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Dungeon Encounters by Hiroyuki Ito and friends

MrBlarney

(he / him)
I spent the afternoon binging through the third stratum, and I think that with the abilities you find from its exploration and your improved equipment, you should be able to retrieve those stranded members in two trips, two at a time. You could also hold off on that until you need to deploy a reserve party, and collect them as a backup to your backup.

As far as further documentation of my experience goes, the third stratum was definitely a step up in challenge compared to the first two. There wasn't any point where I really felt overpowered, and the enemies are starting to get some nasty abilities. One of my unique items got destroyed by a monster, which really shocked me. Based on the event log, I'm hopeful that there'll be a way for me to buy it back eventually. Until then, there is only moving forward.

Still, I've got some good stuff going on. I've set up Shunga in my main team with the Otherworldly Pot and as much speed equipment as possible, and she's been a force in cleaning up a lot of combat threats. The value of taking out targets without needing to break their defenses can't be understated, especially with the numbers quickly getting quite large. Very worth the PP cost to set up her build. She used to have the Powder Gun as an off-hand weapon for undead (1HP) monsters and other monsters immune to banishment, until it got eaten by a Chimera, but she's still got a solid bow as a secondary until I find a new way to improve her equipment layout.

EDIT: Late addition since it's related to the third stratum, and it's just a cool bit of implicit or meta storytelling. Usually, you'll get a couple of enemy profiles per floor to fill out the events on each floor. But what is different about the last profile you get in the third stratum is that you get the profile for Professor Cavy, who is the final enemy on the Event Log. Why does the (assumed) mastermind of the dungeon look like a hamster? Those stats are way too high for the equipment I'm able to buy! That profile is essentially condensing what would normally be mid-game exposition, and transforming it into a sheet of numbers so that it fits the minimalist design principles of the game, and that's kind of amazing.
 
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YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
Hmmm. So I'm kind of stumped about how I'm supposed to regain my progression now. Floor 10: I encounter a Treasure Hunter, which was pretty impossible to kill, but before it ran away it stole 10,000 gold from me. Now I have -7,700 gold. Do I need to try and hunt that monster down again and somehow kill it?
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Just keep playing. That happened to me too (with a -15k gold net result); it will likely happen to almost every player. Gold matters less than it seems, as stores only sell equipment you've previously acquired through drops, and in limited quantities. The game's drop rates are comparatively high relative to other genre peers as it's the primary way of acquiring new things, as opposed to stores and found treasure. The frequency of loot also interacts with the game's other design aspects like enemies being able to break your equipment, and the general benefit of having as many characters as possible outfitted and ready for exploration; you basically always have a steady stream of new and powerful equipment to kit out people with because the game's design relies on it. I put the functional debt out of my mind and it didn't really affect how I approached the game until it was eventually paid off, and it was a really funny occurrence to reflect on, I think.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
The game's drop rates are comparatively high relative to other genre peers as it's the primary way of acquiring new things, as opposed to stores and found treasure.
This hasn't really been the case so far for me at all, though, and I've got a bunch of better equipment I could buy right now if not for... this. I'll keep going deeper, but I'm already feeling the power curve starting to move ahead of me and I don't want to end up grinding for drops.
 

MrBlarney

(he / him)
I'm inclined to agree with YangusKhan, the drop rates are usually just a little bit behind getting everything that I want, and that making shopping trips are necessary on occasion in order to keep up with rapidly increasing combat numbers, to fill in the gaps left by natural drops. Without money, a bit of grinding might be required in order to get equipment drops up to par of what combats require. The game is not shy about punishing the player and requiring payment in the form of time, which can be to its detriment.

