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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 95: Clearing out the Backlog

This week we attempt to scratch the mountain that is the GameCritics.com backlog by getting to some of those titles that we've always wanted to play, but never made the time for. Now, we have made the time, at least for three of the games. The crew dishes on I Am Alive, Sleeping Dogs, and Heavenly Sword, and more, plus a What We've Been Playing roundtable. Featuring Sinan Kubba, Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, and Richard Naik.

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Dragon's Chest

I had no intention of buying Dragon's Crown as, like Brad, i think Muramasa is bland crap. But because of all of this moral-crusading about tits and hips and burly chests and who knows what-else, i bought it just to piss these pricks off and leverage against this moral panic, which has been going on for years now.
Richard, you argued that free speech is a two way street, and while i certainly agree with that, I get very skeptical about drivers of the other lane throwing caltrops on mine. Especially more-so when critics like Sinan ask if there would be anything "lost" if the art-style would be changed to something more PC. To this i say yes, there would be something lost: Diversity -- the thing that a lot of these so-called "progressives" are always hammering on about, but don't really seem to like that much when diversity contains something they object to.
There's a distinction between arguing against ideas, and pressuring people not to engage with those ideas at all. I think the latter is employed more when the own intellectual basis does not hold up to scrutiny, therefore any real discussion, in which both sides are present, must be stopped from occurring at all.
Some gamers are aware that if they don't take action to prevent this PC-encroachment on their medium of choice, soon there will be nothing left and no side remaining to represent their point of view. This may explain some of the vitriol which has been heading towards critics, especially those who dislike games just because they contain content they personally disapprove of. And before you turn around and say that this amounts to the same sort of silencing methods i am critical of above, i think the reality of the situation is that we've been discussing and debating this feminist point of view for years now - and most of it is pro-feminist or at least deferential. Anyone who says that there is not enough engagement and support for these feminist ideas is simply delusional... It's everywhere -- i can't open up any gaming website (or any news-website for that matter) without being exposed to some new feminist tirade. What we need instead is to engage with some tight ass, big tits, and voluptuous hips, which, thankfully, due to Dragon's Crown, is a viable option, not just a theoretical one.

BTW, Chi, thanks for alerting me of this DLC crap in SMT. I think it's especially sad for a fan such as you are, since apparently now you've now screwed up your 40$ game by buying the DLC, making everything incredibly easy and void of challenge. I'll remember to stay away from that franchise from now on, even though I've bought a lot of the games in the overarching series. Another reason to stay critical of everything; It is as they say: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Can I suggest a new

Can I suggest a new segment?
Its called the "where the hell is Mike Bracken?" segment.
Still, great podcast guys.

Nice.

Great discussions as always. I'm really digging the brawler aspect of Sleeping Dogs, the fighting seems more realistic and stylish to me than say, Batman Arkham Asylum. I really want to catch up on a lot of these games, especially the ones you guys recommend.

By the way, after tonight's BB episode, you guys should seriously consider doing a BB after-dark podcast. I'd love you guys for ever if you did. Also, Mike HAS to be there for that podcast.

DLC in SMT IV and other matters

Let me clear something up regarding the "DLC" in SMTIV

I'm about 45 hours into the game. DLC is absolutely, positively not necessary to progress in the game. Never once have I felt compelled to purchase DLC. The game never compels you to purchase DLC. It simply has not happened. Brad, the reason why you haven't heard anyone talk about "freemium" content or compelled DLC purchases is because they do not exist in SMTIV.

To be sure, the game is tough. Very tough, like all SMT games. But there's an option to reduce the difficulty level that pops up once you die twice. And you can save anywhere, which is a huge change from previous SMT and Persona games.

I would hate for this podcast to discourage TickTock or anyone else from trying SMTIV. So far, it's the best JRPG I've played this decade, and one of the best RPG's overall. Try it!

As far as Dragon's Crown, I like the game and would like to hear more discussion of the gameplay, and less discussion of the art style. A whole lot less. Interestingly, it seems like the most objections I hear about the art style come from men, not women.

sleeve wrote: To be sure,

sleeve wrote:

To be sure, the game is tough. Very tough, like all SMT games. But there's an option to reduce the difficulty level that pops up once you die twice. And you can save anywhere, which is a huge change from previous SMT and Persona games.

So are you playing the game on "easy?"

Cybrmynd: We actually have

Cybrmynd: We actually have had a Breaking Bad show in the works for a while now-stay tuned for it as the season gets closer to the end.

more SMTIV

Chi Kong Lui wrote:
sleeve wrote:

To be sure, the game is tough. Very tough, like all SMT games. But there's an option to reduce the difficulty level that pops up once you die twice. And you can save anywhere, which is a huge change from previous SMT and Persona games.

So are you playing the game on "easy?"

Nope. I'm playing on standard difficulty.

