Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thoughts About Rogue Galaxy Thus Far

I'm not very far into the game, which is touted as being over 100 hours long.  I expect to take quite a bit longer than that simply because it's my nature to explore absofuckinglutely everywhere and do absofuckinglutely everything before continuing a role-playing game's story.

First off, how did I even find out about the game?  After all, there's no prior mention of it here, and then all of a sudden I have it and am playing through it.  I found out about the game a couple weeks ago when I was at a friend's place helping him pack the last truck-full of stuff to complete his move to Maryland to live with his girlfriend.  Being that he ran MAGFest from its second incarnation through its ninth, he's got a fuckton of gaming-related stuff pretty much everywhere.

I spent a while playing random games I'd found for the GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance when there wasn't really much left to do and we were sitting around drinking the remnants of a keg of Woodchuck.  Among some of his stuff was an old gaming magazine, the exact name of which I've forgotten.  The cover story was about Rogue Galaxy on the PS2.

I will admit that the entire reason I flipped back to the article about the game was the female character depicted on the cover of the magazine.  You get introduced to her just after fighting the first boss, and her name is Kisala.  After reading a bit about it, I was basically convinced I needed to check it out.

The game starts out with the area you're in being under attack.  There's also some back story involving the planet you live on essentially being enslaved by people from elsewhere with lots of military power.  These people are, surprisingly enough, relatively useless against the attack that's happening.  You control the main character, Jaster, and he decides in cutscenes to run in and take care of things himself.  Almost right away you meet a mysterious hooded character who fights with you for a while and then leaves, gifting you his sword as he leaves.  His identity is made pretty much obvious a little bit later.  Shortly thereafter you meet the comedic relief duo of Simon and Steve, who so happen to be controllable characters.  Simon is short and stout and speaks with a Scottish accent, and Steve is a tall, thin robot.

Throughout all of this the game is educating you on its battle system, which is a bit tricky at first but ends up being really neat once you get the hang of it.  It's an action RPG, and battles take place in a manner fairly similar to the ever-popular Tales series, where you can run around and attack at will and all characters can be doing stuff at the same time.  However, this is only a singleplayer game.  It actually has some options and features geared towards making the task of controlling three characters simultaneously easier.

You can set each character's battle behavior, and configure a list of their available skills that they will suggest at any given point in time.  Whoever you're not controlling will be controlled by the AI, basically.  The suggestion thing is actually pretty cool.  Periodically in battle one of your party members will suggest one of their skills, a healing item, or whatever, and you can tell them to do that with the press of a single button.  In addition each character has a primary weapon, typically a melee weapon, and a sub-weapon which is typically ranged.  The sub-weapon slot seems to be more of a utility slot though, so I'm hoping I'll get a true ranged character at some point further into the game.

You can also press a button to bring up a menu and manually activate people's skills, use items, change equipment, or swap which character you're controlling.  Doing so pauses the battle momentarily.  So basically, they're giving you every tool you need to make a battle system like this one work well.

Story-wise, it seems pretty good so far.  Jaster's tired of being on the planet and wants to go up into space.  Simon and Steve are space pirates who are actually looking for the mysterious hooded character, but mistake you for him since you have his sword.  Jaster's basic train of thought is "Well, whatever, I'm not the guy they're looking for, but going with them will let me go into space.  I wonder how long it'll be before they figure out I'm not actually the guy they're looking for...".

Once you get on the ship you meet a few other characters, including a mercenary like the one you were mistaken for, named Zegram, who joins your party along with Kisala.  I haven't actually seen him in action yet but he looks pretty neat.

Obtaining skills works through a system that's basically a simplified version of the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X.  You need various combinations of items to unlock abilities and once you do, you can then unlock adjacent abilities.  The items you use are gotten from battles and shops, and are also generally restorative or buff items, but a few seem to have no other use.  You usually have the items to spare when you want to unlock something, so there's no real disadvantage anyway.  The process of unlocking new abilities for any given character ends up being quite straightforward, and a little time spent killing enemies to get items and money to buy items can benefit you in the process.

Graphics-wise it's among the best of what the PS2 has to offer.  What I'd really like to focus on is the functionality of the graphics, though.  Certain things in an RPG naturally need to stand out from the surrounding environment.  I'm thinking mainly chests and save points.  The chests will actually glow once you're close enough and looking at them, and the save points are incredibly hard to miss.  The save points also have extra functionality, in that they let you teleport from one to another in the area you're currently in, which makes for pretty decent fast travel.  Also, periodically you'll kill an enemy with a bounty and you can turn your battle record in for a reward at a save point.

What I've heard of the music so far has been great.  No complaints here.

Gameplay-wise it's solid since most of it revolves around the battle system.  However I do have some gripes here and there.  I wish I could zoom the camera out a bit further as I'm wandering around any given area.  I set the camera to be as far away as possible but it still seems to be too close to the ground for my liking.  Those are relatively minor gripes, though.

I'll conclude by briefly revisiting the story and then my usual closing thoughts.  After getting on the pirate ship you go down to the deck to get a good look at a particular space feature whose name I've forgotten that you're flying by, and happen upon Kisala.  Naturally you get to talking, which is interrupted by enemies attacking.  After this the ship is damaged and is forced to crash-land on a jungle planet, where you need to go hunt for stuff to fix the ship.  The moment where you arrive on that planet is where I realized I'd just spent over two hours on essentially the introductory areas of the game and that I should save and shut it off or I'd never get any sleep.

That brings me to my closing thoughts.  I can see that this is a very good game that I will lose a good number of hours of my life to.  I'm fine with that.

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