A Dizzying Array of Options …

… makes me dizzy.

Okay, so I’m playingRecord of Agarest War Zero again, after picking it up and then getting stuck and giving up on it for a while because grinding was getting too difficult. And this time, I’ve actually paid attention to what options you have in the game, and what you can and need to do to build out really powerful characters and parties that can survive the grinding tactical combat of the game — so that I can get to the good part of figuring out who I’m going to marry and have a kid with (already picked out the name!) — and, well, there’s a lot of it:

*At the beginning, you have to choose your class from Warrior, Battle Mage, and Mage. That’s one of the simpler choices in the game, although I’m not really sure what the difference is.
*Then, you have to pick something like 5 cards that combine to give you a ton of attributes. There’s nothing in the game as far as I can tell that tells you what these things do, although I might have missed it.
*Then you pick something like three more.
*In the game itself, you have to choose six people out of your entire party set to actually participate in the battles. Characters that aren’t in your party don’t get XP, so you might have to switch them around a bit.
*For certain battles, enemies have different resistances. For example, crabs are vulnerable to magic and resist physical attacks, so you’ll want lots of mages pounding on them. Fairies, on the other hand, are weak to physical and strong against magic, so you want physical characters pounding them.
*You can earn adventurer titles as you do things in the world, which will give you goodies when you claim them.
*You can buy weapons from stores, although the selection can seem pretty slim because …
*… you can make new weapons by using the smithing books you can buy from the stores. Once you do that, then the store somehow knows how to make them so that you can buy them from them. Even old weapons can be useful because you can break them down to make components for new weapons. Some of the other pieces you get by killing things in the world.
*Through battles, you get "Enhancement Points", which you can use to enhance weapons and armour. You can only convert items into components if they have been fully enhanced.
*As you fight, eventually you will level up, and so get points to spend on your attributes.
*You also get “Power Points”, which you can use to further enhance your abilities.
*You also get “Training Points”, which I haven’t been able to use yet for some reason.
*You also pick up skills that you can sell(!) or add to your characters.
*You can also add skills into the skill slots of your weapons to give you another skill to use in combat. I actually liked this because it let me give one character his own Double Needle combo and a Double Needle combo with his sister Routier (again, I remember the female characters’ names but not the male characters’).
*And eventually, you get married which determines an awful lot about the character for the second part of the game. As does your relationship with the other candidates.

Now, I didn’t really enhance my armour much, but did for my weapons, and leveled up fairly far, and managed to get past where I had gotten before. I hadn’t done any of this the first time I played and, to be honest, had no idea what this stuff was for. So, this does seem to matter to the game. How much does it matter? Do I have to balance this perfectly or else I’ll be behind the 8-ball for the entire game? Can I focus on one or the other? How much of this do I have to do?

The options are staggering, and this is a trend that I’m seeing in a lot of games … but this one is, in my opinion, exceptional. There were a lot of things to balance in Suikoden III as well — level, skills, skill levels, weapon sharpening, armour, party, etc — but they seemed more, well, detached, in that you didn’t generally have to think about them all at once. In this game, perhaps because all towns seem to give all options, it seems more like you have to think about these things constantly and all at once. They’re more tightly intertwined than I’ve seen in other games, perhaps. That leaves me thinking that I have to spend a lot of time worrying about this, as every time I return to town I have to think about enhancement, titles, weapon changes, and the like, and at every battle I’m thinking about PP use and party composition and formation and what I’ve got to use.

I miss the simpler days, when all you had to worry about was your weapon, your armour, and your level. And your skills, and spells, and …

Okay, maybe those weren’t actually simpler days …

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