Monday, April 7, 2008

Dragon Quest 8, part 3

I am now more than forty hours into Dragon Quest 8 now. I am impressed, there has not yet been a drop off in story pacing or the like at all so far. The game has been maintaining a pretty good balance between plot progression and giving the player plenty of side-quests and optional things to do.

The root of this is good balance has to do with how the game world is compartmentalized. The game is broken down into explicit regions, each of which has a single main town, a unique monster list built around a specific level range, plenty of open space filled with chests and rare monsters, and sometimes a major side-quest or mini-game. It creates a very clear measure of progress in the game, since the player can focus on clearing one region of the game at a time. Since every region offers both plot events (usually including a dungeon) and quite a bit of optional area to explore, both of which are level appropriate, the player is given a fair amount of choice between going onward and side-questing at every point in the game. By the time a player has cleaned out everything to do in a particular area, a new region has already become available to explore.

Furthermore, sidequests are introduced gradually, and are often intertwined with the player's progress through the main plot. For example, the biggest side-quest/mini-game in Dragon Quest 8 is the Monster Arena. The Monster Arena is where the player can challenge battles against various monster teams using a team of monster he captured himself. These enemy teams are divided into various ranks, going from A through G. In order to win battles in higher ranks, the player needs to acquire a stronger line-up of monsters. However, the player usually needs to progress farther into the game to find these stronger monsters. Since the challenge and rewards for low-level ranks are appropriate for early in the game, and higher ranks are appropriate for later in the game, the Monster Arena is well designed to be challenged on and off across the entire length of the game.

As a result of these game elements, I have always had two or three different choices I could make whenever I asked myself: "So what do I do in the game now?". This has kept my interest in the game going quite well this time around.

Other notes:
1)I guess I underestimated attack magic last time around. I am using a healthy variety of attack spells at this point in the game. However, I still think that they don't scale as well as some of the weapon abilities in the game. This is probably the result of having three upgrading versions of every attack spell.

2)There are some weapon abilities in the game that upgrade into more powerful versions later one. Many of the lower level versions of these abilities are very bad, to the point of being useless. This should not be the case.

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