direction or even an indication of why you're on this journey, you wander around until you stumble upon the next thing that drives the plot forward. There are multiple points where your guidance is simply "go west" or "it might be somewhere in the east". There are a lot of things "west" so some more information would have been helpful. Sometimes you have to talk to people in a specific order or else you can't advance, so it leads to a lot of time wasted running in circles repeatedly talking to townspeople I didn't want to talk to in the first place. When it does give you directions, even those are usually horrible. One person told me my objective was on a hill upstream, but in reality, I had to go down to a beach and follow it downstream to get to the hill. Or your objective might only be available at a certain time of day, so if you don't set out at the right time, dusk will come causing your magical bird shadow to disappear with the damned objective in sight and you trudge back to town, rest up, and do the whole follow task a second time.
Story issues aside, it just doesn't play well. The camera is in too tight and can't handle close quarters (like most of the caves and dungeons!) or slopes so it zooms in even more and your character's head takes up most of the screen. The walking speed is slow, and your ship is even worse so you quickly learn to just take the mainline path and not bother exploring (thank you, over a decade of people posting maps and FAQs!). You get a mount 20 hours into the game, but it can travel faster than the game can handle the pop-in, so enemies will spawn inside you. The text is super blurry. Like, my eyes start to hurt if I play this for long periods of time kinds of blurry. It shows its age in how grindy it is with the costs of items and experience it takes to level up versus what enemies actually pay out. It has a crafting system so I was always afraid of selling my previous equipment in case I'd need it for a recipe later in the game, which meant I could never sell it back to make some money back and speed up the process. Bosses spam status effects, making beating them luck-based and there are bosses that can cast instant death spells on your entire party. When I died, it didn't feel like it was my fault because my party was usually confused, asleep, cursed, and/or paralyzed at their time of death, but then when I beat bosses, it didn't feel satisfying because I won due to the RNG just working for me that time. There are DLC downloads that grant you... crap once a day? The first day gave out an item that was good against Metal Slimes, but by the time I actually met Metal Slimes, I had an ability that was more effective anyway. I never got anything decent out of the downloads again so I'm not entirely sure what its purpose is.
One of the side quests is a series of monster battles, but you can't control the characters so you have to rely on the AI. And the AI is braindead. It will sit there with near full magic and let its entire team die without using a healing spell. Every time you make an attempt at the series of three battles, you have to sit through overly long and repeated dialogue scenes that you can't skip through, because even if you skip the dialogue, you still have to wait for camera pans or character animations to play out before you can advance. It doesn't take any skill, you just need to be there to mash on the Fight button over and over until the battle progresses and a random number generator decides to work in your favor.
The best thing I can say about DQ8 is that it has a really fun skill tree. It doesn't actually tell you what the abilities do and you don't know which weapon to spec towards because of that, but after looking up an FAQ and making my decisions based on that, I really looked forward to the skill points I got from leveling up more than the actual stats I got. I beat the final boss and post-game extra boss by throwing an old man at them as the final blow with an ability I learned from the skill tree. So, thanks, skill trees! Also, the game has a sexy pirate lady that joins your team and that is a wonderful combination of three words. There's a quick save that's pretty handy for a handheld game. Given everything else the game does poorly, that seems worth calling out as a plus. You can see the monsters on the map, but that's not as helpful as it sounds because dungeons are cramped and monsters are faster than you so there's frequently not much you can do when you see one in your path. If you pause the game and go to a settings menu that replaces the regular game screen, the game will unload all the monsters on the map and then reload them when you close the menu. You can use this to scum your way around some monsters blocking your path. The monsters also only appear when you're on land, so during the tedious and slow sailing segments, you still run into random battles.
It took me about 50 hours to complete the main game and major sidequests, but they weren't 50 enjoyable hours. It really felt like it could have been 10, at most 20, hours long for how little non-grinding, non-backtracking, non-aimless wandering content there actually was. I would have much rather played the 10 hour version of Dragon Quest 8.

The game also has a really scummy treatment of the lead female characters. Jessica is little more than eye candy. My introduction to her was in Dragon Quest Heroes where she has a big personality so it was jarring to now play this game and she's barely more than just T&A. She rarely says or does anything of her own will after she joins your party. And the Akira Toriyama art style does nooot do T&A well. Her forehead is ginormous and she has the worst outfits, so she doesn't come across as sexy, she comes across as the game being sleazy. The princess is treated like a prize or an item rather than a character, with your final acts in the game having you decide which woman to marry but none of them really seem to have a reason to want to marry the main character. It's like one of those "Mario/Link saves the princess and all he gets is a kiss. She owes him!" discussions but somebody actually had the terrible sense to put it canonically in the game. The initial driving force of the story is that the princess is turned into a horse by evil bad guy magic. The princess may have been transformed but she still has her mind and you don't actually have to treat her like a horse! There's a character in the game that tries to ride her and the game treats that as a "he's such a jerk!" moment, but the difference is that he doesn't know she's more than just a horse. You KNOW she's a cursed human being and you treat her like a horse anyway. You're way worse than that guy. And later in the game, you find a magic spring that can turn her human for a brief period of time, but the story and game won't let her drink from the spring without your permission. There's actually a prompt to "Let her" drink and return to being human. Why is that this nameless, personality-less jerk's decision to make? The silent, bland as beige hero wound up being the character I hated the most. Sure there's an evil dog that goes around murdering old women, but I was kind of hoping for the horse princess to kick the hero in the head so I could play as somebody else.



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