Category Archives: RPGs

The lengthy grind for an urn without a name

nameless urn suikoden blog

I find it both bizarre and amusing that Suikoden gives the player two extremely similar recruit requirements at nearly the exact time in the plot, and both ask that a specific creature be killed in hopes that it drops a certain item. Nothing too out of the ordinary in a JRPG. However, from what I can gather, the drop rates for both of these monsters range dramatically from one player to another, and some people find the item after the first battle and others, like me, end up grinding for two hours just to see its name pop up. As the Brits say, that’s a bunch of bollocks.

Okay, details. The first side recruit involves killing Nightmares, which are floating casino-card like enemies, in the Soniere Prison; one will eventually leave behind an opal, which you can then give to Esmeralda to get her to sign up with the Liberation Army. The second recruit quest has you murdering Holly Fairies for a nameless urn, which will most likely stump even Jabba, a wizened appraiser from Rikon. The objective couldn’t be clearer: kill X until X drops Y. The problem is, there is no way to tell when you’ll see that item. Might be within minutes, hours, or–the horror!–days.

In fact, I had almost left Soniere Prison entirely and started that really tough Gremio scene, but I purposefully back-tracked for a bit to get into a few more fights starring Nightmares. I would wager it only took four or five more rounds until an opal hit my inventory, so that was nice and had me thinking optimistic thoughts about future grinding quests even though I knew what story beat was coming, but hey, at least I didn’t have to grind for two hours first.

So after gathering up a few more recruits for Castle Castle, I double-checked my list to see who I could still get on the non-Imperial side before serving Milich his just desserts, and I noticed that Jabba the appraiser was still calling Rikon home. So off I went, to grind outside on the world map for a bit, searching for that nameless urn. I skipped all battles not involving Holly Fairies and, given how well the opal hunt went, figured I’d maybe spend fifteen minutes at most doing this before getting the urn and moving on with the game. Nope. I grinded Holly Fairy fight after Holly Fairy fight for at least an hour and a half, having to even mute the game’s sound and listen to a podcast so that I didn’t lose my mind. Eventually, I gave up for the night. Upon returning to Suikoden in the morning, it took another thirty minutes or so of fighting the same fights before those magical words appeared on screen: Obtained Nameless urn. My heart swelled, I shoved it right under Jabba’s whiskery nose, and saved my game twice because I was so ecstatic and distracted that I immediately forgot if I had saved or not after just choosing to save. Oh man.

I don’t remember if there are any further “grind for item” quests in Suikoden, but I certainly hope not. Two hours is much too long to devote to such a mundane and trivial quest. My logged playtime is now in the twelve-hour range, and I think this is one of those early JRPGs that you can probably complete in under twenty hours. We’ll see. I am a bit obsessive about getting all 108 Stars of Destiny, no matter what it takes. If any good came out of this, it’s that Pauly McDohl got mega-rich and sharpened all his friends’ weapons, and it wasn’t even any of their birthdays. What a nice, army-raising boy he is…

Suikoden’s rock, paper, scissors take on war

Blog Suikoden Army Battle

All right, I know I teased you last time I covered Suikoden about forthcoming elves and kobolds, so let’s get right to it–I met some elves and kobolds.

After a mighty banquet and stealth ninja assassination attempt (how rude!), Pauly McDohl and his friends tried to leave Castle Castle in hopes of pursuing new recruits, but stumbled upon an elf, exhausted and drenched, right on their front doorstep. Evidently he was so desperate to speak with Lady Odessa that he swam all the way over. Hmm, well, Kirkis, we have some bad news for you, as does he for all of us. The pointy-eared fella who could probably pass for a rebellious teenager from Lothlorien based on his ginger hair says that the Great Imperial General Kwanda Rosman is planning to exterminate all the elves.

Well, we simply can’t allow that, and so the gang is off, first through the woods, which are unnavigable without Kirkis’ help, then through an empty kobold village, and off to visit the mighty elves, who live high up in the trees and just think the snootiest of thoughts when it comes to humans. Long story short, things go awry, and the gang is tossed into jail, though Kirkis’ girlfriend helps set everyone free shortly after. We then visit the home of the dwarves, where we learn that Kwanda Rosman was able to build a Burning Mirror after stealing the blueprint from one of their mines. The dwarven leader doesn’t believe this, so he tasks us with stealing something to prove such a feat is possible. I won’t go into more detail there as it is a pretty straightforward dungeon crawl, though I must comment on the “telephone puzzle” to open the boss door, another nugget of strangeness I forgot over time.

