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ArbitraryWater

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After watching this at your recommendation, I definitely have to say it's one of the most "memorable" anime things I've seen in a while, and I watched all of Legend of the Galactic Heroes this year. It's a baffling thing, but at the very least you cannot accuse it of being a cheap lazy cash-in. There was effort put into this OVA.

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ArbitraryWater

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You can tell The Mandate of Heaven was the one they had years to work on by sheer value of how huge it is and how much weird personality the devs inserted into every little corner. Some of those later dungeons are too big for their own good, honestly, and the lack of some of the later games' quality of life improvements stand out when you're spending hours trying to remember which house in Free Haven is the one with the skill trainer you need.

For Blood and Honor was always my favorite as a young 'un, and I think it's a more approachable game than VI. I think I mentioned before, but it's one of those games where I've kinda broke it for myself simply because I played it too many times. I definitely remember getting pretty good at it too, since I did a couple of challenge runs without any clerics or sorcerers. Want a more interesting run? Try to avoid Grandmaster-level magic entirely.

Day of the Destroyer is the one where you can really see the strain of trying to make Might and Magic into an annual franchise. It has some interesting ideas with the party composition stuff, even if you can also break the game in half (even moreso than some of the other ones) between Dragons and easily attainable high-level NPCs. However, you can tell where they cut corners, and a lot of it is evident in how small a lot of dungeons are.

Might and Magic IX is a game I have a certain amount of fondness for, if only because you can see what it's going for once you get past the whole "blatantly unfinished" thing. Definitely got the short end of the stick compared to Heroes IV, which makes some... interesting decisions, but still feels identifiable as the game the developers wanted to make.

Looking forward to your breakdown of X.

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ArbitraryWater

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Edited By ArbitraryWater

World of Xeen holds a special place as the oldest CRPG I've managed to play to completion, and I think it's still remarkably playable outside of a couple of UI and guide-related things. Definitely feel like your breakdown of Old-School RPG difficulty curves (Survival, Turning-Point, Acceleration) applies a lot more gently to Might and Magic compared to something like Wizardry 7, which came out around the same time and is both staggeringly ambitious but also slow, difficult, and obtuse.

Darkside is definitely the stronger half of XEEN, IMO. It gets a lot weirder with stuff (I still think about the dungeon that's a crossword puzzle constantly) and has better music, but the whole experience is still very good. Looking forward to your breakdown of the 3D era. For the longest time VII was my favorite, but I think I played it too many times as a kid, because parts of it are just hard-wired in my brain.

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@sethmode: I actually played the 360 version of Dragon Age because I didn't have a powerful enough computer at the time. This replay was definitely a moment where I wondered how the hell I managed to do that, given just how much space on the hotbar was devoted to different abilities and items. Radial menus...? Was that it? In any case, the console versions of Origins sold well above expectations, which is why BioWare opted to make the next game focused around consoles. The rest, they say, is history.

I can definitely understand the "parts of this game are seared into my mind" point, which is basically what happened when I replayed Might and Magic VII last year and realized how much of that game I remembered in frighteningly specific detail (it's also why I don't think I'll ever replay the non-Master Quest version of Ocarina of Time.) Thankfully, Dragon Age was never that for me, even if I more-or-less remembered the beats of Ostagar verbatim from the number of attempted playthroughs over the years.

@efesell: There are definitely a few games from that 360/PS3 era that make me go "That's not old! YOU'RE OLD, OLD MAN" before I look into the mirror and realize that I am the old man. I'm definitely a little weird about this stuff, because at the same time I was playing hot and relevant video games in 2009 like Assassin's Creed II and Dragon Age, I was also starting to blog about old games that were themselves a decade old at that point. Time is weird, and the last few months have just made it weirder.

@therealturk: I don't disagree with any of your bullet points (other than the one on Jade Empire, but I digress) and think you've more-or-less expressed what I'm trying to get at when I vaguely gesture that "BioWare didn't get worse, everyone else got better." BioWare's shift towards chasing a big mainstream audience ended up biting them in the ass when every big AAA open world game begun to incorporate RPG elements into their mechanics and storytelling. I feel like the standards for video game writing have increased pretty dramatically over the last decade (whether or not most games writing is good is a different question) and BioWare has been rightfully criticized for never quite going beyond the structure and tropes they popularized with Knights of the Old Republic.

I think Dragon Age Origins being a throwback to their CRPG roots was probably why it endeared itself to me for so long, which is basically what I was trying to grapple with in that last section. If nothing else, it's made me want to finally get around to a Baldur's Gate II replay at some point.

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@efesell said:

What kinda person doesn't like Alistair, honestly.

Origins is a game that I think is much like the original Mass Effect where the majority of its value now is in the world building it set up. I think as far as games I would rather play again it loses out handily to both of its sequels.

