Atelier Lulua: The End

I finished it, it’s the end. It took 55 hours, but I’m finally finished. Managed to beat the boss in only two tries, too; it was extremely close, but I managed it. Found an easy way online to level friendship (just go to the first area and beat up punis), so that wasn’t an issue like I thought it would be, either. Also, got all but one of the endings (there’s often some ridiculous-requirement ending(s) in this series), including the true ending. I’ve already given my general impressions before, so I won’t give a full review here, but I will talk about the story and endings. So, SPOILERS from now on.

I’ve never been a fan of alternate universes and timelines. I like the Back to the Future method best – you’ve just got one timeline at a time, and what you do changes (or doesn’t change) that one single timeline. Infinite universes are the worst, as far as storytelling goes: they don’t allow tension or resolution, as far as timetravel goes, because what you do doesn’t matter, and you can’t get back to where you’ve been. The way this game goes is kinda in the middle: you alter the past, you merely create another timeline; your present/future is unchanged, but for some other timeline, it can be different. Gets rid of some timey-wimey stuff, while allowing change. But the resolution to this doesn’t make sense – if you can just use that item to lock the timelines, why even go into the other one to save that Stia that didn’t get saved, when you can just lock it to your own outcome (where Stia did get saved)? There are also hints at various other places in the game of timeline changes – whatever happened with those? Oh well, it’s alchemy, it doesn’t have to make sense.

Gotta say, that boss-before-the-boss was a pain. It’s pretty easy (if a tedious use of resources) if you do it right; if you mess up at all though, you’re dead. I started out at level 78-79; I figured a few levels wouldn’t do me much better, since gear adds stats instead of multiplying them (unless you have the +% traits, but those are pretty rare, and generally not as good as flat bonuses). Stupid dragon attacks FOUR times in a turn; that’s pretty bad, especially when it gets to go first. But it’s just a doorstop get you to use your items before the actual end-boss.

And what a jerk he is. I think the ideal team is Sterk-Lulua-Rorona in front, with Aurel-Piana in back. Aurel’s better in the back, since his status ailments rarely work, while his backline healing and cleansing is quite valuable, especially on Sterk. Lulua and Rorona of course get to share status boosts, which is key when using the Draco Elixers – you get a 2-for-1 deal there. Piana doesn’t really do a whole lot herself in back, but it’s good to have her as backup when your front alchemists get wiped, and getting a few hundred more damage when you actually do manage to land a status ailment isn’t nothing.

Something I should have been doing from the start of the fight, but didn’t, was using Sterk’s line ability instead of the massive gorilla ability. The boss doesn’t resist magic, so a magic+physical ability, at half the MP, would have been better than the added faint from the big attack. Could have saved my butt earlier on, but no. Also, hate how resistant the boss is to status ailments. All the tricks the game has given you, up to that point, are mostly pointless. Unga bunga is the way to be, and hope you get lucky. Which I did – the last Executioner attack didn’t kill either Rorona or Lulua (though they were in bad shape), and I was able to finish off the boss.

As far as the endings go, I’m going to rank them in order of “how well these fit with the story and feeling of the rest of the game”:

  • Piana end
  • Normal end (+ Eva end)
  • True end
  • Aurel end
  • Niko end
  • Ficus end

(The Rorona end fits in with any and all of them, because it’s not about Lulua.)

At least since the Mysterious trilogy they don’t…

The Piana end seems like where the game was leading up to the most: Lulua sticking with her teacher (and presumably Stia), going around in the mobile atelier, spreading the teachings of alchemy around the place. The whole Arland arc of this game was all about Totori preparing Lulua for this; Rorona and Meruru are hopeless teachers, but Lulua can actually do it, and has the skills to back up her teaching style.

The next best ending is the basic Normal end: Lulua shacks up with Stia at Atelier Lulua, doing the normal alchemist stuff of helping the townsfolk with stuff. This seems more in line with the feel of what was going down than the True ending, which is Lulua and Stia going off on a random journey. Also, it supports the Eva ending, with Lulua helping Eva run the orphanage (while also operating her atelier); this just seems like the most satisfying set of endings.

The other endings are Lulua going off with one of the three guys on their own personal journeys. Aurel is the most likely of the bunch, just because it’s a regular journey, much like the one Firis takes in her game. But I don’t see Lulua ever going with either Ficus or Nico – they’re just too specialized, and they didn’t seem like such good friends as to journey together (especially Nico, when his last event was basically “see you later maybe.”).

