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  #91  
Old 03-08-2017, 10:03 AM
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This game's philosophy towards clues and exploration is like a mix of Castlevania 2, Milon's Secret Castle, and Zelda 1.

I've managed to make consistent progress. 3 bosses down, and I've explored about 7 areas very thoroughly. It's been pretty damn fun, and I'm grateful to my past self for giving the game a serious retry.

The lowest point in the game was after the 1st boss. I had read from the linked guide that the first area could be completed in isolation, but that the others would require more non-linearity. I ended up exploring 6 areas (quite exhaustively... typing my own notes and writing my own maps) before finding the item to make real progress in one of them.

I've been stuck like that other times after that point, but that first period in particular felt like the game was squandering it's chance for enjoyment while the other times were fine. I think it's a matter of not having real hope for progress and having to deal with so many new areas all at once.
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  #92  
Old 03-10-2017, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by dosboot View Post
Both of these games also got me thinking about the idea of "having an overall positive experience while still giving up". For a while now, I've basically regarded games where I lose interest before finishing (especially early on) as having turned out to be a waste of time. But when I was younger, the idea of never making it past a certain point didn't seem to be as damning of an assessment. I'm not sure if this has to do with the nature of the game or the nature of one's perspective.
I will admit that this is very self-centered view. But I find that when I can't beat a game on its normal difficulty without hint guides, most of the time I think the game has a design flaw.

But to your bigger question: Is the journey or the destination more important? I generally like both. I like progressing through a game and reaching the end.

I'm more okay with not reaching the end with action games. I have a blast playing Ikaruga with my friend and I think we've only ever made it to the 3rd or 4th level. I like plenty of tough NES games that I will never finish. But these are generally 1-2 hour twitch/skill experiences.

I'm not okay with not reaching the end of RPGs. Games like FF Tactics and Darkest Dungeon I quit after spending 60+ hours on. In both of these games, I could pretty much destroy lower level battles. And I got wiped out by boss battles. Lots of RPGs have difficulty gaps but I think the difficulty extremes in these games is absurd. I look back on those games and wish I had my time back. I hate them now because of how I felt when I left them: frustrated. Redhook more or less admitted that Darkest Dungeon had a terrible end game design (see quote below) with the news that they are making an easy mode.

La Mulana I figured was not the game for me, and I quit fairly early. Some challenge is good. But the level of obtuseness in La Mulana was too much for me. I'm also the type of gamer that does not use guides. If I have to use a guide in a game, I quit it almost immediately after.

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New Mode: RADIANT. One of the most common critiques of the game is that the significant length to completion (approximately 80+ hrs on average, though this varies widely) can lead to some players abandoning their campaigns, especially after a particularly nasty party-wipe with a valuable trinket loadout. Game length also exacerbates some of the grindier elements of the game’s design. While a portion of this endurance test is simply Darkest Dungeon as we intend it, we also would love for more players to be able to see the story through. So, we are planning an alternative game mode (RADIANT), which will have balance changes and rule tweaks aimed at bringing the completion time down to approximately 40 hours. Rest assured that even in this alternate campaign ruleset, we won’t be compromising on some of the core ideas that make DD what it is (e.g. permadeath, autosaving). However, we will flex here and there on some things and generally structure it so that a reasonable investment of time and effort can see things through to the deepest parts of the Ancestor’s trail. This also paves the way for additional modability, via exposing more options. Note: some achievements, and possibly even loot, will still require completing the Normal mode–we still want to celebrate the efforts of our dedicated players. Additionally, we will be looking at sharpening NG+’s claws a bit, for those who have mastered the current iteration. Stay tuned for more details!
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  #93  
Old 03-18-2017, 06:37 PM
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This game really is something. I've been making consistent progress for 2 weeks, and it feels like I've been playing for over a month. No one can accuse this game of being unremarkable, especially once you get into the thick of it by finishing the first dungeon. I can't think of any other modern game like this which is iterating so much on the old design idea of clues and secrets.

1. Let's talk about how the game is designed:

The game gives you fairly direct clues (or so he says, burying the catch). The obscurity isn't decoding the instructions, it is trying to piece together where you need to follow those instructions and when. You get so many damn clues, and you get them before you are ready to use them and sometimes far removed from where they are needed. That's easily over half of the challenge.

To be fair and not misleading, there is obscurity in decoding the instructions themselves too. It's not always clear what literal actions best represent the instructions you are told to follow, so it takes a little trial and error. There's not many options to try, but it turns into a bigger problem because it gets multiplied by the challenge from the previous point.

The game is plucked from a portal to an alternate universe where NES games continued to evolve along the branch they were on. It's a hard, hard game and one that is "indifferent to your progress", except it is not for the usual reasons that phrase gets used. The literal puzzles aren't complex at all, and enemies/hazards aren't masochistic enough to halt progress. Nevertheless those clues and secrets mean you have to be made of tough stuff to reach each milestone. I think it's the hardest game I've played that isn't directly testing the player's action ability. Getting anywhere in La-Mulana, even if the player eventually gives up, can be a bigger accomplishment than completing other games.

2. Is it any good?

I wouldn't say La-Mulana is excellent. But being a merely good game that is uniquely doing something so weird (and utterly niche, for sure) needs people to go on about at some length for everyone else to understand and take note.

