Monday, August 10, 2009

Preliminary Eternal Poison

Because the only way to improve on an awkward title is to add more multi-syllabic words!

I bought Eternal Poison yesterday in a moment of weakness. I realized I hadn't bought a game in two months, which I decided was probably unhealthy, and the game had several solid points in its favor:

1) Nifty cover art. (see above)

2) It's put out by Atlus.

3) On the back, it advertises that you can bind enemy's souls. Pretty cool, but then it elaborates that afterwards you can "enslave" them or "sacrifice them for profit." Yeah, this is pretty much the exact same thing that made me buy Folklore (which I don't regret). It's almost like these crazy Japanese people have figured out the keywords that will make me buy anything they make. Almost.

So anyway, I've played about a half-hour of the game so far, but already have some commentary. Firstly, it definitely delivers on the promise on the back of the box - you play a witch who runs around binding demons into servitude, which is awesome. You also have an ally (familiar?) who is a magical wolf with antlers on cold fire. Somehow it doesn't seem quite as absurd when you see it, though.

The other side of the proverbial coin is that...the UI is kind of clunky. This is honestly kind of shocking from a moderate-budget strategy RPG. Maybe I've just been spoiled by the likes of Disgaea, but I feel like absolutely everything I want to do just has two-or-three-too-many button presses involved. What's worse, every time you attack an enemy, it cuts to this 3D environment and plays out the attack animation in close up. That sounds really cool, except that it takes a good 5 seconds to load the animation, another 5 seconds to load back the tactical map, and up to 10 seconds of attacking animation when all I'm just using a normal attack to finish off a mook. If it were, for instance, a special animation when I score a critical hit, or a special animation the first time I attack the enemy leader, then I'd be fine with that, but not every single time anything on the map does anything. That's just excessive. Fortunately, there seems to be an option to turn these animations off (I didn't know what they meant by "animations off" in the menu screen when I first ran across it, and certainly didn't expect that I'd want to actually come back and turn them off).

Finally, after each battle, it asks you if you want to save your game, and if you do, then it returns you to the main menu screen. This isn't a huge deal, since you can just load the game to continue, but the whole "save and continue" idea has been around long enough that failing to include it is kind of befuddling. It's almost like these design choices were made by someone in the early 90's who used an arcane technique to communicate with a modern team of developers.

All in all the clunkiness is outweighed by the personality of the game so far, and I'm definitely going to continue playing, but it boggles my mind that a game would ship in a condition where in a half-hour I can come up with a multiple-page-long list of obvious and easy improvements. Then again, I guess that's why I believe there's a market for people like me in the first place.

-Silent Ellipsis


Ellipsis said...

Two notes after playing another half-hour. First, it doesn't take you back to the main menu after each battle - just after the "prologue", which is basically a tutorial. While I don't have any particular need to, I notice that now there doesn't seem to be any way of getting back to the prologue...which is still odd.

Second note: you can play as any of three characters who apparently have their own storylines. Obviously I chose to continue playing the witch, and she doesn't disappoint. First story sequence of the game: she runs into a random kid wandering through a dungeon, and decides to bind him into slavery. He asks her why she did so later, and her response is "because you were there."

hitsuzen said...

Sweet! Every time I see that game, I think about getting it, but the 1UP review was bad enough that I've refrained (largely because of things you've mentioned). Sounds like it's worth it, though.