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Where Are Your Essays, Class?
  May 20th, 2013

05/20- 7:00PM EST

Where are the entries to the contest? I have none! I'm very dissapointed, class! This is a chance to win Class of Heroes 2. Be the envy of all your RPG-playing friends as you show off this shiny and rare UMD  (if you have no idea what I'm talking about check out last week's column). Anyway, you all have until May 30th to get those entries in.

On to the letters!





The Letters
Age of What

I normally don't get into MMO's, and I definitely wouldn't recommend Age of Wushu as anyone's first one... or even their second or third.  The game is unbelievably hard, requires you to learn team play faster than you ever did in other games, the story features are incomplete, and starving to death is a real danger in the game.


Wheels

Well, not quite the best introduction for a game is it? I've heard of Age of Wushu, but that's about it. I have a feeling you have something positive to say about this game, so let's see what that is.

First, my reasons for coming to this game... to be blunt, its the flying skills.  I was a huge Crouching Tiger fan, and I love being able to fly, run up walls, flip in mid-air, and run on water.  My reasons for staying... was a fascination with my own growing realization that the game was perhaps the most socially-focused MMO I had ever played.


Wheels

I loved that movie! Not sure how those skills would play out in an MMO game but it seems like an interesting idea. The most socially-focused MMO you say?

Now, I don't mean that it is friendly to social interaction... I mean they made social interaction a dead necessity to get anywhere in the game past a certain point.  Solo play of instances - the special zones necessary to gain most of the game's most valuable items such as flying skills and crafting recipes - is impossible and proper use of manufacturing skills is even more impossible without other people.  To be blunt, you have two choices... you can use different email accounts to create different characters to cover all the necessary support to make a manufacturing character work... or you can join a guild. 


Wheels

That actually sounds like a good idea to me. I know that some people do like to try MMOs single player, but this shouldn't happen at the expense of socially focused features in a game. If you have to force people to use them , then so be it.

Without a craftsman, a smith can't make most weapons, and a craftsman will find no outlet for many of his wares without the other manufacturing professions.  Thus, even leveling manufacturing professions can be a serious pain in the rear, made even worse by the fact that the game does not provide any weapons stronger than the three grades available at the beginning in every single weapons store. 


Wheels

That does not sound so fun. I still think it's a good idea to try and force people towards that social interaction, but there has to be a better way to do it than that.

For battles, being alone really doesn't pay off.  It is time-consuming and painful to find people to do instances with and the item drops are completely random, with no explanation given as to why item drops seem to differ so much every time an instance is played through.  For pvp, old hands have an absolute advantage in both skills (both in-game and in terms of understanding) and in power.  While this is fine for duels, it can get irritating in School Wars and script-stealing events, where this advantage is frequently unassailable. 


Wheels

Aren't item drops usually random to some extent in MMOs though? Sounds like the game has some serious balancing issues. Then again I'd expect that from most MMOs without huge budgets. I'd imagine it's quite hard to become skilled?

Ironically, this has created a community that very much resembles one in real life in many ways... especially in the sheer number of bastards and the presence of those who are willing to lend a helping hand to new players.  This game seems to bring out both the worst and best in people... frequently in the same people.  I've been treated quite nicely by a guy who has killed five hundred people in one-sided murder duels, and I've been treated like crap by someone who runs instances with people all day every day.  The fact is, no matter how much any person plays the one-faceted character, their personalities tend to come through over time. 


Wheels

I do not want to play this game.

Now, for some of the aspects of the game I find most enjoyable:  School Spying and School War.  School spying is an event a member of a school can take on any time from the proper npcs to spy on an another school by going around stealing information from offline players.  This practice is immensely fun and pretty thrilling at times, because on the other side are both online and offline players acting as school patrols, either to take you down (in the case of online players) or just reveal you if you are silly enough to be detected by them (in the case of offline or online players both).  This can be pretty thrilling, often resulting in epic battles (that usually result in spy deaths if more than one patrol is nearby) or running chases that sometimes span half an area or more as you do your level best to run away from a persistent patrol.   School War is another bag entirely... in this case you either invade an enemy school or protect your own school against invaders.  These events are only available at certain times on Fridays and Saturdays and give great rewards...  Though it usually ends up with the defending side getting swarmed under.  (well, unless a bunch of idiots keep resetting the boss characters you are required to kill to finish the invasion). 


Wheels

I really want to play this game (no seriously, these events sound incredible).

That brings me to perhaps the most annoying aspect of the game... the way boss battles reset.  More than once, I've had ten to fifteen minutes of fighting ruined by a single member drawing the boss out of field, thus resetting its hp and leaving us exhausted of life, chi, and items.  Also, the 'out of field' zone is often extremely narrow and easily crossed without realizing it, not to mention that there are sometimes random 'blank spots' that might set off a boss's reset despite having hardly moved from their starting position. 


Wheels

That is some bad game design right there. Again, I know this game obviously doesn't have the budget of World of Warcraft. Regardless, something like this is completely unacceptable. Boss battles need to work right, and I'm shocked this issue is still in the game.

For those who are interested in pvp, I should mention that it is more than possible for a mid-leveled but more skilled (in terms of actual game-playing skill) player to slaughter a max-leveled doofus.  I've both seen it happen and done it once or twice myself.  While it is difficult, it is possible and it is immensely enjoyable and satisfying if you can make it happen... while having it happen to you is both embarrassing and frustrating.  A lot of this is because defense from armor items does very little to cancel damage and a character's own defenses are relatively weak, regardless of their level.  This game does not provide much difference between the levels of players... a single level of your inner skill (which basically represents and enhances your base stats and adds a special effect to your character) makes relatively little difference and even a ten level difference represents not much of a barrier between players of equal skill. 