That said, while money is a bit of a limiting factor in the early game, the limitation quickly becomes that of equipment, probably around the end of the second stratum. I think I was fortunate to avoid getting stolen from, or to have gotten any party members petrified, which has greatly smoothed out my own experience with the game so far.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
i've 100%ed each map down to 42 now. i feel like i've avoided a lot of the bad luck and the only place i really got caught up on combat was early-mid fourth section, where it becomes much harder to avoid large amounts of fights for ten floors. i've tried several times fighting much higher-numbered enemies on various floors, with my experience generally being that a battle numbered about 20 higher than the current floor, if inadvisable when you aren't certain you can revive/heal safely, is winnable if you have some good gear, with a solid chance of also granting access to a large upgrade. higher than that...well, if you're prepared to bet it all on something like the urn working, then maybe...

the time i tried that (with a battle 96 or thereabouts on 25) it was a castle that was immune to seemingly everything and i got wiped out in a few turns by aoe magic, faster than i could run away. so i spent a little while running around trying to pick up a couple wanderers and leveling up a barebones backup party, but then after rescuing the originals safely proceeded as if i learned very little. and with some more mobility skills and the fact that i'm relying on a couple of weapons i haven't been able to get second copies of...i'm probably not going to grind up a full new party anytime soon.

the highest number i've defeated is 83. i feel like consistently shooting for this has been what's made the combat appeal to me, because in a sense it kind of anchors my strategy around whatever powerful thing i managed to score through good fortune and bravery; i think i could clearly grind out more copies of the best equipment each tier as it appears but as it stands i kind of get to cycle strategizing around whatever my best stuff is and then try to catch up with utility items when enemies seem to pace a little ahead of what i'm holding.


it's very strange to play a game from square-enix with this much of a barebones feeling, but it's fun and i'd love to see them put out more weird $30 games like this. i felt like this was a pretty major 50/50 for whether i'd really get into it or not, as the aesthetic of math jrpg-ing is extremely hardline, to an almost comical extent enhanced by the fact that the shop on the starting floor just shows you all of the endgame gear and number exponentiation and really just everything being visible really making clear that kind of "well that guy has 2 more hp than this weapon has damage" design. but i was optimistic about the sort of board game aesthetic (even if, on actually playing it, a lot of things remind me even more so of a gamebook, perhaps. still fine!), which of course i love in the last couple saga games. and it conveys flavor through its transparent mechanical conveyance and minor illustrations regardless, of a kind that's compelling enough for me in a breezy game like this where i don't even have to feel like the combat is the core experience. and the aesthetics that exist are fun, getting out the nonsensical monsters and stuff of old rpgs with some nice little twists and toys to play with as rewards for engaging with the dungeon. and on the topic of humor presented this way, the one that really caught me as funny after a few times was petrifying golems with the mirror, as if we were just...un-reanimating a statue or something.

i've turned off the music to listen to other stuff though. that's one zone where what exists is really not quite appealing to me, though i've continued to tune into each new battle theme just to hear it. it's not that they're bad, just ultimately the overall presentation exists in a way that i'd rather listen to something else. and particularly because of that...as much as i've been hooked by the game, i haven't yet felt that "wow!" moment that really leaves me looking back enthusiastically for some time to come. but there's a good 60% of the game left for it to come, so there's still a good many chances for that to happen. if not, well, those are still some pretty cool character designs. i'll look back fondly on that if nothing else
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I made it to floor 20 before I was finally at positive money again. That's pretty cool! But yeah I definitely need the gear upgrade now.

I'm almost curious enough to try and make a visualization of some kind where you can layer the maps for consecutive floors on top of each other and see how they overlap. I have a feeling floors are no bigger than 100x100 tiles? But that would still be a lot of work...

Also, my partner saw me playing this for like a second and asked "why does that look like a crossword puzzle?" I was amused.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
so much has happened in the past five or six hours of my game that i couldn't possibly describe half of it. i've definitely crossed over the point of feeling that this is something incredible

so somewhere around floor 44 the game introduces enemies who can provide a new status effect, that turns your party members into hamsters (they're technically usable in combat, but it's rather debilitating). and having been relatively thorough till this point i recognize that the "cavied" name is related to...the hamster superboss enemy, professor cavy. there's also an ominous "one way teleporter" on that same floor, leading down to 92 (and particularly, some yx like 87 17 that was close enough to a corner that made me think i could vault out if things got bad). well, having 100%'d the floor, i decided to take it, but it only led to another teleporter to 97, which scared me much more. of course i suspected this was all related to the hamster thing, but i decided i could make my way back down anyway and decided to greater ascend up from a point (that i think was on the square corner directly below the teleporter)

this happened to bring me directly up to floor 49, and while i was gonna try to GA out of the hole no matter where i was it was a pretty fortuitous bit of discovery, sort of closing the loop and letting me regroup safely by finding the teleporter on the floor. i went back down there again and cured my party members, then took the teleporter out (which might be how i first ended up on 79? i've forgotten by now) and after another regroup went on to map out the rest of area 5. of course, during the reverse climb, more of my characters got hamstered again. so i went back down again. but instead of using the third stage teleporter i tried to just ascend up...

