Happy May! It's already a week in but my plans are still a bit flexible. Will be going to a convention around Memorial Day weekend but otherwise I will have lots of time to game or do other things. I even wrote a little bit of fanfiction this weekend. It was weird :)

Anyway, I'm still following the RPGamer marathon so May is Persona 3 month. I only have the portable version so I am playing as the female protagonist this time. Surprisingly I have put in almost 25 hours in 6 days. Since I've made it to August already, I'm guessing this playthrough will be a bit shorter than the last one. Following a max social links guide and overall knowing what to do is making this a lot better than last time. Also, the girl has better social links and more of a personality overall. But mostly better social links.

My other main game for this month is Suikoden 3. I am continuing my slow-ish Suikoden marathon. Started playing as Hugo and got up to his Chapter 3. I always feel like I should start with Hugo for some reason. Unlike last time I am doing each character's chapters to the end before moving to the next. So far so good. It's been like 10 years since I played the game, and I feel like I had the exact same reaction to the end of Hugo's chapter 1. It's kind of funny, since this time I know what happened.

The other games below may or may not get any significant play time this month:
Lufia: Ruins of Lore (GBA)
The World Ends With You (DS)
Dark Cloud (PS2)
Shadow Hearts (PS2)
Ys II (PSP)

I really should finish off Ys II since I am more than halfway through that rather short game (not Ys I short but like 10-15 hours short), but I guess I felt pretty satisfied after beating Zava that I took a break. Need to get Ys 3 also done before Celceta shows up in the mail :)

Also, the PS3 has been ordered and shipped! I should be getting it this week. There's a low chance that I'll start up Tales of Graces f this month, but I will try to finish that game up sooner than later since Xillia will be here in August.

Ah, so many games, not enough time...
I think it's rare for someone to play RPGs and not think about the levels they gain as they progress. For me, it's easy to fall into the trap of using levels as a guideline of how far along I am in a game. I usually think of level 50 as being close to the end of the game, since I'm usually around 50-60 at the end of FF, Suikoden, and Tales games. With the assumption of many PS2 RPGs being around 40 hours, I tend to expect to see a level increase of 1-2 per hour. Of course every game is different.

Dragon Quest VIII and Persona 3 Portable obviously are games where you can level up quite slowly. I'm over 50 hours in DQ8 and I'm at level 38. I'm actually higher level than the guide I'm following because I happened to beat some metal slimes. For Persona 3 Portable I ended the game at level 80 with party members at 75, and that was 101 hours. Of course Persona 3 has lots of side activities and I also spent more time than usual staring at fusion combinations.

Still, even if DQ8 and P3P have turn-based combat just like FF games, I just felt like the former 2 were slower just because of the slow leveling. And it's not like a game needs to be giving you 1-2 levels per hour if you feel like you are making story progress. It's just that in these games you still need the levels/stats/skills (unless you are hardcore and/or risky) to beat the bosses and even the regular enemies. Thus the term "grinding".

Of course it's hard to be a JRPG fan without some love for grinding, but I find the grinding in DQ8 to be much more boring than in P3P. Partly it's due to the fact that P3P and other Persona games are all about finding the enemy's weakness and exploiting them, while most of the time in DQ8 it is attack, magic, whatever. The other frustrating and old-school mechanic of DQ games is the "attacking a group of enemies" mechanic. It makes so much offensive magic useless when it is limited like that. And unlike Suikoden, regular battles in DQ8 don't have an auto mode to speed them up either. They have intimidate, which I don't use since if that worked, most likely I could kill all the enemies with my hero's boomerang.

Other games have level "caps" per area where you gain significant amounts of experience and levels until you meet the expected level for the area. Notable games with level "caps" are Lost Odyssey, Trails in the Sky, and Xenoblade. The upside of "caps" is that usually you don't have to grind much for experience (loot, on the other hand, is a different story) and you can really tell if you can move on or not. The downside of level "caps" is that you can't overpower yourself unless you play the game out of order. I don't feel the need to be overpowered, so level caps don't bother me.

The thing that makes level grinding a chore but feel "required" is when levels are the means of gaining new skills. When leveling is slow, the skill gaining is slow and you really end up doing the same thing almost for every battle. I think this is the killer combination of DQ8 and perhaps the other DQ games. In P3P it ends up making most of your other party members seem useless since they gain their skills so slowly due to the level-tied skill learning.

Anyway TLDR: I prefer a quicker leveling up pace since it makes me feel I make game progress faster. Level caps are fine and don't really affect the way I play a game.
major spoilers )

I don't think I need to beat this game to recommend it. Plenty of other people have written good reviews of the game. I recommend it but I think it's best played with a level guide for bosses at the beginning, just so you can get a feel for how much you want to grind. But if you worry about spoilers, don't look too far ahead!
Read more... )

In other news, I did start Xenoblade yesterday and it is glorious. It is also humongous. I think I might be playing that game for the rest of my life...

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July 2016

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