As an aside Origins doesn't feel old enough to me to be "nostalgic" so that's kind of a weird thought.

Alistair is a dweeb, which is sometimes endearing and sometimes less so. I spent the back half of the game wishing I had "hardened" him by resolving his personal quest differently, since he apparently gets more serious if you do so.

It's been ages since I played Mass Effect 1, and I do wonder if I'd feel similarly about that game as I did with this. I guess the main difference is that I was always a "Mass Effect 2 > 1" kind of person, because the characters in ME 2 are actual characters and not just vectors to explain their species' culture to you.

I know the feeling of not thinking Dragon Age is that old, but consider that it's been longer from Dragon Age Origins to now (11 years) than it was from Baldur's Gate II to Dragon Age Origins (9 years.) Sure, you can probably dig up my posts about it from 2009 on this very forum if you wanted to, but I think doing so would either turn me into a skeleton or die of embarrassment.

@rorie said:

Jade Empire is really bad. No secret on that. I remember beating the end boss without getting hit on the easiest difficulty just by jumping over his head forever.

Everything about the way Jade Empire plays is bad. The part where you can stun-lock every human enemy in the game, including the final boss, with the Storm Dragon stance is something I still think about whenever the topic of bad action combat in RPGs comes up. I think the other thing about it that likely comes off worse fifteen years later is the idea that a bunch of white Canadian dudes decided to mash up a bunch of south-east Asian cultural and mythological touchstones to make the world for their Wuxia RPG. I'm sure that would fly just fine now.

Hell yes, I've been waiting for this write up! Keep up the great work, duder!

Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!

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Ocarina of Time is definitely one of those games I know well enough that I think I could plausibly complete a randomizer run or two, even if I’m far less familiar with the Master Quest versions of various dungeons. That said, I definitely wouldn’t subject myself to nightmare key runs or gold skulltilla life choices, but so far so good, right? It’s only going to be when you’re at the adult portion of the game and need those boss keys that things will really start going badly.

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Edited By ArbitraryWater
@relkin said:

I bought some huge collection of Gold Box and various Gold Box-adjacent games from GOG years ago, which included the Ravenloft games; I've always meant to try them. For all the weirdness dubiousness I saw during your stream, I think I may still check this one out. That being said, I feel like looking at a FAQ on a regular basis would be required for me; from character creation, to what companions I should get, to what the hell you do about that Bone Golem.

I feel like a lot of these games at least benefit from skimming a guide, which is why the scant resources I found for Strahd's Possession stuck out a little more. I don't think I'll ever quite be able to play through a D&D game older than Baldur's Gate at this rate. I briefly thought about doing the Gold Box stuff, but even with trainers it just seems like a little too much for anyone under the age of 35.

@rorie said:

Oh man, I haven't thought about Ravenloft in a hot minute but I definitely remember buying some modules for it back in the day. I was never the biggest vampire fan but it always seemed like fun.

Now that D&D and Magic are crossing streams on settings I wonder if we'll ever return to some of these older D&D settings in Magic. But it seems like Magic is more pressing down on D&D than the other way around.

There was definitely a brief period like two years ago where I bought PDFs of a bunch of the old AD&D setting books on sale and read through them during class (it was my last semester and I didn't have any active tabletop groups, so I had a lot of free time). If they're going to bring back anything from that era, it'll probably be Dark Sun, but there's definitely a part of me that would love a greater acknowledgement of the planar, philosophical madness of Planescape.

I do wonder how long it took some of the folks at WotC to decide to do some "brand synergy" with their two biggest properties, and which side of the office buckled first. I've skimmed the Ravnica setting book, at least, and it seems like it has a lot of built-in potential for goofy tabletop adventures, even if it doesn't seem all that cohesive in the way something like a Forgotten Realms is.

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I listened to a few minutes of that Funky Horror Band music video, and it's probably a good sign when your weird stop-motion puppet band's music already sounds like something that should belong on a Sega CD. Thanks Japan.

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Just going to reiterate from our conversation that this game seems both totally fine and also comes off like generic brand FFT, right down to the Habbo Hotel-ass spritework and amateurish, but earnest writing. On the other hand, I find actual Final Fantasy Tactics a little hard to get into, between the inability to speed up animations and the choice between a decidedly 90s quality localization and one that goes slightly overboard on the shakespearian phrasing. So maybe this is actually an acceptable substitute.

If you want another good "Truncapable" game that I spent a couple hours with, said "this seems alright" and then never touched again, Tower of Time is worth a look. Similar to Aarklash in the way it tries to streamline Infinity Engine style RTwP combat and dungeon crawling into a more focused experience.

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Very excited to have Austin and Vinny on the Bombcast. BLM.