and that left me randomly in the middle of one of the other rift floors, so i started wandering around. but it's hard to see black numbers on the background from 90-98, so this led to a fairly long chain of increasing exploration and rescues which finally ended a while later with my fully mapping 99, 95, and 91, and with *quite* a lot of information about the natures of the 9th and 10th area maps in terms of utilizing them to reach xy coordinates on command. they are extremely useful for this purpose, and it's clear the game was designed around it, because a simple route from the floor 79 teleporter to the floor 80 stairs gives access to z91y99x99 in a single greater descension, and with floor 91 having a border around the entire square and a LOT of pathways through the middle...there's over a 25% chance you can reach the exact xy coordinate you want and if not there's *still* a reasonably good chance that going up will put you on a 2-wide straight path in the 80s that can correct the rest of the way.

(if you do land in the 80s you should try to lesser ascend first in case there's another such path right above it to save ascensions. hahaha.

it occurs to me that a lot, if not all, of this stuff opens up as soon as you get GD/GA and enough skill points to hold those plus some skills to avoid enemies, and that the game only gently nudges until/in case you suddenly decide to engage with it in this way, but the sudden explosion of possibility and mechanics that happens once it all clicks together is truly delightful

anyway, the last thing i've done was find floor 69, stumble around it arbitrarily for a while, deduce a way to warp up to the skill panel from below, and then complete the floor trivially once i got it. what a game
 
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Paul le Fou

Pickle Bus Owns Tulip Town
(He)
For the record, a cavy is a Guinea pig.

That is a wild thing to put in a spoiler, but I know it's the right thing to do.

Also this game seems to be pretty damn wild in and of itself.
 

BubsyFan_86

Enjoying the James Turrell Retrospective
Does anyone know if characters can be brought back after being consumed? Just had it happen to two party members in a five minute span :oops:
 

BubsyFan_86

Enjoying the James Turrell Retrospective
Hmm, I just sort of found the answer to my question?

Was leveling a new character on the same floor one of the earlier party members (Sesspare) was consumed on. Entered a battle that had one of the same types of enemies that had consumed Sesspare, and after killing the enemy, a message popped up saying that Sesspare had been rescued. After the battle, she was occupying the tile I had just had the battle on.

Not sure if you have to kill the specific type of enemy that did the consuming? Or if you have to be on the same floor that the consuming occurred on? Either way, might be tough to recover these characters, since the Composition menu doesn't tell you which floor a character was consumed on, or by which enemy type.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
For the record, a cavy is a Guinea pig.

That is a wild thing to put in a spoiler, but I know it's the right thing to do.

Also this game seems to be pretty damn wild in and of itself.
this makes plenty of sense (as well as making the whole "professor" thing a bit funnier) because valkyrie profile already did hamsters as an ultimate dungeon crawling endgame threat 20 years ago

i'm down to the last 3000 tiles to paint, and they're all on floors i'm pretty sure i can just walk through once over with no issues. the ramp-up of exploration powers is phenomenal in this game, and it's incredibly hilarious to traipse through almost every normally-devious area with virtually no cares whatsoever after getting those major breakthroughs, in the same manner that you'd blow over early and midgame battles in the postgame of most rpgs. it's a true "dungeon crawling rpg" where powering up against the dungeon itself through risks and careful planning feels central to the game. and the final areas provide some interesting and challenging ideas to come up against even with all those powers; i really enjoyed floor 92, which feels somewhat like the "final boss" of this aspect of the game, a lot, and it brought a full chance to flex all the skills in the game and knowledge i'd gained from playing with them.