Upon returning to the village of the elves, we find it burnt to the ground. We were too late, and now Kwanda Rosman must pay, taking us into Suikoden‘s first large-scale army battle, which, much like the castle and 108 Stars of Destiny, is to become a trademark of the series. In these, it’s all about scope, with your army of tiny pixelated soldiers versus another, and the army count actually does reflect the number of people you’ve recruited, so even if Onil and Krin serve little purpose once in your castle, they at least participate in war. Basically, you select from four options: charge, bow, magic, and others. Your opponent is also making a choice, and the outcome is determined in a rocks, paper, scissors fashion that I’m sure Fire Emblem: Awakening could appreciate. Let me break it down:

  • Charge beats bow
  • Magic beats charge
  • Bow beats magic

If both players pick the same attack, the damage is reduced for both, but still accounted for. The “others” option allows thieves to sneak in to the opposing army’s camp and steal gold or get a hint as to what attack they’ll do next. It’s really just a guessing game, and I got creamed on my first two attempts, even ending up losing Eileen. See, for many of the non-vital story-related characters in your army, death can come quite easy during these army battles, and this is permadeath, so you best be careful with who you send out. Since I’m ultimately going for 108 total Stars of Destiny, this was an instant “reload my save” scenario, something I’m usually against. Finally, with a little luck and a good streak of my army casting magic against Kwanda’s charge attack, the fight was over. Now it was time to storm the stronghold.

Once you get through all the random encounters, open all the hidden treasure chests, and take care of that dragon miniboss, which was a bit hard since I still don’t have much in the “heal the entire party” option, you fight Kwanda, one on one. Mano-a-mano. And just like the army battle, it’s a game of choices. Here, let me break it down one more time:

  • Attack (damages opponent, even a little damage through defend)
  • Defend (blocks opponent, counters if against desperate attack)
  • Desperate attack (deals big damage, but can be countered)

Once again, it’s the whole rock, paper, scissors thing, but at least this time, so long as you read the dialogue carefully, your opponent’s attacks are televised. Like, when Kwanda is ready to do a desperate attack, he says something aggressive so you know to hit defend. I beat him on the first try, so it’s a much easier way to fight, going for something more cinematic than strategic. Anyways, because Pauly McDohl has an obsession with recruiting characters, he let Kwanda live and join the Liberation Army since he was clearly acting under a magic rune spell.

I’m hoping to progress further in the game and not need to stop and comment about every single section I encounter. However, when I last played this game, I wasn’t even a writer, just some mopey teenage kid who thought ska was the gratest music ever, that khakis were more comfortable than jeans, and that George Constanza had a way of looking at the world that I totally grokked. Yeaaah. I think, at this point, I’ve seen all the big component parts of Suikoden–if I remember right, that is–so all that should be left is story stuff and more turn-based fights, army battles, and one-on-one combat scenarios. Plus more recruiting. Gotta grow that castle, after all. As soon as the Kwanda stuff was done, I went right back out to grab a few more friends for the fight before seeing what Viktor and the recently returned Flik were talking about. I guess I’ll be back if something strange or interesting pops up and I’m compelled to write about it. Until then.

The great wheel of discovery turns again in Suikoden

suikoden lepant mansion wheel

Let’s see, let’s see. Where did I last leave off with my Suikoden progress?

Oh, right. Pauly McDohl and the gang had had their fill of playing Chinchirorin and were preparing to storm a gloomy castle in the middle of an ocean, one evidently guarded by fog, snails with long necks, and a mighty fire-spewing dragon. Don’t worry. We won, though Pauly and Gremio both fell unconscious during the fight and missed out on a largely sweet EXP boost, now a bit behind everyone else in terms of leveling. And so, with all the monsters cleared out of the castle, every treasure chest opened, and it given a proper name, the real meat of Suikoden can start. I’m talking about recruiting members into the Liberation Army and watching your castle expand as people move on in and call it home.

