I died three times last night in Ni no Kuni, and I’m only four hours into the game. To say the uptick in the combat’s difficulty caught me by surprise would absolutely nail it. I mean, yeah, Drippy warned me to avoid fighting monsters in the new area we just got to and simply make a bee-line for Al Mamoon out in the desert, but I didn’t think he actually meant that. Plus, with a Save Stone sorta nearby, I figured I could do a little bit of grinding and heal up for free before moving on. Um, that’s not how things went.
First, just like in Dragon Quest VIII and IX, death is not final in Ni no Kuni. There is no perma-death for Oliver and his familiars, and the Game Over screen offers you a choice: return to the main menu to load your last hard save, or lose 10% of your money, called Guilders, and pop back into the game wherever it last auto-saved. For me, that place was upon exiting the Golden Grove. And at this point in the game, I did not have much money, and 10% of not much is, shockingly, not that much, and so I chose to pay the pauper and restart each time. I wonder if you’ll be able to visit a bank later on and safekeep your earnings while you go out and live dangerously. It’s either that or spend a lot of it before you fight in dangerous locations since there’s a good chance you’ll lose a slice or two of your earnings.
Let’s talk about the reason behind Oliver and company’s unexpected crumbling: the monsters. Now, sure, I was feeling fairly confident leaving the Golden Grove, as I had just defeated a–well, in my eyes–fairly tough boss called the Gladiataur, which required a lot of switching between familiars and eating of sandwiches for HP regeneration and the heavy use of the Defend button. I can’t say for sure what level the non-boss monsters in the Golden Grove were, but I feel like they were around 8 or 9, which is level with where I had Oliver and two out of three of his familiars. However, once you exit the Golden Grove, you’ll find monsters seemingly around level 12 or 13, and they can completely take out the team in a few hits, especially if symbol alignment is in their favor.
The very first monster we ran into killed us. Maybe two or three hits to my level 10 Mitey. Then, heeding the words of the Lord High Lord of the Faeries, I avoided monsters until I couldn’t, as there is a sort of hound-like beast in the desert that is too fast for Oliver to avoid. It killed us fast. The third time saw me trying to take a new path over to Al Mamoon, only to have that hound-like monster stomp us flat. My fourth attempt at making it to the city proved successful, with no encounters at all, but now I’m seemingly stuck in Al Mamoon, and hopefully there are some ways to level up before I have to head back out into the wild. Otherwise, things don’t look good for the future. Sorry, Oliver’s mom.
I’m not sure if the appearance of these super strong monsters is deliberate from Level-5/Studio Ghibli or my fault. Should I have leveled Oliver up to 12 or 13 before proceeding on with the story, thus making these monsters more balanced? Though that might have then made the ones in the Golden Grove severely underpowered. And there wasn’t too much left to do in terms of side-quests in Ding Dong Dell or near it (from what I explored), so I felt it was time to move on story-wise. It’s hard to say, really. But now I expect Oliver and his battle-loving critters to succumb to Death’s call many more times; I just hope I won’t have to pay too high of a price to try again.