I've made it so far without using specific hints. But I did benefit enormously from taking in all the general hints before this attempt. And honestly, I don't think I should have been so stubborn about specific hints. I could have easily used hints for specific places where I actually considered it. I would not have lost the satisfaction of figuring out the right idea for countless other things on my own, sometimes after being stuck for hours.

~~

Ok, enough about the relationship of the game's design to the player.

I'm getting close to the end (I think). It's extremely commendable that every time I find a new area I think "wow, this place sits apart from the other areas (in intensity, theme and/or gameplay concept)... it's probably the penultimate dungeon!", except that's happened like 4 or 5 times. I like this especially since I've often thought that, in general, most exploratory games with themed areas should be doing that kind of perceptual escalation more frequently, as opposed to making every world/dungeon/zone feel like equal siblings until the final 1 or 2 (your Turtle Rocks & Ganon Towers, if you will).

Last edited by dosboot; 03-18-2017 at 07:15 PM.
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  #94  
Old 03-20-2017, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by dosboot View Post
This game really is something. I've been making consistent progress for 2 weeks, and it feels like I've been playing for over a month. No one can accuse this game of being unremarkable, especially once you get into the thick of it by finishing the first dungeon. I can't think of any other modern game like this which is iterating so much on the old design idea of clues and secrets.

1. Let's talk about how the game is designed:

The game gives you fairly direct clues (or so he says, burying the catch). The obscurity isn't decoding the instructions, it is trying to piece together where you need to follow those instructions and when. You get so many damn clues, and you get them before you are ready to use them and sometimes far removed from where they are needed. That's easily over half of the challenge.

To be fair and not misleading, there is obscurity in decoding the instructions themselves too. It's not always clear what literal actions best represent the instructions you are told to follow, so it takes a little trial and error. There's not many options to try, but it turns into a bigger problem because it gets multiplied by the challenge from the previous point.

The game is plucked from a portal to an alternate universe where NES games continued to evolve along the branch they were on. It's a hard, hard game and one that is "indifferent to your progress", except it is not for the usual reasons that phrase gets used. The literal puzzles aren't complex at all, and enemies/hazards aren't masochistic enough to halt progress. Nevertheless those clues and secrets mean you have to be made of tough stuff to reach each milestone. I think it's the hardest game I've played that isn't directly testing the player's action ability. Getting anywhere in La-Mulana, even if the player eventually gives up, can be a bigger accomplishment than completing other games.

2. Is it any good?

I wouldn't say La-Mulana is excellent. But being a merely good game that is uniquely doing something so weird (and utterly niche, for sure) needs people to go on about at some length for everyone else to understand and take note.

I've made it so far without using specific hints. But I did benefit enormously from taking in all the general hints before this attempt. And honestly, I don't think I should have been so stubborn about specific hints. I could have easily used hints for specific places where I actually considered it. I would not have lost the satisfaction of figuring out the right idea for countless other things on my own, sometimes after being stuck for hours.

~~

Ok, enough about the relationship of the game's design to the player.

I'm getting close to the end (I think). It's extremely commendable that every time I find a new area I think "wow, this place sits apart from the other areas (in intensity, theme and/or gameplay concept)... it's probably the penultimate dungeon!", except that's happened like 4 or 5 times. I like this especially since I've often thought that, in general, most exploratory games with themed areas should be doing that kind of perceptual escalation more frequently, as opposed to making every world/dungeon/zone feel like equal siblings until the final 1 or 2 (your Turtle Rocks & Ganon Towers, if you will).
I've made a few serious runs at this game over the years but have never finished it. The first two attempts were on the Wii when it finally got released after numerous delays. My first one petered out after about the third Guardian when I discovered I had inadvertently activated hard mode many hours back and decided I needed to restart to keep from giving myself a heart attack. My second attempt on the Wii saw me through the 6th Guardian. I was working on the Endless Corridor area, particular the sequence with Backbeard that involves running from one end of the map and then back with him chasing you. After failing to beat that sequence in a few attempts I just stepped away and just never came back...probably because the Wii U came out and I avoided moving my Wii purchases over after hearing about all the issues with poor video quality on Virtual Console.

I later picked up the EX version on Vita and was able to more or less get to the same point as in my second Wii run, relying mostly on memory for a lot of the puzzles. I really should go back and try to finish it at some point...

For the most part I avoided looking at any guides unless I spent over an hour without making any progress, which did happen a handful of times. Usually I'd end up reaching a new area or solved a puzzle some place and that feeling of forward momentum would negate my desire to seek outside help. Playing La Mulana reminded me of the first time I played Super Metroid or Symphony of the Night when I was younger, which are among my favorite games. I wouldn't put La Mulana above either of those and maybe not even in my top 25, due to it's higher difficulty and sometimes (seemingly) arbitrary puzzle solutions; but dang if it isn't a lot of fun when you clear a difficult boss/sub-boss or decipher a riddle.

While I never played it on PC, I did buy numerous copies to gift to friends on both Steam and GOG, as a way of getting more people interested in the game. I also bought the full soundtrack off NIGORO's BandCamp page. Even though I never finished it, I enjoyed the game enough to back the sequel on KickStarter and started using a pixel graphic of Lemeza as my avatar across a number of sites (though I only recently updated my TT profile to use it as well).
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  #95  
Old 03-20-2017, 11:00 PM
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Ludendorkk Ludendorkk is offline
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I refuse to believe anyone has beaten this game without a guide and lived to tell about it

I refuse!
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