Friday, August 1, 2008

Eternal Sonata: Not exactly a triumphant return to gaming

Eternal Sonata...

I'm trying to get into it and like it, but it's just not working for me. The story and characters are not very engaging to me and I've skipped every movie because they are simply painful for me to watch.

The combat system seems interesting on the surface, but for a tactical rpg I find it frustrating. I can't seem to choose who I target when doing a ranged attack; I can't seem to choose which ally I want to buff; I can't even seem to choose which ability I get to use. I realize that there is some kind of system in the background whereby my character positioning relative to other characters and enemies affects my options, but it's simply not understandable to me after playing an hour of the game.

The game tries to explain combat in a series of boring and non-skippable tutorials. There's no learn-as-you-play, just a bunch of billboards that explain a bunch of concepts by way of annoying banter between characters. I'm now "Party Level 2" and instead of becoming stronger, I actually feel weaker. I'm not sure what (if any) advantages there are to leveling up my party -- nor am I sure how I reached the next level other than by beating a certain boss. Weird.

The equipment/inventory system is a confusing mess. After fumbling around I finally was able to change equipment and add some items to my combat inventory selection.

I find myself unsure of what to do/where to go next. And, instead of providing me with hints or a map, I instead wander all over the place until I hit a place where I'm NOT supposed to go and then the voice of the machine comes up and says "don't go there. Go to this other place (and I'm not telling you where it is."

I'm also a little confused about why I seem to have 2 different parties of 2 characters. I'm guessing that this was explained somewhere in a movie, but I missed it. I'm not opposed to this, but it just seems weird that I have two completely separate parties that share a single inventory system.

I'm going to give Party Level 2 a try for a bit. If things don't start to get a lot more interesting I'll probably just complete the first level and quit.

I've also played some XBLA demos that I'll talk about in a future post.

EDIT: I played through the first level and while the game started to get more fun when I had 3 characters in my active party (which I could select from a subset of 5), combat was still not exciting enough to overcome the various annoyances that made me feel less strategic and more a victim of bad camera angles and status notifications.

I'll return it tomorrow and get started on Clive Barker's Jericho.

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