Before continuing on with the next story section, I immediately headed back out to all the towns I could visit to see who I could instantly recruit to the Liberation Army. Some Stars of Destiny are more eager or easily swayed than others; take for instance Onil, a gossip-monger living in Seika. She’s already heard about Pauly looking for recruits and is ready to go, and I think that’s the extent of Onil’s usefulness, but at least she can be ticked off of Luc’s recruit-tracking stone slabs. Other people you can recruit are more useful gameplay-wise, such as Marie–you remember her, the stuck-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place innkeeper from way back in Gregminster, yes?–who now operates a free inn inside your castle, as well as Sergei who puts in an elevator, which will grow in importance as your castle itself grows in importance. And then there are the fighters you recruit who you can actually add to your party’s formation and see what kind of neat runes they have or special unite attacks, such as Varkas and Sydonia.

After getting all that I could–sorry Lorelai, you’ll have to wait until I’m a higher level–I jumped back on the plot wagon and went to Kouan to speak with Lepant, a wealthy merchant, at Mathiu’s request. This took the gang inside a mansion brimming with robotic enemies, evidently created by Juppo the trickster. Fine, fine. I can fight mimic treasure chests all day long. However, I was once again completely surprised to enter a room featuring Juppo’s masterpiece: a giant roulette wheel of chance, backed by that jaunty, somewhat jarring banjo-lead tune previously heard during, I think, the cups game in Rockland. See above. Anyways, you step on the wheel, it spins you round and round, and you get what you land on. Strangely, there are slices for +10 EXP and -10 EXP, which is an amount so minor that you’d have to land on them five thousand times to really feel any kind of impact. It took me maybe seven or eights go-arounds to land safely on the other side. Again, a strange part of Suikoden that I completely forgot about, but one I have to imagine the developers were excited to see implemented at the time, in a JRPG of all things.

In the room after that, you meet Rock, a man eager to open up a warehouse in your castle. I recruited him as fast as I could hit the button because I’m beginning to struggle with Suikoden‘s old-school take on inventory slots. It’s quite limited, and with Rock’s warehouse, I can now at least store rune pieces, armor, and ? ornaments to my heart’s content until I’ve decided what to do with them. See, each party member can hold nine items, but this includes armor they are wearing, which can take up a maximum of five slots if you have something on from head to toes. I generally try to keep a Medicine 6 on everybody too, which leaves little room for much else, and when you are trying to share equipment with someone but they are full on inventory it can be quite maddening to shuffle things to and fro. It’s definitely an aspect I wish was stronger, but I don’t know if a shared inventory would work either, as sometimes deciding who to carry that Needle or Mega Medicine 3 is a strategic decision for sure.

Right, so, there are some big story moments in Lepant’s mansion. First, you learn that your old Gregminster boss Kraze is in control of Kouan and ends up kidnapping Eileen, Lepant’s wife. Secondly, there is the great return of Pahn, and Pauly McDohl’s previous bodyguard redeems himself, physically placing his body between Kraze and Eileen. Then there is a choice: kill or let Kraze go. All I could do is think of Ted, and so Pauly’s hands ran red that day. Digitally red. Well, no–not really. All that happens is the screen fades to black and you hear a “hitting” sound effect; when the scene comes back up, Kraze is gone, so we’ll never really know what happened there, just like we’ll never know what went down in the Tower of Joy unless Howland Reed decides to stand up and speak. Yup, I’m comparing Suikoden with A Song of Ice and Fire. Pony up.

I never intended for me to be covering my replay of Suikoden in a “let’s play” fashion, but I just keep finding interesting moments to talk about. Again, I haven’t touched this game in over a decade, so there’s a lot I’ve forgotten, as well as many memories tinted by nostalgia. Some of the mechanics are still extremely enjoyable–recruiting dudes–while others I’m finding frustrating–equipping dudes–but I’m glad to be back in this colorful 16-bit world, even if it feels a little less epic and more to the point than I previously remembered. Up next, I guess…elves and kobolds.

Chinchirorin tests Pauly McDohl’s patience in Suikoden

suikoden 1 tai ho chinchirorin dice game

So, Suikoden surprised me again. I completely remembered the cups game with the old lady in Rockland, though I don’t exactly remember how the exploit works to earn a bajillion bucks–er, sorry, I mean bits. Think it has to do with only playing one round over and over, and it’s always under the same cup the first time. However, I was not at all mentally prepared for the trial of patience when Pauly McDohl and friends arrived in Kaku, a small fishing village on the coast of Lake Toran, and a second mini-game came into the fold, one that got in the way of the actual plot advancing. It’s based entirely around luck, and luck, it seemed, was not on my side, but I guess it hasn’t been for some time since a certain someone began wielding a certain “soul-eating” True Rune.

