Alllll the way in. Tales of Arise has me. I don’t think I’ll be playing much else until I’m finished. Well and truly it has become an All-the-Time Game. Which, while great, certainly makes coming up with posts more awkward! Being such a strongly narrative game where even the mechanics and their unlock progression is at least somewhat related to your story progress, not too much more I can say beyond what I already have

*twiddles fingers*

Oh alright- we all know that’s not true. There’s always something else to be said.

Uhm. Also, I have been very busy with work? Had a side project this week to step in and assess what would need to happen to bring forward the release date of a capability the business suddenly decided it’s interested in again after all. (Short version: An act of god.)

But if I’m being honest — while that’s true; and has certainly taken longer hours than normal — I’ve simply been prioritising actually playing over blogging in the remaining spare time. I think that’s OK though! And look!

Oooh, pretty!

Power in the Progression?

Something that came up in The Support Role discord the other day was the age-old discussion of repetition. Starting off in the context of Final Fantasy and the complaints levelled about certain entries in that series, but opening up with Frostilyte’s comment of:

People are typically very poor at explaining themselves. Whenever someone refers to something being repetitive it almost always means the player thinks that the activity is extremely boring. The problem is less that there is a lot of repetition and almost entirely that the repetition isn’t enjoyable. And what that means on a player by player basis can differ wildly.

After which he then totally proceeded to call me out for enjoying RPG mechanics. The nerve! ;)

Being game-taste shamed aside, I fully agree with the sentiment. Gaming 101 talks to the ‘core gameplay loop’ and how it is built from the ground up on a series of repetitions forming larger cycles of play (i.e., repetitions).

The combination of your personal tastes, how skillfully the more egregious aspects of the repetition are masked and how well designed and executed these gameplay loops are will ultimately determine whether you garner any enjoyment from them and for how long.

My response back at the time was that different games serve different aspects of what I enjoy in gaming. For Tales of Arise, I’m enjoying the incredibly over the top (and at times heavy-handed) anime level storytelling at least as much as the power progression of my party as I go.

This reminded me a lot of Anthem. *sighs sadly*

Going from major story point to major story point is definitely propelling me through the game — but the core gameplay is also very satisfying. I’ve reached the point where I can equip six combat artes at a time and really start mixing up my combos in combat. I’ve still kept myself to exclusively playing as Alphen so far but this has meant I’ve started to appreciate the finer points of interplay between the combat systems.

For example — there is a stagger meter. Nothing new in and of itself, plenty of action combat games have something like it. When you fill this meter, you’re permitted to activate a ‘Boost’ attack, in which you select a party member and they will do a combination attack with someone else. These are pretty powerful, and for your typical enemies will basically see them dead.

The lower the enemy’s health, the easier it becomes to fill up this meter in terms of the number of hits required. You can activate it on a high health enemy but not easily. It has a very tight timer before it resets. Keeping hits landing on the enemy will prevent it from resetting.

Out of the gate, your ‘normal’ attacks are a three-hit combo before you enter a rest state. Artes can be activated at any time, but require ‘AG’ (or Artes Gauge) to activate. Alphen in my game now has a total of 6 AG pips, with moves requiring anything from 1-3 AG to activate.

Certain artes will also put Alphen into a rest state, forcing a delay before being able to return to normal attacks. This rest state isn’t long, nor does AG take long to recover — but even with a few buffs to its recovery speed, it’s long enough to allow the stagger gauge to reset if you put yourself into a rest state without sufficient AG to carry on the combo.

Learning to weave the normal attack chain into my artes usage, and not to activate artes that will force the rest state if I don’t have the AG remaining to cancel it has led to much quicker and more satisfying encounters — and this is just one aspect of mastering the combat! For one character!

All to say — absent either the popcorn worthy JRPG drama, or the solid underlying mechanics in the moment-to-moment play — the RPG progression of the game wouldn’t be enough to sustain my interest. At all; let alone to the all-consuming degree it has currently.

But it’s certainly a danged good cherry on the top.

I can’t deny I do love the continual increase in power. The finding of new weapons and armour. The crafting and upgrading of new accessories. I would say that the RPG power curve in the game feels somewhat incremental at times, but it’s hard to judge. I would say that I’ve gained at least as much ‘power’ from learning to play better as I have from leveling and gaining better equipment.

Buuut that only really holds up until you go revisit earlier areas again and just trounce. everything.

I would also feel something was missing if the RPG system wasn’t present though. Sure, the story and the combat might be the banana and the ice cream of this banana split; but the RPG mechanics are the cream and the cherry.