October Game Challenge Completion
*This Post Contains Spoilers
At the beginning of the month, before starting Tales of the Abyss, I finished the main story of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. I really enjoy the nemesis system. It makes the world feel much more alive than is possible in most open world games. I did however have issues with the end of the game. Throughout the whole game you have a bunch of missions that normally end in you fighting hords of Uruk. This can be challenging at times, but for me it was a lot of fun. Then you get to the end and you expect more of the same. You would be wrong. The ending has a hide and seek game with one boss, followed by a quick time event for the other. I have nothing against quick time events, especially when they add something to the game. But this felt almost like a cheap cop-out, like they didn't have enough time to create an epic encounter for the end.
After completing Shadow of Mordor I moved onto my challenge for the month in Tales of the Abyss. I really enjoyed this game for the most part, although I was often frustrated with the AI of your party members. The combat is real time, but segregated from the real world. You run into a monster in a real world which transports you into the fight scene. The fights are then real time, instead of being turn-based like many JRPG style games are. You control the main character, and the other three people in your team are computer controlled. Most of the time having the extra characters being controlled by the computer is extremely helpful. However, it can also be detrimental when the character doesn't do what you need it to at a clutch moment. The best example I have of this was during an extremely hard boss battle. I didn't have any more life bottles, which are used to revive your character. Even if your main character is dead, until you get a specific item, you can't gain control of the other characters. One of the computer characters was the last person alive, and all he needed to do, in order for the fight to have been won, was hit the boss once with a physical attack. Instead he decided to try and cast a spell. This would have been fine, if the boss hadn't also decided to cast a spell that had a lower cast time. If he had been player controlled, I would have just hit the boss with a physical attack. If that wasn't an option, I would have at least moved out of the circle that shows where the spell is going to hit, and then restarted trying to cast my spell.
There is also an interesting mechanic having to do with battles and which party members are fighting. The most characters you can have fighting is four. However throughout most of the game all six party members are traveling with you. If instead of you running into a monster in the real world, it manages to run into your back, then you get a surprise encounter. When this happens the only character who is guaranteed to be in the fight is the character that you have set to play. I'm interested in seeing how players would react if all characters in the fight were fair game for this mechanic instead of always having your one character set.
Another battle mechanic that was cool deals with your special attacks. Each of the six types of magic can gather within the area. If a special attack that you use is compatible with the magic that is currently gathered, your special attack changes and does more damage. It was a lot of fun to mess around with each of the different magic types and special attacks to find what works with what.
I also definitely enjoyed the story. It was kind of hard to get into at first because the main character is a complete spoiled brat. After the very beginning of the game he starts to grow as a person and actually turns into a mostly likeable person. It's also really interesting because the player isn't the only one who dislikes the main character throughout the beginning, all of the rest of your party more or less dislikes him for one reason or another. Then he makes a huge mistake and they all leave him behind for a time. This is the tipping point for what makes the main character realize he needs to change. When he next meets up with the rest of the party, they don't trust him. He has to earn their trust back. There's also a story based mechanic that I really enjoyed. Even though the main portions of the story are things that have to be sat through, there's a lot of inter-character dialogue that is easily skippable. The game calls them skits, and when one is available the name of it pops up on the bottom of the screen. To open the skit you hit the start button. Not only can you then hit the start button again to skip over it, but you can also just completely ignore it in the first place. You miss out on a lot of story that I feel is important and helps you to get to know the characters better, but then if this isn't your first time playing through you don't have to deal with it.