Wheels

I've always thought that someone needed to find a way to make an MMO where leveling doesn't make much of a difference. Grinding your way up to the end game is just not fun in a lot of the games. Doesn't sound like this is completely fixed in this instance, but still.

Overall, this is the most infuriating, frustrating, and immensely enjoyable MMO I've ever played... which is probably why I'll put it down the moment I stop having fun running up walls and killing people for bounties... or kidnapping them for unbound coin.  (did I mention you can kidnap offline players and sell them to human traffickers for unbound coin?  Immensely fun and immensely hilarious... though it does make you a target for anyone looking for a free kill).


Wheels

That sounds incredible right there, I may seriously have to give this game a try.

I'll be honest, this game is not for everyone.  Quite the reverse.  Most people will give up within hours, as they realize their level doesn't increase no matter how many monsters they kill and that little ticker marking your skill cultivation is going way too slowly.   This is a game for those who can appreciate its more unusual aspects while enduring its more annoying ones... and learning to sit back and enjoy things even when they are immensely frustrating.


Sincerely,
Clephas


Wheels

Well despite the issues (and it sounds like there are many) at the very least this game deserves some credit for trying some different things. Too many MMOs try to just rip off World of Warcraft without changing very much. Being free to play doesn't hurt either, so you can give it a try without paying a dime. I think this is exactly what I'm going to do. Thanks for bringing this game to my attention! I don't pay too much attention to the MMO scene, so I never would have heard much about it otherwise. I'll let you know what I think!

Part the Second

Defend the indefensible! Dragon Force 2 never came across the ocean. Explain!


Wheels

Why would you make me do that? I guess I have no choice. The Saturn was already in a tale-spin when Dragon Force 2 came out in Japan. With only a limited number of games slated for release in the US by Sega, there was just no room to fit it in. Sega had to go out of the way just to bring a third of Shining Force 3 to the US. So there was just no way to do Dragon Force 2 in the West without sacrificing another game. They made the tough call to cut it loose, and Working Designs didn't have an interest in doing it considering they were still trying to finish Magic Knight Rayearth. There you go! (Wheels note: After writing this JuMeSyn informed me Working Designs was actually estranged from Sega by this point).

Oh, you want to know about the game in question? Lucky you, cuz I actually did play with all 8 characters, probably putting me in the top 100 of people worldwide who spent time with it. I guess I'd better enlighten.


Wheels

Yes please, I'm sure the readers would love to learn more of this lost sequel.

The single biggest difference just from looking around is that the computer no longer fights itself.  Remember how all the kingdoms not under your control in Dragon Force 1 would keep trading castles between each other?  That no longer happens.  Once a kingdom controls territory, it stays there and will only come out when you attack.  It makes things a lot quieter, and to my mind not nearly as interesting.


Wheels

Yeah that doesn't sound good at all. The computers attacking each other made it feel like there was an all-out war going on. Without that, the world would feel quite stale.

Another change is that a draw does not render the two commanders ineligible for further fighting.  It's really win or lose this time around, and just getting a draw nets such piddly experience that it's not worth your while unless there really is no way to win.


Wheels

Sounds like a decent change to me.

Yes, there are more troop types this time, a total of 17.  You can also have two types simultaneously under one commander, and that definitely alters the dynamic.  Several of the new troop types are mechanical, and even the old ones are different - mages and archers no longer fire all the way across the screen, weakening them considerably.


Wheels

Well that's a shame. More troop types sounds like a good change, even if they nerfed a few of the old ones. Not that the original was severely lacking, but it could have used a few more.

There's also the ability to learn up to 5 spells, but only the most important characters get that high.  Most settle for 3 or 4.

Those are the major differences I remember offhand.  The plot is pretty much a rehash, at least from what I could discern, but without that Working Designs touch since it's still in Japanese.


Wheels

So all in all mostly more of the same? I guess we didn't miss out on much. Sega seems to fail with following up on some of its good ideas, so a sequel that's mostly more of the same doesn't surprise me. A bit of a shame, I think if they mixed in some ideas from the Ogre Battle series they could have produced something even more interesting.

Y'know, for some reason I'm tempted to grab the first two Summon Night games and Summon Night X Tears Crown.  The games that are on the DS and never got localized.  Gonna try talking me out of it, or just shrug and wish me luck?


Wheels

I will shrug and wish you luck, but also ask you to report back to me. We only got the action offshoots of the series, and I've always wanted to know how good the original SRPG Summon Night entries were. I've heard good things so I think you're in for a treat.

What do you know about Growlanser?  I know I'd have to get the first and sixth so I can plow through the whole series before I'm finally ready to take the plunge.


Wheels

I've only recently begun to dug into the Growlanser series. I can say that they play a bit like a 2D version of Final Fantasy XII. I've had a lot of fun with what I've played so far. The battle system is a refreshing change from the usual. Hopefully you'll find them to your liking as well.

You need more SRT music. Here's one boss that freaked me out the first time I played the game.


Wheels

That is some fantastic music! I'm guessing I won't be finding this in the GBA games I'm playing of course?

JuMeSyn

TO BE CONTINUED...
IN CLOSING

Next week we see the shocking conclusion to JuMeSyn's letter. Will Wheels finally complete that connection challenge?

Tune in next week!

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