Sakura Wars: Difficulty.

So, I’ve hit a bit of a snag in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love.

I’m at what is about the second or third last sequence, right before I get to choose which of them I want to date.  And so a couple of weeks ago I went through the dating/investigation sequence, and then hit the combat sequence.  And then discovered that I really didn’t have any idea what I was doing and messed up one of my first moves.

I knew that there was a trick to it and that I’d figure it out eventually.   But I was tired and didn’t feel like going through that at that point, so I shut it off and figured I’d get back to it later.

I haven’t loaded the game since.

Part of this is because the best time for me to play it is Friday evening, since it’s the one night where I start playing things later in the evening — and so would like something that can be shorter — and yet I also usually don’t have to get up that early the next morning so if it drifts over a bit it’s fine.  I either don’t have the time on the weekdays, or have more time that I’d like to devote to the game (what would I do when I hit an episode break).  And I’ve had to get up early the past couple of weeks, and so haven’t played it then.

But another part of it is that I know there’ll be some trial-and-error involved and that I’ll mess it up at least once or twice, and have to replay parts of it.  The fact that I’ll have to do this is basically making me not want to play the game, despite the fact that I really, really, really want to finish it.

Which leads to a more general discussion of “difficulty”.  With Persona 3 and Persona 4, I always play it on “Easy”.  Even when I carried over my really, really powerful MC (for Persona 3).  Even when grinding Tartarus enough to level my other characters was boring me to tears, and making me hate Tartarus.  This is because dying is even less fun, and I didn’t want to have to try and retry and of the boss encounters.  It’s also why I never try the bonus dungeon.

See, story-based games have a problem, or perhaps a connundrum.  Some people, like me, play them primarily for the story, with the game being interesting diversions that push the plot along.  But the issue here is that the story and game elements can clash, and it all comes down to how hard the gameplay is.   If the gameplay is too hard, then people get frustrated with the gameplay and don’t get to finish the story.  And then they consider the game to be less than ideal.  But if you make it too easy, then there’s not much of a game there; you might as well just be watching an anime or animated movie.

Sakura Wars is, in fact, not a very difficult game.  I’m not particularly good at those sorts of games and I’m not having any issues so far.  But the more involved — and therefore difficult — the fights get, the more chance there is of my hitting something that I can’t figure out and quitting the game, which would mean that they’d  turn off a potential future customer (my big worry about the game was that the combat would tick me off enough that I’d never finish the game).  The Personas had a difficulty setting for combat, and that the “‘Answer” expansion didn’t was a source of frustration for me (although I did beat it twice).

These are decent ways to try to strike a balance.  But there are really bad ways.  For example, it was either Baldur’s Gate or the original Icewind Dale (or both) that gave you a difficulty slider … and then said that if you set it lower you’d get less XP in combat.  Which, to me, meant that I’d get less cool things if I set it lower (levels, level powers, skills, etc).  Which would make the game experience worse for me.  So I left it where it was, and ended up with the typical narcolepsy and reloading if one of my characters died.  Yeah, don’t give me a difficulty slider and then punish me for using it.

Note that this was done in the MMORPG City of Heroes (the ability to bump it up and then I think you got more XP for encounters, but they were harder) but there it worked, because all it cost me was time to keep it on a more manageable level.  But in a static game, that doesn’t work; there are only so many monsters to kill in following the story, and getting less XP means having less levels at the end  unless grinding can be done.  In CoH, I could reach the highest levels and all the cool powers even if I kept it at the easier levels; in the other game, I couldn’t.

There’s not really much of a point to this.  I’m just pointing out the trade-off and how it’s impacting my enjoyment of Sakura Wars.  If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s that customizing the experience and difficulty without penalizing players is a good thing, and should be aimed at by any game that wants to do anything with a story.

One Response to “Sakura Wars: Difficulty.”

  1. A Note on Difficulty … « The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] The latest Not-So-Casual Commentary is up, a copy over of a post I did here previously. […]

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