Right. Well, since the last update, Pauly McDohl and friends are now considered rebels and on the run. They eventually meet up with Lady Odessa, the leader of the Liberation Army, which thrives underground and exists to fight back against the Empire. After helping to deliver some secret weapon plans to friends, they return to find Empire soldiers attacked the Liberation Army headquarters–which is simply a basement beneath an inn–and Lady Odessa critically wounds herself protecting a small child. As she dies, she gives two final requests: deliver an earring and to not let her death be known, otherwise support for the Liberation Army will fall. When you deliver this earring to a man called Mathiu Silverberg–her brother!–he sees great potential in Pauly and declares that the Liberation Army needs a new headquarters, one that could withstand an attack from the Empire. Mathiu suggests the castle in the middle of Lake Toran, and so the gang is off to Kaku, to find somebody willing to row them over to it. That’s when we meet Tai Ho, his bowl, and his magical dice-throwing skills.

Tai Ho is willing to give the gang a boat ride over to the castle, but only if Pauly can beat him at his own game. However, you have to put up all your money against him so make sure you spend a bit before doing so. The gambling game played with three six-sided dice is known as Chinchirorin, or more commonly called Cee-lo in the United States. Rolling a 4-5-6 is always treated as a winning combination for the first player who rolls it, and a 1-2-3 automatically loses. If you roll two dice of the same number, the third dice scores, so a 4-4-6 would mean a score of 6. If you miss the bowl or the dice fall out, it’s also an automatic loss. There is also something called Storm, which is when you get three of the same number, but a 1-1-1 means you lose and pay double while a 6-6-6 means you win and get paid double.

All of that means nothing when you realize the game is based entirely around luck, and it took me at least seven or eight attempts to beat Tai Ho. However, you can’t play against him unless you have at least 1,000 bits, so the rinse, shampoo, wash cycle went as follows: lose all money to Tai Ho, venture out to grind for money, use some of that money to heal up via a night at the inn, go back out to recuperate losses, and then return to the dice master to try again. Took me about an extra 20 to 30 minutes. I guess some people save right before this part and reload to try again, but that’s never been my style, as you’ll recall from my time with Fire Emblem: Awakening. If you’re curious, my game-winning throw was a 3-3-5 to Tai Ho’s 2-2-4. Suck it.

I suspect I’ll have to play Chinchirorin a few more times to actually recruit Tai Ho and his brother down the line, but for now we’re moving on. There’s a gloomy castle filled with monsters in the middle of a lake to investigate!

Suikoden’s opening hour is more goofy than I remembered

suikoden 1-Image00254

I’m going to be replaying both Suikoden and Suikoden IIfor reasons. You don’t need to know the reasons right now, and truth be told, I’d happily replay both of these games just because I can since I still own them as physical copies, but also to keep me in check, because I do like to tout them as some of my favorite games, if not my absolute favorite RPGs. That said, I’ve not touched them since my high school days, and I’m beginning to worry that maybe I’m relying a bit too much on nostalgia.

And with that, after completing another comic about Dan Ryckert’s food stories over at Giant Bomb, I popped in the disc for Suikoden, turned on my, as of late, dormant PlayStation 2, and sifted through my memory cards to find one with space for a save slot. I also discovered at this point that I’m missing Suikoden‘s instruction manual, ugh. Not sure where–and when–that thing vanished. Anyways, after checking all my PS1 memory cards to make sure I didn’t already have a game in progress, I selected “New Game”, rightfully named Tir McDohl to Pauly, and began old-school JRPGing.

Real quick: I’m going to be talking pretty specifically about mostly everything that unfolds in Suikoden‘s first hour, which is actually a lot of different events, so if you’ve not yet gotten to experience it and don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest y’all close this browser right now and move on to something else. All right, let’s go. Let’s show my nostalgia just where it is all truly at.

So, the main thing that surprised me about playing Suikoden again for the first time in over ten years is that…it’s actually quite goofy. Like, if the technology to include a studio audience laugh-track existed at the time for the PlayStation 1, Konami totally would’ve done it. Sure, sure, most people think about the heavy politics and twisted betrayals for both this game and later ones in the series, and they are right to do so. Besides the recruiting of 108 Stars of Destiny and upgrading your castle, the extremely adult tone and direction of the plot is where Suikoden stands miles above its competitors. However, almost right from the get-go, things are goofy and light-hearted and a bit juvenile, and maybe that is really only for now, before the shitstorm truly hits Teo McDohl’s son and friends.