The demon fusion program really is amazing in SMTIV. It truly is a work of art. Anyone who has played a SMT, really gotten into the meat of one of these games (including Persona), has probably spent time poring over fusion charts and plotting out skill inheritance trees. For example, putting Megidolaon onto Beelzebub, or grafting Null Fire onto King Frost.

In older games, this was often incredibly complex. In the older Persona and SMT games, certain demon types could only inherit certain types of skills, so you had to devise elaborate means to carry skills over.

In SMTIV, you effectively no longer need to do this. Now, you can tell the demon fusion program what specific skill you want to put on a specific demon, and it will fuse it for you (as long as you already have the skill in your Compendium, and you have enough Macca).

It's absolutely amazing. Every wish I ever had for a demon fusion program is fulfilled in this game.

And Chi, the Devil Summoner game series is distinct from the Devil Survivor series. Devil Summoner includes the original Devil Summoner game on the Saturn and Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, which first came out on the Saturn and PSone and then was rereleased in enhanced form on the 3DS. Soul Hackers is more or less a direct sequel to the first Devil Summoner game and features some of the same characters and villians. Then there are two more Devil Summoner games on the PS2, but they're much more like action RPG's and are set in 1920's Tokyo. All of the Devil Summoner games feature various members of the Kuzonoha family of demon summoning detectives.

The Devil Survivor games are all on the DS and 3DS and are basically Strategy RPG's.

sleeve wrote: Nope. I'm

sleeve wrote:

Nope. I'm playing on standard difficulty.

What happened to you when you hit the Minotaur boss? Was that a huge grind wall for you?

grind wall?

Chi Kong Lui wrote:
sleeve wrote:

Nope. I'm playing on standard difficulty.

What happened to you when you hit the Minotaur boss? Was that a huge grind wall for you?

Not really. It was no worse than any other JRPG boss.

I'm playing a very magic-heavy character. I think the Minotaur is weak to Ice, IIRC. The key to those early bosses is abusing the Press Turn system and buffing yourself with Raku/Tarukaja. If you stay buffed and hit him with Ice spells, he's not that bad. By contrast, if you try to hit him with just physical attacks, you'll be in for a world of pain on any difficulty.

sleeve wrote: Not really.

sleeve wrote:

Not really. It was no worse than any other JRPG boss.

I'm playing a very magic-heavy character. I think the Minotaur is weak to Ice, IIRC. The key to those early bosses is abusing the Press Turn system and buffing yourself with Raku/Tarukaja. If you stay buffed and hit him with Ice spells, he's not that bad. By contrast, if you try to hit him with just physical attacks, you'll be in for a world of pain on any difficulty.

Even after grinding out several levels and focusing on demons with more ice attacks, the Minotaur was one-hit KOing my entire team even if I managed to get into the late stages of battle. I had to basically respec my whole team (which was fairly balanced) and that would have been a fairly arduous process had it not been for the DLC.

Up to that point, the previous boss gave me problems as well, but I was able to eck out a victory. It wasn't close with the Mintotaur and that's what drove me to the DLC. Could I have kept grinding out levels and eventually got enough macca for the right fusions etc? I estimated it could have taken me some serious hours given how little xp you get from grinds/missions.

This wasn't a strategic miscalculation on my part. It was just a pure and simple grind.

If you recall on the show, I didn't condemn the game for the DLC. I still have very mixed feelings about it. The $2 price is well worth the price given how much hours it will save me, but again, this is a challenge that is artificially put forth by the designers.

It's also worth noting that I got a whooping 30 app points from one street tag. So street tagging can also heavily influence the need to grind as well.

Respec respec respec

Chi Kong Lui wrote:
sleeve wrote:

Not really. It was no worse than any other JRPG boss.

I'm playing a very magic-heavy character. I think the Minotaur is weak to Ice, IIRC. The key to those early bosses is abusing the Press Turn system and buffing yourself with Raku/Tarukaja. If you stay buffed and hit him with Ice spells, he's not that bad. By contrast, if you try to hit him with just physical attacks, you'll be in for a world of pain on any difficulty.

Even after grinding out several levels and focusing on demons with more ice attacks, the Minotaur was one-hit KOing my entire team even if I managed to get into the late stages of battle. I had to basically respec my whole team (which was fairly balanced) and that would have been a fairly arduous process had it not been for the DLC.

There's your problem right there. If you're not changing out demons frequently, you're playing the game wrong. SMTIV, like other MegaTen games, is all about exploiting weaknesses. It doesn't really benefit to focus on having a balanced team at all times, because one level away you might run into a completely different series of enemies. In the long run it benefits you to keep fusing and negotiating, because you'll have a wider range of skills to choose from. Leveling up individual demons doesn't really help. Better to just line up 3 guys with Bufu/Bufula and hammer him.

It did take me quite a few tries to beat that boss. But as I recall, Jack Frost is available for fusion by the time you hit the Minotaur, around that level. If you have him, that fight is a whole lot easier.

