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Mento

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Since completing the game, I've a few more observations:

  • I didn't bring up my favorite thing about the game in the review: you have a little hub base you can warp to from any save point, and there's places to craft new gear and potions, gardening for consumables, and decipher maps and tablets for new recipes and treasure locations. The library area even starts filling up with mementos of completed side-quests and bosses, which is one of my favorite things RPGs sometimes do (it's also in The Outer Worlds and Bully, among precious few others).
  • I did mention in the review how the game doesn't really take advantage of the backstory of the world, but there's some geographical business that gets into that. The large desert you encounter midway through the game may indeed be the border of what's liveable, while you also get to see what the icy dark side is like later on. Far as I know, Earthlock is the only game that has a planet like this (besides Metroid Prime 3).
  • The game has some weird camera hiccups, and I'm not sure if it has something to do with the PS4's standard resolution or what. The overworld zooms ridiculously far in to keep focus if you walk behind a mountain, whereas the fixed camera in dungeons will let you wander around obfuscated behind walls all you want in the off-chance there's a chest back there. When fighting many enemies at once or some of the larger enemies, a few of them will disappear off the edge of the screen. You can still target them, but you can't see their HP bars.
  • Towards the mid- to late-game Earthlock encourages you to try mixing up your party: half the development points come from levelling up, while the other half come from bonuses earned from increasing bonds between pairs. You can get three TP (Talent Points) per union once maxed, and with six characters that's potentially fifteen TP per character locked away in the bond system. Of course, all the passive boosts you get for increasing bonds are another incentive.
  • Characters don't level outside of the immediate party, and many characters join several levels behind. Makes it harder to want to include them or learn how to use them. Since you're mixing the party up for those bonds, it's not too deleterious a factor, but it's rough when you get a new character you want to try out and they're three or four levels behind everyone else - you don't get a good sense of how they'll fit into strategies until they're at a comparable level, because before then they'll just mostly suck and die.
  • Boss fights continue to be these tough puzzles where you have to figure out the trick, and with a few late-game bosses the trick is really hard to determine and requires a very specific strategy with the right character(s) involved. The game throws you a bone by letting an NPC give you advice if you've wiped out once already.

Since completing the game my opinion on it hasn't shifted much. I think there's room for improvement, and some streamlining with regards to the combat, but the core is sound: the difficulty curve felt just right and I'm impressed with how much side-stuff they squeezed into a relatively compact RPG. Earthlock 2 seems to be coming along well, if still a year or so off, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

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Mento

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@sparky_buzzsaw: Yep! I played on hard mode like an idiot. I don't think enemy tactics change all that much on normal mode, but their stats do.

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Edited By Mento  Moderator

Great list, and I wish you ran out with a folding chair when GB went through the entire Best Music category without mentioning Paradise Killer. (I don't know how that would work on Google Hangouts, but today's wrestling all-stars are an inventive bunch.)

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All ready to go "pfft anime" and then Bofuri was the first on the list and I was like oh yeah I did watch that. That was a real cute show. Might watch some of these other ones then. (Eizouken got too irritating to follow, but that art style sure is something else.)

Good list, Mr. Baer.

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Mento

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Yeah, my PoE review disappeared into the ether also. My pet theory is that it has something to do with a page's releases and whether or not any existed before the review was written, but nothing concrete. (They're still in the CMS somewhere though; you can read the first few lines if you check your reviews tab.)

Plus one from me for Grimrock 2. Still my favorite of the nu-blobbers, though Vaporum was close (and Operencia would be too if it could just chill for half a damn second). Bloodstained's cool too. Might have to get around to that Classic Mode sometime.

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Immediately after posting this I ran into a new enemy type that can endlessly spawn copies of itself. I'd recommend playing on normal battle difficulty if only to counter some of this game's sheer bullshit.

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Edited By Mento  Moderator

@efesell: I'll admit that grievance on my list was a little unfair. The game uses Suikoden-style scaled levelling, so you earn more XP the further behind you are and it takes very little time to catch up. Yet it did make for an awkward moment of being stuck between a zone you're already too strong to receive any benefit from and a zone that was still a little too high-level to be comfortable. (The constant farming was far more prevalent.)

The way the different elements work with the dungeon puzzles was mostly pretty cool, but if I never have to direct a slow-moving bullet around a maze of walls again I'll die a content man.

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A few bonus links, for those who want some deeper dives:

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Edited By Mento  Moderator

@whitegreyblack: I can't imagine playing horror games in that context, where you're already getting a little delirious and twitchy from sleep deprivation. Appropriate for the brainwashing theme, at least.

@magnetphonics: Yeah, these types of games are generally built a bit more like content "tours" and are best with slow-burn stories like this. I'll have to add Cellular Harvest to a wishlist of Indie photography games that seem neat, like that Umurangi Generation game Jan QLed a little while back.

@mtndoo: It's a famous Resident Evil quote and these are all Itch.io games I'm covering, is the general idea. I've no interest in blogging Res Evil itself though. What's even left to say about them at this point?

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Mento

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You've pre-empted two of the games I'd earmarked for next year's May Maturity playlist, though to be fair they were plucked from the remaining dregs in my Steam library and I wasn't too hot on either to begin with. Might still give Drakensang a spin, but I suspect I'll have already maxed out my German CRPG tolerance after an inevitable Gothic III playthrough. (Maybe instead I'll make next May's theme "CRPGs that only look like they're twenty years old" and put Eschalon III and a few other Indies on there...)

Anyway, my thanks as always for being the proverbial canary in the coal mine for these bad (and/or tedious) boys.