Anyways, check this out. After returning home from meeting the Emperor and getting assigned to work with Commander Kraze Miles (just look at that name), Gremio announces that he’ll be serving dinner soon. You now get the freedom to explore the house and talk to everyone. If you go into the kitchen and try to talk to Gremio, you are given the selectable option to either A) scare him or B) tickle him, both of which result in a lot of stuttering. You can also scare Pahn, who is busy napping. Again, you can probably chalk this up to kids being kids, but I honestly didn’t remember any of this.

Your first mission sends you off to Lady Leknaat’s castle, to acquire some astral projections or something. To get there, you must meet with a spunky young Dragon Knight called Futch and get flown over on his dragon Black, which, I kid you not, sounds like an elephant. Oh, and speaking of sound, when you are in the menus and click on something you can’t interact with, it sounds a bit like a duck. Yeah, maybe Konami was limited for audio samples, but it’s pretty bizarre nonetheless.

On your way up to the castle, you’ll get a small taste of the combat system. It’s pretty standard turn-based action, with some characters able to unite for a joint attack or use magic spells/attacks via attached runes. The combat goes pretty fast, actually, and I like when multiple things happen at once. Strangely, there’s no fanfare when you level; you simply watch numbers increase. We’ve been spoiled over the years with games–both RPGs and not–making you glow, playing a tune, doing something special when you increase in level. I’ve also gone from level 1 to 7, gaining experience fast and not even coming close to falling in battle, save for the boss fight with the Ant Queen, where it’s mandatory, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

After speaking with Lady Leknaat, the next mission has you going to Rockland and then up a mountain path to beat up some bandits that are causing trouble for Rockland, a small town of impoverished and suffering smallfolk unable to pay the Emperor’s taxes. I spoke with one of the kids there and he flat out said that the guards hit him. Heavy stuff, not a lick of goofiness, so long as you ignore the cup minigame. Anyways, during an unbeatable battle with the Ant Queen, Pauly McDohl’s good friend Ted reveals he has some crazy dark magic up his sleeve to save the day. When you get back to Rockland, the mayor pays you, but then your helpless escort Kanaan takes the money, seeing as it belongs to Kraze; that small wah-wah-waaah jingle plays. Um. At least it wasn’t a dragonphant trumpeting.

Upon returning to Gregminster, Ted is requested to go to the castle while everyone else returns home to rest. A little later, just as it begins to storm, Ted shows up at the front door, beaten and nearly unconscious. Cleo suspects it might be “thugs,” a term I did not remember her saying or ever expected to come out of her mouth, but there it is. Turns out, the Emperor wants Ted’s magic rune and he risked everything to get away, so that he could pass the rune–one of the 27 True Runes, mind you–over to his good friend Pauly. We’re now hiding out in the local inn, looking for some way to sneak out of Gregminster without alerting the guards.

And that’s more or less the first hour of the game. I think my save slot says an hour and fourteen minutes. Some talk, some battle, some plot development, and a bunch of hard turns when it comes to tone and material. Either way, I’m excited to keep playing Suikoden, to remember what I remember, and to learn about the moments I clearly missed my first few times through it.

The Temple of Elemental Evil is full of deadly crayfish

temple of ee crayfish death

Seems like Divinity: Original Sin from Larian Studios is the latest talk of the town this past week, especially over at Giant Bomb, my go-to for influence on trying out games I’ve never even heard of. It’s the newest and latest CRPG, which stands for computer role-playing game if you didn’t know, a genre that is not as common these days or, if it is, not as talked about. Evidently, the game’s developers used Kickstarter to help raise additional funds, acquiring over $1 million, a pretty hefty sum of cash that makes me think about just how much money Double Fine got for Broken Age, an old-school point-and-click game, another genre you don’t see in the spotlights these last few years. All it takes is support from fans, so let’s now get that Suikoden VI ball a-rollin’.