afterwards i realized it was pretty easy to pinpoint wanderer locations on floor 91 as well, so i grabbed all of them (as well as rescuing some people i'd managed to leave behind busting out teleports with a little too much confidence). i think it ended up being like a ten-hour streak of the game where i didn't win a single battle (i lost probably a dozen or so battles. but most of them i got into on accident).

by now i've dug myself out of the money hole and almost run out of places to walk, so i guess now i get to engage the gear ladder and leveling for a bit before trying to figure out any more puzzles and finishing the game off. i wasn't looking forward to it nearly as much, but at this point recovering from a death is basically a 1-minute inconvenience so i can probably stand to spend a few hours mashing through the rest. hahaha
 
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Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Just finished with every ability, event, battle and map logged to completion, and every character rescued. Everything else was done on my own except for the math puzzles past a certain point as their logic demands expertise I don't have--I love how intense they get, at least from an ignorant perspective. The party eventually settled on Ilbertha, Maynasar, Nalpurna and Shunga.

The impressions I held earlier in the game weren't proven untrue, but the game's design has a way of shifting over time until you're approaching it very differently by the end: for a game that was largely sold and meagerly promoted with its combat mechanics as a star of the show, the initial balance between battles and exploration eventually gives way and allows one to almost completely sidestep and ignore battles within it if desired. Nothing ever breaks in the relationship, but its terms and dynamics are renegotiated with the options that gradually uncover. It can settle into a SaGa-like orgiastic focus on RPG battles or allow one to refuse the procession entirely, through engaging the surrounding design from its other end--not so much exploiting one's options but acknowledging a different path existing and running in parallel all along.

The tactical qualities of battles mostly dissipated over time, and I felt that to be a strength as I no longer desired them to be anything more than rhythmical texture within the actual mountain to scale in the form of the dungeons, and those never receded into the background. I think the game has its relative high points along the way--floors 50 to 69 encompass probably my favourite stretch of navigational challenges and patterns, aside from the wonderful endgame--but there isn't a point where it stops engaging on the terms it lays out and iterates on throughout. The nature of navigation per biome/stratum is particularly striking as the sheer shapes of passages create a distinct "gamefeel" on a play control basis for each area, in how you paint the canvas presented to you, with what kind of thumb motions, where some will feel draining and mentally demanding while others stand out for the breaks they offer as straightforward palate-cleansers (I felt floors 80 to 89 were particularly effective at this, while also echoing the original Final Fantasy's Ice Cave and its wide and long, geometrically uncomplicated passageways). It goes beyond just being a game about exploring and virtually mapping, as it manages to transfer and convey that tactile feeling to the player in a way fully turn and grid-based games often don't have the awareness or means to, all the while impressing its environments in the macro scale as an ecosystem with genuine, literal depth that must be understood on that unconventional axis along the way.

Ultimately I adore the game for its willingness to have the roadblocks and pratfalls undertaken through its course matter. Things eventually get easier by way of expediency to manage when mistakes and miscalculations occur, but consequences are never removed from the game's language; you're only escaping them through preparation, if then. Every unfortunate fate that befell my party was extraordinarily funny to witness in its plain bluntness, and every detour taken to recover from the misfortunes turned into a valuable part of the narrative told--if they happened again, well, most storytellers repeat themselves on occasion. The game's handling of status effects is particularly to my taste as being inflicted with each is a veritable event, so significant in how it affects one's relationship with the here and now, and never something to simply shrug off and ignore. More than once my party was scattered to the winds and I wondered if I'd ever see them again, and I considered giving up on them, but in continuing on our paths crossed again in relief and joy of being reunited--you don't get to be part of these kinds of stories in video games very often, and I savoured all the permutations the game had in store until they unraveled before my eyes.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
It's uh, been a while since I posted in this thread, but I've done a whole lot of shit and this game becomes something special once you reach the 40s and unlock Greater Ascension/Descension. I've still only "wiped" once, when my party hit a pitfall somewhere in the 90s and "fell for an eternity," which means they all became Wanderers. It was at this point I completely abandoned the normal dungeon crawler progression and spent the next 6 or so game hours abusing all the exploration skills to scour for the rest of the skills and all the other Wanderers I could find.