Isn’t it sad, Eva?

But of course, if there is an Arland 5 game, they’ll probably all be canon, somehow, just like all the endings in the other games got mashed together to all be true.

Now it’s time for a new game. Final Fantasy XIV, or Elder Scrolls Online? Or…?

Dragalia Lost Summer Event, and other stuff

Dragalia Lost had its first summer event drop a few days ago, and I’m only now going into it. There’s just been too much on my mind that I’ve wanted to write about first, and this just kinda fell on the wayside. That’s OK, because it’s just a mobile game’s event, nothing huge.

Though this event looks like it had a lot of effort put into it, much more than most past events, for sure. New enemy models, an entirely new boss model and skeleton, new art for characters that won’t even be in the gacha probably, new stage art, new animations, the works. It looks like the most effort since at least the FEH colaboration, if not the New Year’s event. Even got another song for the OST (though it’s not for the raid, which uses the normal raid boss music for some reason).

The event itself even makes more sense than usual. Basically, Luca finds some “treasure maps” from a “reputable dealer in antiquities,” and the prince-king (don’t know when they’re going to actually refer to his assumed title) decides to use this as an opportunity for a team-building retreat at a beach resort island. There are games, traps, dragons, demons, adventure, the whole bit. It’s actually pretty fun and funny. And, for those concerned about it, the bathing suits are relatively reserved, as far as anime bathing suits go (bikinis of course, but nothing fetishy or otherwise in too bad taste). Also a good use of a couple of past gacha characters, and the return of a past event character; I thought those three (especially Estelle) would be overbearing with their various gimmicks, but they were fine.

By this point we’ve gotten the high-difficulty raid as well. /drag/ said it was easy, and when I asked if my team could handle it (mostly as a joke – they aren’t even fully leveled), I was told I was good enough. Well, things didn’t turn out so easy. Pubs gonna be pubs, so in at least ten attempts, only two were promising at all, and neither succeeded (one was a connection failure though, which ruined everything). Of course, the common element was me, so…

Make way for a day one player…

All told, it’s a good event. Probably my favorite event so far.

In other news, as I had thought, I was able to get to a point in Atelier Lulua last night where I could go to the end boss right now, if I wanted. Which I don’t; I’m not prepared at all. Gained 1-2 levels for my party, when I need 10-15. Would have gone faster, but I’m also going to try to get 100% exploration on all the areas (I’m not usually a cheevo chaser, but that’s an easy one, so why not?). That requires an unfortunate amount of initiating battles and then fleeing, since that advances the clock, and many enemies are exclusive to day or night. And I have a lot of friendship leveling to do as well, to get the true ending – still missing quite a bit on Sterk and Niko.

For some reason, Twitter seems to be taking the second picture in my post when I tweet this out. Very annoying. Maybe I’m supposed to make the first picture the Featured Picture?

High Difficulty in Games Kills Me

I really hate difficulty in video games. Or rather, I really hate losing. I know, pretty much everyone hates losing. But I’m specifically talking about video games, here. I play games for entertainment. I don’t want to be particularly challenged by that entertainment. I know some folks think something is boring if it’s not risky or dangerous (even in a non-real sense); that’s not me. Other folks get satisfaction from a overcoming an obstacle in a game; not me, either.

I see games just like a movie or a book. It seems silly to lose in a movie or book, as a consumer of that entertainment. I don’t want a test of skill or necessarily knowledge just to enjoy my entertainment (outside of the basics, like knowing how to read). Sure, skill and knowledge can, and should, enhance the entertainment experience. I’m all for that.

But I’m against getting frustrated at my entertainment. I think it’s really the opposite of what entertainment is supposed to be. If my jimmies are getting seriously rustled, if I can’t get what I want out of a thing just because I need to git gud, I think that’s not entertainment.

Now, I know that’s going to lock me out of certain games from the word go…and that’s perfectly fine. I’m not going to be playing Super Meat Boy…ever. Or any of those games like that. Cuphead? Nope. Most any multiplayer shooter? Count me out. Are those games good? Maybe. But I won’t enjoy them, but rather just get frustrated and crazy, and I’d rather live without the experience of the game.