It’s been described as “hardcore overhead Skyrim,” which more or less means adding Dragon Age: Origins and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim together–you get tactics, you get openness, and you get a lot of content to devour. Alas, I’m not in the mood to buy a brand new game, even if it is only retailing for $40 on Steam, and besides, I have a massive backlog–hey now!–so surely I have something similar enough to Divinity: Original Sin in there that could quench my curiosity-limned thirst for the time being. And yes, I was right. Hello, there The Temple of Elemental Evil.

If you’ll recall, I played Icewind Dale II some seasons back, covering the first sixty minutes of gameplay for The First Hour. In the end, I liked the dialogue trees, but hated mostly everything else. I got it from Good Old Games during a  “buy one Dungeons & Dragons game, get The Temple of Elemental Evil for free” campaign. My first dip into old-school RPGing didn’t prove a great time, but since then I’ve played a few more really fun D&D sessions with friends and am more aware of some of the rules and restrictions. Plus, I promised to try The Temple of Elemental Evil at some point, so here we go.

The Temple of Elemental Evil begins, as all games did in in the early 2000s, with an epic CGI intro. It’s basically a big war scene, with wizards and soldiers and goblins and two-head trolls and even darker things amassing on the battlefield and fighting to the death, and it ends with some horrifying demon dude getting locked–and magically sealed–in a temple. If I was to refer to the game’s Wikipedia, it would say this, “An evil demoness founded a cult dedicated to exploring evil in its most elemental forms. This cult was based in a temple just outside the village of Hommlet in a vile shire known as Nulb. Soon, this cult rose to rule the region with tyranny and grim times of chaos and violence ensued. Hard-fought battles were waged and the war was eventually won by the good armies of nearby lands. The temple was razed, the villains were imprisoned, and order was restored. The temple itself faded into distant memory. Until now…”

Yeah, I never really picked up on any of that. Evidently, this is based on a famous Greyhawk adventure, using the D&D 3.5 ruleset.

But before the crystal clear story could start unfolding, I did the Tutorial section, a separate menu option. Here, the game taught me many of the basics, like how to walk, how to open doors and chests, how to loot, how to attack enemy rats, how to make friends and chat, and so on. Alas, I never comprehended how to cast Magic Missile, and so I died fast in a room full of zombies, unable to complete the Tutorial. On well, I’m sure not knowing how to properly cast magic spells won’t bite me in the ass later on. Forward, to the main meat!

Just like in Icewind Dale II, picking your party members is both the first thing you do and the most intimidating part of the adventure. I went with all lawful good people, three men and two women. I think they were all different classes, but two might have both been warriors or whatever you call those decked out in shiny armor. This is one problem I have with these large party-based RPG adventures–it can be hard to keep everyone separate, and it’s more like a mass of names and faces rather than actual personalities and such.

The very first mission has your band of merry men and women fighting off some bandits raiding a traveling caravan, and I did this with ease by simply clicking on them until they died. Next, the group traveled to the village of Hommlet, which is a quite sizable place. Here, we explored a bit, spoke to some people and got clues about other places to go, though our main mission is finding the rest of those bandits, as they kidnapped some women and children. I then mistakenly decided to look at the map and click on the Emridy Meadows, a place mentioned to me by someone in a tavern. Suddenly, my group began moving across the map, getting halfway there and stopped by a pop-up menu that said, “2X Crayfish.” I clicked okay and unfortunately found everyone in a one-sided fight against two giant crayfish. My team was able to take one down with extreme losses, and the second crayfish killed everybody left standing. Again, here is where it might have been handy to know how to properly cast magic.

Well, no problem, I thought, I’d just reload my save and not travel to the Emridy Meadows just yet, certainly not until my party has leveled up and gotten some better armor/weapons. Alas, no. Ha ha nope. Clearly I forgot I was playing a ten-year-old videogame and I never made a manual save during my gaming time, and the only auto-save in the list is right at the start of the fight with the crayfish. Thanks, The Temple of Elemental Evil. Though maybe I’ll try again. I think I just need to really play slower and pay attention more to every move I make. Again, I love all the dialogue, and there’s some pretty good voice acting here. I think I even ran into a Scottish bard in one of Hommlet’s homes, which is enough to get me to revisit this down the line.

That said, maybe I’m not ready for Divinity: Original Sin just yet. Or I should at least wait until the game drops in price or goes on sale. I don’t know how similar they are to Icewind Dale II and The Temple of Elemental Evil, but I also have a trio of Ultima games downloaded and uninstalled at the moment. Hmm. Maybe I’ll try one of them soonish if I get that itch again for some old-school RPGing.