Now I'm at the point where I need to engage with the combat again and I'm just overwhelmed with all the ways I could try to approach this "end game" part.
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
This game is amazing. I love the maths riddles especially!

I just solved one and I got a bow that does 80 000 points of damage. Before this my best weapon was a Bardiche at 14 700 (but random). And that previous weapon was a lucky survival of a too hard enemy grouping!

Between that and the Officiant’s Staff that has a 60% chance to KO enemies I got from a map riddle, I am flying high.

“You are all like little babies.”
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
I guess I should probably do* those, eh? I would like a bow that does 80,000 guaranteed damage...

*look the answers up online, I'm not doing math lel
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
I guess I should probably do* those, eh? I would like a bow that does 80,000 guaranteed damage...

*look the answers up online, I'm not doing math lel
I just got a a helm that protects for 65 300 magic damage for solving the next maths riddle so, yeah. You should.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
How many floors down are you? I'm in the late 40s at the moment, so I wonder if you're ahead of me, because those numbers are HUGE lol
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
How many floors down are you? I'm in the late 40s at the moment, so I wonder if you're ahead of me, because those numbers are HUGE lol

The riddle location for the bow was floor 45, and for the helm was floor 51.

These treasures are ridiculous. I’m glad I’m good at maths!
 

MrBlarney

(he / him)
I finished the game over the weekend in a pretty strong binge, and I think it's worth it to make a wrap-up post. Full spoiler on this because I'm gonna remark on the ending.

I think the high point of the game for me was somewhere in the sixth or seventh areas (Floors 50-69), where the Toll tiles and high incidence of hidden tiles really helped the game lean into exploration abilities and challenges. Combat started to become more trivial, especially after gaining the ability to do double damage at full HP, a status you should already be at most of the time. I did get annoyed in the seventh stratum due to my propensity towards being systematic, but I appreciated the theme of the area. So I found the last stretch through the eighth and ninth areas (Floors 70-89) a bit disappointing. No more new ideas being introduced, the enemy encounter rate being a touch too high in the ninth area.

The final boss gives me some mixed feelings. Floor 90 presents a fractal maze for the player to search, with the cosmic and difficult-to-parse background behind the floor plan. But there's no special boss room to find the Panopticoa and the enthralled Everethe. That final boss encounter FE is just a random combat, treated like any other. There's a certain amusement in coming down the steps into the final challenge, and then seeing the event hanging out just three steps away.

And when you defeat the lord of the dungeon, Everethe, broken from his possession, tells the party that he went into the dungeon to find something, but didn't find what he was looking for. Then, he asks the party, if in their journey to the depths of the dungeon, if they found what they wanted. It's a cheeky message that's really directed to the player. What was your goal from playing the game? What did you get out of your experience with the game? Considering the lack of story or explicit narrative, the player's enjoyment of the game is going to be based on their engagement with the stark, minimalistic mechanical systems that the game was built around. Exploring for the sake of exploration, conquering the dungeon because it's there.

Oh, but there's still that entirety of the tenth stratum to explore as postgame content. From what I've seen so far, those final floors are truly there to test how much the player loves the systems of the game, and how much they've mastered the use and logic of their exploration abilities. Combats, which in the last half of the game got pretty rote, now expect having double damage as a nearly required baseline. I don't know if I have the stamina to complete exploration of some of the most complicated floors, much less grind up the strength to finish off Professor Cavy or the final battle encounter FF. But even if I don't clear everything out (I also have a number of high-level Math Puzzles that I've left unsolved), that's fine. There's no need for me to persist in the play if I don't enjoy it. If I've gotten my value out of the game, that's good enough.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
Math Riddle 6: lol. If these are already this bullshit, they're going to get impossible, aren't they? I can't believe that I of all people almost didn't get this one. I'm very glad I stubbornly stared at it until I got it. Very slight spoiler: As soon as I said it out loud, it immediately clicked into place, but only because I'm me.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I finished this game on Monday. It was an excellent little game and I'm glad it exists. I didn't do everything 100%, but I am content with everything I did do, and that's all that matters.

