January 8, 2007

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

I just completed Dragon Quest VIII. It took me about 75 hours, which is not as long as I thought it would since Bryant told me it took him 110 hours because he kept dying a lot. The game is very good, although I found myself spending a lot of time in combat. The battles are not too boring or repetitive, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. The character design is by Akira Toriyama, who is famous for his particular drawing style. There are several great things about this game, with a few minor issues that don't really detract from the overall experience.

The arching storyline is long, well developed, and interesting. Things start out fairly simple, and get more complicated and involved as little things are revealed and discovered along the way. It really helps that there are some well developed supporting characters, as well as very well developed main characters, who give the story more feeling. The voice acting, of which there is a fair amount, really helps flesh out all of the people involved.

Although I did like the character design, after it grew on me, it is slightly annoying that so many of the people you meet look the same. Maybe several dozen character designs were made for the people you will meet casually, which means you're going to see the same person over and over again in many places. The monster design is very interesting though, because lots of animations were developed for each monster.

There is a flaw in the combat system though. Dragon Quest VIII takes the approach where you have to choose the actions for all party members at the beginning of each turn, thus requiring you to make some strategic decisions to maximize the effectiveness of each turn. However, if you change your settings so that Jessica, Yangus, and Angelo make their own decisions, you'll actually get a better result. This is because in this mode, each of them makes a decision on what to do right before they do it, rather than at the beginning of the turn. So they can make much more informed decisions that are appropriate for the moment. They also seem to have more information about the current status of each enemy's remaining hit points and their weaknesses. So you can become a much more effective in combat if you don't take control.

I liked the music, from an orchestral point of view, although I don't think there's anything particularly special about it. I wouldn't be interested in the soundtrack, or really be able to tell you about any specific songs. The same music was used in many places many times, which is not unexpected, but it also reinforced the problem of repetition that you saw with the characters.

Another minor issue I had was with the controls. Two buttons act as confirm depending on the situation. So sometimes I found myself trying to open the menu but instead performing an action. You get used to it, but every once in a while it still gets you.

The alchemy system is a little interesting, but not that exciting. Many of the better items can be made using alchemy, but you're best off just getting a list of recipes and continuously shoving stuff in your alchemy pot. If you try to put stuff together that doesn't create anything, you find out right away, so there's not a whole lot of point in experimenting. Sometimes you do create something worse, but most recipes don't end up that way.

I really liked the ending. It's actually an interactive ending, so while the ending moves forward you can walk around and explore and talk to people, and also make some more of the yes/no decisions that pop up throughout the game. I don't actually think the yes/no decisions, during the game or during the ending, affect the ending or the storyline though. Mostly you can just use them to change the response you get for that particular question. I think it would be great if more games adopted interactive endings.

Posted by josuah at January 8, 2007 12:57 AM UTC+00:00

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