Which takes me to RPG’s. I don’t like difficulty there either. But it’s even more frustrating in these sort of story games, because, generally speaking, the point of the game is to tell a story to the gamer, in an interactive way. I’m easy to please when it comes to those things, so I’m not too picky. But difficulty in RPG’s keeps the player from experiencing the story, which is, again, kinda the point. (In fact, it could be argued that the sorts of gameplays that go with RPG’s generally wouldn’t work on their own – too boring for the most part – but the story elevates the game as a whole to being worth going through.)

Now, of course devs can want to make difficulty a part of the experience, just like any other game. That’s their right. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s the most frustrating when the rest of the game is…not difficult at all. But then you get to a point when Difficulty is a thing, often all of a sudden. These are the worst, in my opinion. I’m just doing great, and then BAM, progress is blocked. In RPG’s (especially JRPG’s) this usually means it’s time to grind, and I hate that too, especially in more modern RPG’s where there can be anti-grind mechanics as well.

The game that brought this up? Atelier Lulua. In an attempt to reduce difficulty, I look up guides, to prepare to make things easier in the future. I’m pretty late-game (at the last chapter, so yah, late game), so I’m looking up boss fight mechanics. Most of the bosses in the game have been relatively easy, but the bosses in the previous chapter got all sorts of mean, right quick, but not something I couldn’t handle with a bit of preparation. Even the final boss of the chapter (not all chapters had bosses, but this one did) was a real toughy.

Atelier games have historically had optional bosses of excessive difficulty. I’m totally cool with that. Note how they’re optional. Sometimes I even take the option, just to see what they’re like. This game is no different. I was taking a look at them, seeing if it was worth my time to go after them. Then I went further, and looked at the end boss. Below I’ll show you both the end-boss of the penultimate chapter, and the end-boss of the game (and the chapter I’m currently on):

They’re basically the same boss, just the latter is more advanced. Fine, that’s fair. But the top was one I was barely able to defeat, and is, in many ways, already stronger than the later optional bosses. That ~9k HP is quite a big jump (it’s right after another boss, which has ~9k total HP – which also makes this a sort of boss gauntlet). And of course it’s got stronger attacks and more resistances, etc. Oh, and the kicker? You can go from the top boss to the bottom boss extremely quickly, in terms of game time (if you’ve been keeping up with your alchemy, you’ve pretty much done most of the required stuff previously). That kind of sudden difficulty spike is something that, when I read it in the guide last night, totally killed my motivation to play last night.

These sort of very hard bosses, and/or very long grinds, have killed games for me. I’ve only gotten through about half of the Atelier games I’ve played, for this reason. They have a very nice, mostly relaxed gameplay loop for the first 2/3-3/4 of the game, and then either a frantic rush to grind out whatever you need to do before time runs out (in the older games), or a long slog to grind out that last bit so you can get a good end. (I’m convinced that some of them are designed to be impossible to get the better/best ends until after playing the whole game over again in NG+.)

Call me a scrub, a noob, a heretic. I just don’t like that kind of stuff.

Oddly, not difficult to beat the knight in arm rasling.

Impressions So Far: Atelier Lulua

I was planing on playing Atelier Lulua last night , after not being able to play for a week (vacation, then catching up after vacation; maybe next time I’ll just take my PC with me). But a new event had dropped in Granblue Fantasy, and a new weekend raid in Dragalia Lost, so my play time for ‘real’ games evaporated. (Also got the summer ship in Star Trek Online; so do I log in again?) But I will save that stuff for tomorrow; today, I’ll post about the game I wanted to play.

Like all the other Atelier-series games, this is an RPG that is very crafting-focused. There’s the titular alchemist, Lulua, who, along with her plucky friends, goes around gathering crafting materials, making items, then using those items to beat up monsters, to get the materials they drop. A smart alchemist would just get someone else to do that kind of stuff, but the alchemists in these games tend to start out on the bottom rung, and do all of that for themselves. Indeed, Lulua here is but an apprentice, barely able to to basic stuff at first.

Bombs are, like, the basic of basics, like everyone knows.