I loved the ending. I stumbled onto the "final boss" and ended up barely winning with 1 character alive, and I was surprised to see the credits rolling. I ended up taking Everethe's question to heart, because once I finished getting 100% map completion for floors 90-99, I realized I didn't want to keep doing anything else, and that I did in fact get what I wanted from the dungeon. I didn't bother checking off all the encounters, nor did I try to min-max my equipment or anything that would be a pre-requisite to defeating the Supercomputers and Black Holes. I only looked up the solution to one Math Puzzle (out of the 7 that I actually did), for the Dragon Whisker, because I also conceded that I had absolutely no idea what that puzzle was even trying to suggest based on its clue.

I absolutely loved the exploration abilities and they really turned this game into something special by the end. I even stumbled onto the tile for Map Puzzle 16 without having found the clue beforehand, because it was revealed to me via the Expanded Awareness ability on that floor; I knew one of the coordinates for the tile, and that it was the only tile on that floor left, so it was trivial to go up and down until I found it. Which was also the technique I used in part to exhaustively map out floor 92, which was extremely tedious and the only floor in the game that I really disliked getting 100% for.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
On the ending (I will talk openly about the ending of another game in The Dark Spire, so beware):

The superficial inconsequentiality and understated to the point of immaterial nature of the ending here is really pitch-perfect for the game's purposes and where its interests lie for the discussed reasons; it as much as lays out its ethos in that one line. What I clung to was its similarity in message and execution to the ending of The Dark Spire, a genre fellow which I loved for many similar reasons in its design focus, aesthetic and voice, and the ending crystallized that reading in particular. In that game, it ends with a similar encounter with a world-ending devil, which is immediately offset by an incredible point of jarring levity in a fourth-wall breaking sequence where the characters become aware of the player on the other side of the DS screen guiding their actions and then capping off literally with "a winner is you" that has no tonal bearing for almost any game you could apply it to, and certainly not a nominally grim dungeon RPG. The way I read it was the game making a point about the endings of such player-directed and imaginatively governed and defined games like dungeon crawlers essentially having no relevance to how their stories matter, the real narrative always extant somewhere else in the game's language; it was not the game "trolling" or being frivolous for the sake of it or attempting to render what had transpired "meaningless" as is so often the bad faith reading to many narrative twists in fiction--it was simply highlighting what the genre it occupies is good at via pointed absurdity in contrast, and while Dungeon Encounters does not go as hard after that meaningful dissonance, it's still very self-aware of the criticisms that might and have been levied at it for its "pointless" narrative and the suspicion that it has no real one to tell. It knows what it is and leaves the value judgements entirely to others, uninterested in evoking anything more or less at the climax than the totality of all that transpired to get to that point.
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
I bought this game nine days ago due to a close friend’s ardent praise and am I glad I did. It has consumed me, totally and utterly.

It is with deep sadness that I report that I have completed the game. And by that I mean:

  • Rescued every companion
  • Discovered every ability
  • Mapped every tile
  • Found all Fiend profiles
  • Won all battles against said Fiends
  • Solved all map riddles
  • Solved all maths riddles*

There is nothing left to do! And I did this all on my own, without looking up things (please see asterisk for the caveat details, be aware it is all spoilers).

*All actual maths riddles. I had to search for hints for the last two, riddles 15 and 16. This is because they were utter bullshit and not maths related at all: 15 is the winning scores from past Super Bowls, and 16 is a reference to a movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind! That is garbage!!!! Unfair!!!! I was promised MATHEMATICS MR ITO.


My final game time clocked in at 56:29:15, and I know that is padded out by quite a few hours due to me puzzling out some of the riddles. My final party ended up being:

  • Ntleyana Lv 95
  • Rwenzo Lv 121
  • Lhaulagi Lv 122
  • Valtoro. Lv 99

The game started more difficult than it ended, and I can only blame my inability to understand the games mechanics initially — eg. I may have left a bunch of party members on the zeroth floor, but not on 0.50.50 and nearly had a game over due to it. Whoops!