Doki-Doki Universe may be irreverent, but at least it’s imaginative

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There exist many great RPGs, like Suikoden II and Chrono Cross, and in these also exist little slivers of additional content lovingly called side quests. They get this name mostly because they are smaller tasks on the side put upon the hero, heroine, or group while they also handle much larger tasks like killing that evil dragon and saving the world. More often than not, a great side quest can outshine the main path; for instance, take a look at the “The Power of the Atom” quest from Fallout 3, which stands out to me more some six years later than all that water-purifying monkey business with your runaway father. Of late, I really loved London Life, a kinda large mini-game bundled with Professor Layton and the Last Specter that is all about fetch side quests and ate up many hours of my life.

Well, good news–Doki-Doki Universe is a game made up almost entirely of side quests. It’s basically them, plus a handful of personality quizzes which are not as mundane as they sound and can be quite enjoyable so long as one spaces them out between helping random planet inhabitants and riding coffee mugs with wings up into space. Y’know, be sensible about your tasks like that. It’s a lot of to- and fro-ing, but I always seem to need these rather straightforward tasks in times of brokenness, so I’m really having my fill. The game is a freebie this month for PlayStation Plus users, and I initially thought it was only for the Vita, but evidently it is a cross-play title. That’s awesome, and something we need to see more with other consoles.

There’s a story here and, just like Le Petit Prince, it is both sweet and sad. Maybe not as crude as that French children’s story though. You’re robot Model QT377665, but let’s go with QT3 for short. Turns out, your human family sucks and abandoned you and your balloon buddy on an asteroid. Flashforward 11,432 days, and Alien Jeff shows up to give you some bad news. Evidently, your model is getting recalled and scrapped because the company that made you apparently doesn’t believe it has enough “humanity.” Alien Jeff is assigned the task of discovering just how much humanity QT3 is capable of before reporting back to head-honchos.

And so off you go to different, humorously named planets to solve the myriad of problems people have–and animals and talking vegetables and sentient snowmen–to learn more about humanity and gain some perspective. Space is an open map of planets, and you can visit them in any order; in fact, you’ll often need to visit other planets for additional presents to help people with some of the trickier requests early on. Most often, QT3 just needs to summon a specific summonable to finish the quest; for example, someone on Yuckers desires a smelly item, and so QT3 just needs to make a pile of poo magically appear next to them. Quest complete. Others have you either performing a greeting with the right analog stick (waving, bowing, blowing a kiss) or throwing someone like a slingshot to a specific part of the endlessly scrolling level, which is actually a bit tricky.

Besides handling simple side quest after side quest, which despite how it sounds really does scratch a specific itch, there’s personality quizzes to take and email to read. Mmm I do love a game with email, and I’ve been tinkering away slowly at a Grinding Down post about why this is so; maybe it’ll make an appearance down the road. Anyways, the personality quizzes are cute multiple choice questions, with a quick summary of you as a person at the end. They don’t always nail my personality, but are surprisingly accurate the majority of the time. These quizzes are perfect to do before you land on a new planet, too. As you grow as a robot, Alien Jeff and friends you’ve made along the way will send you adorable little emails that are animated and colorful and keep those stories going a bit longer after they technically ended.

Not all is green and dandy in Doki-Doki Universe, as I have stumbled across some very annoying hard crashes and lock-ups. These always happened when QT3 would begin to pull up the multitude of bubbles that makes up his inventory. There’s also no great way to sort through all your consumables, a problem the closer you get to collecting 300, as you can really only view a handful at a time on screen, and so if you’re trying to hunt down one specific item, best keep hitting randomize or trying your luck with the similar button. The game will occasionally log me out of PSN, too, though I know not why and how. I might have also run into a glitch where you are supposed to return to the Home planet and speak with the red balloon; alas, for some reason, the balloon is high in the sky, and QT3 can’t reach it to begin a dialogue. Hmm.

Based on how many consumables I have and how many decorations I’ve acquired for QT3’s Home planet, I must be pretty close to the end, to seeing if this little robot that likes dressing like a lumberjack has enough humanity instead to save his steely skin from being turned into scrap. It’s not a long game, but long enough for me, and I’m looking forward to finishing it up and adding it to my never-ending list of games completed in 2014. At least this one should be relatively easy to draw a comic about, since the art is more or less on my level.