This, despite the fact that Lulua’s mother is none other than Rorona, the most famous alchemist in all the land (and the star of her own game back in the PS3 era). An aside – this game is pretty unique, in that it’s the direct sequel to a trilogy of games. The mainline Atelier games, at least for the past decade and more, have tended to come out in a series of three games, with a new heroine, but the same setting; often the previous heroine will be a mentor or teacher to the new one. Atelier Rorona was the start of the Arland trilogy, and Atelier Lulua is a sequel to that, despite two trilogies coming between them (Dusk and Mysterious). And the next game will start a new trilogy. Anyways, it seems to have been around 20 years since Atelier Meruru, the last game in the Arland series, as Lulua was presumably not around at that point (or Rorona is a seriously bad mother!). And no father to be found…

Anywho, Lulua goes around, makes some friends (some in high places), and goes on her adventure. She gets the help of some mysterious book, that only she can read, which gives her ideas to solve whatever problem is in front of her. Of course there’s some work involved (it’s a game, after all), but the book is a great catalyst to her alchemy skill. Also, there are weird times where it seems she might chicken out of some thing, but then *RECORD SCRATCH* she chooses adventure instead. There’s definitely something to this, but where I’m at (according to GameFAQ’s I’m 1/2-2/3 through the story) it’s a mystery. Might have something to do with time travel schenanigans – there’s one part where Lulua is regretting something she’s done, wishing she could go back and change it, but she’s told in no uncertain terms that changing the past is impossible; that in itself is a pretty common heroic growth plot point, but the way it’s explained (that trying to correct the past merely creates another reality – good for that reality, but still sucks for you) was so jarring that it must be a plot point.

I don’t think that follows…

I have to say, I’m really digging that they’ve finally figured out how to create good pacing without the time limits of the older games. It’s a heresy to some, but I really dislike the time limits, as they are so contrary to the general relaxed feel to the games. But without any time limits, the game designers were floundering for a while with the games’ pacing. Atelier Sophie was a mess in this regard: there’s no threat, or really a plot at all, until suddenly there is, but don’t worry about it, it’s super urgent and the world’s dying and all, but don’t let that stop you from leveling up your friendship with the fatty. Atelier Firis brought back a timer, but it was so generous it really didn’t matter; even I, who go about things rather lackadaisically, still had to just fill time with stuff before that timer ran out. And it was only for the first part of the game: after that, you’re free entirely to go your own pace. But there were still some issues with filler time and such. Atelier Lydie and Sue was even better with pacing, and almost completely ditching the timer (there is one chapter with a generous timer), by having so many things going on that you don’t lack for things to drive you forward. However, progress slows considerably in late game, and honestly I just lost interest and didn’t finish it. Lulua seems to have finally gotten it right – story progression is based on skill progress, which drives events. You have to do stuff to beef up your skills, which gives you things to do. Then you advance in the story, have more things to do, have to build up your skills more, etc.

To advance your skills, the mysterious book gives you hints on what to do. Sometimes those hints are a little too vague, though. For example, one time it says something along the lines of “find someone who uses a lot of medicine.” That sounds like “go locate a certain NPC,” or “do a certain side quest.” But no, what it really means is “use x in battle y times.” I really don’t like basic progression like that being forced into using the internet to figure it out. It might be a translation error though, so I don’t know whose fault that is.

One of the criticisms of the game that I’ve heard is that the various returning characters don’t act their age, or that they don’t act like they’ve grown since the last time they’ve appeared. I don’t know how valid that is. The entire point of this game is fanservice and nostalgia – there was no reason to return to Arland, yet here we are. And adults aren’t suddenly going to change, just because they’ve gotten somewhat older. Yet, sometimes these characters seem almost childish. And it certainly doesn’t help that all the same voice actors are used, with the same voices as their original incarnation (when the characters were teenagers).

Speaking of fanservice, and the exploitation thereof, there’s the DLC. If you weren’t a slow casual like me, I don’t see the point. $30 “season pass” packs for a few outfits (including swimsuits), and a single playable character? If you’ve already played the game, why load it up again and buy these? There’s nothing in it for anyone. I know I’m not the target demo for the outfits (I’m all about fanservice, but none of that is servicing this fan), but I just don’t understand, not this late in the game. If you were a huge fan of Arland, you bought the game and played it already. Just being able to play the Arland heroines that aren’t in the base game, even if they get a whole series of vignettes with them, doesn’t seem reasonable, for the price of a whole newish game (or several older games) on sale.

All that, just to say that I like the game so far, and hope it keeps it up.