The two most innovative decisions this game made were both the at the most basic level of mechanics: the Ability System and the use of Proficiency Points. Both of these things ensured that you could choose absolutely anybody to be in your party and they would be viable.

Equipment was also well designed— even though you could see every common item in the zeroth floor shops, it never felt like it was taking the mystique away. Treasures you found would be on those lists (as well as the later accessory, footwear, and speciality shops).

Having to make choices on whether to stick with secure numbers or an RNG roll for damage meant that all equipment had its uses. And the ability to spend more PP for less defensive gear that has a speed bonus means that it isn’t always a pure numbers game when it comes to upgrading that gear.

Regarding difficulty —or rather, lack thereof— I can only point to two things.

First, I completed nearly every map before moving on properly. There were exactly four floors where I did not do this, and when I realised I needed to travel to a specific spot, I would backtrack. This led me to a wide variety of treasures, and more importantly the Abilities.

Abilities were such a great idea and addition, but I did notice the pattern of you receiving an ability to negate an effect on the same Stratum it first shows up. As such I never had any party members turned to stone, nor consumed, etc.

The worst that happened was three party KOs that were quickly rescued and recovered, losing 10k gil to that mouse, being cavied (right where the teleport chain starts) and I once accidentally teleported to the right coordinates on the wrong floor. But it didn’t take long to regather my party. Otherwise, it was a methodical journey that had no walls for me.

If I were to have one critique, it would be that the game would have shined all the more with actual bosses. JRPG battles and battle systems only truly come into their own during boss battles — where the player needs to tailor attacks and defensive appropriately.

But everything I said above sells the game short — instead of having “boring and easy time”, I felt I was rewarded for exploring thoroughly and properly exploiting the tools I was given. It made for an incredibly satisfying experience, where the game and I recognised the other’s expertise and strengths.

So many modern JRPGs do not find this balance whatsoever, where the effort of exploration almost never matches the reward. If you even get one.

The games visuals and actual “dungeon” might have been so thoroughly abstracted so as not to look like a typical JRPG, but make no mistake: it is the purest distillation of JRPG mechanics and battle system.

And it made me realise that I have always — and will always — love JRPGs. Thank you, Mr Ito.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
PP as a mechanics concept limiting equipment loadouts showed up earlier this year in Bravely Default II too, as the weight stat. I'm sure it's been done elsewhere too, but maybe it's just something collectively on the mind of designers at Square Enix as of late.

I think Japanese RPGs as they've been codified over the years have built themselves mechanically around setpiece bosses and using them as tests and playgrounds of player understanding of the systems, so Dungeon Encounters largely leaving those concerns by the wayside to me points to its heritage in the tabletop or gamebook spaces where it's more interested in the environment itself as the main attraction and the thing to be understood and eventually surmounted. It's speaking a different language and really capturing its influences in a novel and uniquely intersectional way in how it goes about presenting and arranging its own exploratory rhythms.
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
I am simply saying we could have had our cake and eat it too!

More seriously, the lack of bosses, my only critique, is such a minor one. It might as well be negligible.

I cannot sing a higher praise for this game. If it wasn’t for Endwalker releasing in 20 days, this would easily be my GOTY.

Of the past decade even, the only other contenders are BoTW and FFXIV (and its expansions).
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I am about 25 floors into this game and pondering on if I want to keep going. As someone else mentioned upthread, the game is almost excessively minimalistic, to an extent that I find myself constantly on the fence between boredom and addiction. The numerical rewards of charting a level and poking my head into the next feel nice, but in a sparse game like this I want just a little bit of story flavor to keep me going. Even if it was one-sentence descriptions of the enemies in the monster notes. But as it stands the written flavor is present mainly in the character biographies, which you can read all of at the beginning.

Clearly the appeal of this game is exactly what I'm sometimes finding monotonous, so that may be a bad sign for continued enjoyment. It's the kind of thing that feels nice to play on a car ride but as a mainline game? I dunno. The millionth time I hear that Christmas carol I feel like I'm losing my mind.

I did enjoy the time I went into a boot shop that was run by a pair of floating hands.
 
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