Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shiren for Wii Initial Impressions

I'm going to save a full review for the @Play article but so far after three and a half hours....

It's rather easy. I completed the trainer dungeon and the first four "real" dungeons and have yet to die. Maybe I'm playing extra carefully because I'm used to the SNES and DS games, but I have had relatively little difficulty so far. My ally got knocked down to 2 hit points in a boss fight once, but I had plenty of healing herbs by that point. And Recovery Staves, which heal for about 30 damage, are extremely common in the early game, although they have the drawback that you can't use one on yourself, you must hit an ally with it.

Hopefully the challenge will kick in soon, but the whole reason I gave up on Pokemon Rescue Team was that it was dreadfully boring in the early game. At least I know that building up a character isn't required up to this point; I have entered no dungeon more than the first time I entered it, and I haven't used the grind "portal" dungeon for item enhancement at all.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Atlus, Shiren and roguelikes

Please excuse a small editorial here, but I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet 'bout this....

People on the internetz, in prime internetz fashion, have been saying that Atlus has claimed that Shiren the Wanderer on Wii is not a roguelike. Atlus has not actually said this. The quote from Kotaku is:

"We're not referring to it like a roguelike because a lot of people have a negative association with the term," Aram Jabbari explains. "They are seen as extremely punishing. We don't want people to think of this game as falling into a certain category and then dismissing it."

Choosing not to call something a thing is not the same as saying it's not, guys.

But on the other hand, Atlus is dropping the ball on this one. All of the people who are interested in Shiren the Wanderer are so because of its roguelike characteristics. Everyone who buys the game expecting something like Final Fantasy is going to be disappointed.

The people who are excited about the game, its guaranteed audience, are so BECAUSE it's punishing, and a lot of fun for being so. This is exactly the same kind of ad campaign that got Sega a lacklustre response to their DS release of the original game. This kind of bait-and-switch is the epitome of short-sighted marketing.

I don't think I am speaking incorrectly when I say that roguelikes are on their way up in the world. They have a large amount amount of "indie cred," and their star is still rising. I'm not saying that they will challenge the likes of Grand Theft Auto, but I do think their popularity is growing.

If I were in charge of the Shiren ad campaign, I would not shy away from calling it a roguelike. But what I would refrain from calling it is a role-playing game! It is forgotten that a lot of people in the U.S. still have a negative association with that term, probably more than have a negative association with the word "roguelike," which is still kind of niche really. They may even have good reason to dislike CRPGs: the primary exemplar of the genre remains a kind of excessively anime-influenced trash fantasy quest game in which grinding is common and expected.

What roguelikes are, more than a straight role-playing game, is a turn-based tactics game with a single player unit. If people were to look at roguelikes in those term, I think, they would be a lot more accepting of both their difficulty (tactical wargamers are more accepting of challenge) and permadeath (since it is more obviously cheating to restore back to the middle of a battle). If Nintendo can continue to afford to localize the Fire Emblem games, which are still fairly obscure in the U.S., I don't see how Atlus can go wrong with Shiren if it's presented in a similar light.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shiren the Wanderer for Wii is out!

It is, and I have ordered my copy off of Amazon. I'm planning to write a review of this as an extra @Play this month, so keep an eye out for it!

@Play 67: Crawlapalooza Part 3, on interesting race/class combinations

@Play 67

The newest @Play describes interesting gameplay concerning five specific race/class Dungeon Crawl combinations: Spriggan Enchanter, Deep Dwarf Paladin, Hill Orc Priest of Beogh, Human Wanderer and Minotaur Chaos Knight of Xom. Each is of varying suitability for play. Although some are easier than others, each has some aspect to their abilities that makes playing them a special experience. Last time I said that the more interesting race/class sets were almost like playing a custom-made roguelike to themselves. This column could be seen as evidence backing up that statement.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

@Play soon....

The next column is scheduled to go up early Thursday morning. It looks at a number of specific Race/Class combinations in Dungeon Crawl, each of which plays differently from the others.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

@PLAY 66: Crawlapalooza Part 2, on Skills

The 66th @Play column covered every skill in Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup 0.5.2, and listed applications for each. It can be found at http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2010/02/column_play_crawlapalooza_part_1.php

In the comments, a Crawl dev team member noted that the Divinations spell will go obsolete soon. I note in the column text that Darts is also going away soon. Another commenters noted how the "WowDeath" account at alt.org managed to end three consecutive games in 2007, all on the same day and at experience level 1, from damage done by kicking a wand of wishing; they used a since-fixed Nethack random number generation exploit to ensure finding one of those extremely rare wands on the first dungeon level each game. It just shows what I've always suspected: roguelike gamers are hardcore.


Several times now I've gotten requests for a feed of just my @Play columns at GameSetWatch. I like GSW a lot, and the people who run it even more, but I can understand that some people might not be interested in some of their other articles. So I will be posting links to each column I write for GSW and Gamasutra here as it goes up. This includes the roguelike column @Play, the general game design column Pixel Journeys, the collection articles Game Design Essentials, and anything else I do for them and, maybe in the future, for other sites.

In summary: if you just want my stuff from GameSetWatch, subscribe to this blog's feed and all should be well. If you just want one of my columns I might make separate feeds available later, but I have to remember to make these posts as it is, there is no mechanism in place to update them automatically, so the more blogs of this type I make the more unwieldly it all gets. So, I dunno. We'll see.