I'm not criticizing you for using the DLC, by the way. I'm glad you're happy with the game. I just don't want people to get the impression that DLC is in any way necessary to play SMT IV. Or that the grinding is any worse than your average JRPG (I think it's quite a bit better in that regard). I guess the amount of grinding is subject to opinion. But the necessity of DLC is not.

sleeve wrote: There's your

sleeve wrote:

There's your problem right there. If you're not changing out demons frequently, you're playing the game wrong. SMTIV, like other MegaTen games, is all about exploiting weaknesses. It doesn't really benefit to focus on having a balanced team at all times, because one level away you might run into a completely different series of enemies. In the long run it benefits you to keep fusing and negotiating, because you'll have a wider range of skills to choose from. Leveling up individual demons doesn't really help. Better to just line up 3 guys with Bufu/Bufula and hammer him.

That's not true. As I said on the show, this wasn't my first go around with demon fusion mechanics and I was fully aware of the need to constantly fuse new demons and I did switch up my team with ice-based attacks when I faced Minotaur. But you get to a certain point where you have to grind/level up your own character to gain access to more powerful demons like Jack Frost.

sleeve wrote:

I'm not criticizing you for using the DLC, by the way. I'm glad you're happy with the game. I just don't want people to get the impression that DLC is in any way necessary to play SMT IV. Or that the grinding is any worse than your average JRPG (I think it's quite a bit better in that regard). I guess the amount of grinding is subject to opinion. But the necessity of DLC is not.

I don't know if I agree with that. I was doing a ton of fusions and battles and it was leveling up generally at a snails pace. I'd like to hear from others who have played the game.

Funny thing is that in a later a non-battle objective gave me a whooping 10,000 xp point. Ultimately, they did put the DLC in there to address something.

It also interesting to note that with the use of the DLC, its very possible to level up demons to very high levels and stick with them longer where as in previous games, I think this was largely impossible. I may max out a Sun Wukong this way.

DLC DLC DLC

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

[That's not true. As I said on the show, this wasn't my first go around with demon fusion mechanics and I was fully aware of the need to constantly fuse new demons and I did switch up my team with ice-based attacks when I faced Minotaur. But you get to a certain point where you have to grind/level up your own character to gain access to more powerful demons like Jack Frost.

How is that different from any other SMT game? Or MegaTen generally? The side quests also help quite a bit. Especially the delivery quests that you can do multiple times (This actually seems rather Monster Hunter-inspired).

I don't see any grand conspiracy by Atlus to set artificial difficulty spikes to sell DLC. The difficulty is no different from any other MegaTen game I've played. Maybe a little on the harder side.

On a tangential note, I've never minded grinding in SMT games, because every time you level you get something new. New demons, more apps, more possibilities. So you always have something new to work towards. Before you reach Jack Frost there are special demons that you can level up and fuse.

SMTIV also adds multiple ways you can gain experience: talking, recruiting demons, fusing all earn you experience points, and apps can increase the amount you earn.

Quote:

It also interesting to note that with the use of the DLC, its very possible to level up demons to very high levels and stick with them longer where as in previous games, I think this was largely impossible. I may max out a Sun Wukong this way.

I don't even see the need though. Why would you want to stick with one demon beyond 4 or 5 levels? Once a demon has learned all the skills it can, I just fuse it into the next thing. Until the endgame, of course.

sleeve wrote: How is that

sleeve wrote:

How is that different from any other SMT game? Or MegaTen generally? The side quests also help quite a bit. Especially the delivery quests that you can do multiple times (This actually seems rather Monster Hunter-inspired).

I've played hundreds of hours on 2 Devil Survivor games and never encountered any major grind walls. Those side quests you speak of did not help. Once you complete it the first time, the experience point yields were much lower. Had I focused more on ice-based attacks, would I have been able to beat that boss more easily? Perhaps, but its not something I could have planned.

sleeve wrote:

I don't see any grand conspiracy by Atlus to set artificial difficulty spikes to sell DLC. The difficulty is no different from any other MegaTen game I've played. Maybe a little on the harder side.

I'm not sure if Atlus artificially lowered the xp yields to make the DLC more attractive. I do think this is Atlus' attempt at exploring and experimenting with with freemium pay models which are very much the reality in today's gaming environment. I don't fault them for that.

sleeve wrote:

On a tangential note, I've never minded grinding in SMT games, because every time you level you get something new. New demons, more apps, more possibilities. So you always have something new to work towards. Before you reach Jack Frost there are special demons that you can level up and fuse.

I have an exceptionally high level of tolerance for grinding and fractional percentage drops. That said, grind battling and fusing in the Naruku dungeon was really tedious and unengaging.

I'm finding latter areas much better in terms of balance, which makes the opening Naruku even more befuddling.

sleeve wrote:

I don't even see the need though. Why would you want to stick with one demon beyond 4 or 5 levels? Once a demon has learned all the skills it can, I just fuse it into the next thing. Until the endgame, of course.

Because some demons are just cooler/sexier than others. I get rather attached to some demons. ;-)

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