Friday, 14 February 2014

The Last Remnant: Where No Explanations are Needed and RNG Lurks Around Every Corner

last remnant part 5 - 1
Emma getting ready for a showdown.
I've poured a lot of time into the game since last we chatted. It's been a heavy push of the main story line with a healthy dose of side quests and rare monster hunting for variety. As optimistic as I was early on in my playthrough of The Last Remnant, the game's flaws are really starting to become difficult to ignore. First, the story just doesn't seem bothered to properly flesh out or explain a lot of things, and when it has gotten around to it so far, I've been less than impressed with how it justifies an event or puts it into context. Second, the combat, while having some interesting ideas, has a lot of trouble with randomness coming into play with either enemies suddenly going on the offensive with such ferocity that there's no way to defend against it, or players own characters suddenly become godlike warriors who can do no wrong.

In terms of the narrative, I took Rush and the gang to Nagapur so David could talk with Duke Hermeine and they could sort out how to deal with the Conqueror. On the whole, it was a bit of a lull in the story with not much happening. Just at the end of their trip it turned out that the Conqueror's army was getting close, and Celapaleis was in danger (a region that David is sworn to protect since he's a vassal of its lord). Now, before going on, remember a few posts back I'd mentioned how it seemed strange that Rush never explained to David how Irina was a descendant of Marion Marshall and as such had her legendary powers? I'd thought maybe Rush told him about it off camera or something because it was just too important a nugget of information for the Marquis of Athlum not to know. Well, it turns out that Rush never told David about this. He just mentioned it briefly as they were preparing to leave Nagapur so that they could defend Celapaleis. David didn't even seem phased by the revelation. It struck me as being strange that this information was left untouched for so long, and when other characters found out about it they didn't seem to care all that much.

last remnant part 5 - 2
Apparently Emma having a daughter needs no explanation.
So, fast forward to the fight with between the Conqueror and Emma. David had to take his forces to the Nest of Eagles to fight the Conqueror's army, but he couldn't leave Athlum undefended. Originally, he wanted Emma, Pagus, and Rush to protect the city. However, Emma convinced David to bring Rush and Pagus with him, with her defending the city alone (with a regiment of soldiers, of course). Already, this was telegraphing from a mile away that something was going to happen to Emma, and it would probably be bad. Sure enough, it was. While we did get to see a snazzy sword fight between Emma and the Conqueror, and it was cool to see the Conqueror steal the Valeria Heart (Athlum's other Remnant besides the Gae Bolg), Emma's death at the end of all this felt so contrived. It was pretty obvious that something was going to happen to her, and it would probably lead to her dying. The game just seemed to be forcing some sort of sense of loss on the player being all, "Oh, look! One of the main characters just died. Isn't it sad?" No, not really. Emma wasn't that interesting in the first place. Sure we did a few quests together, but she was always pretty stiff and I never really cared about her all that much. If you want to make me upset, try killing off Blocter or maybe Pagus, at least those guys are strangely lovable. Emma's death seemed like the game's developers were just working off of a list of RPG tropes, adding it because it seemed like the right thing to do.

last remnant part 5 - 3
Just a cool-looking boss I had to fight.
And if that wasn't bad enough, while everyone's grieving her, suddenly Emma Honeywell II shows up to take her mother's place. Emma had a daughter. WHAT?!? She looks exactly like her mom except that she's younger, even wearing the same armor. David and the gang accepted her joining their ranks willy nilly, presumably because they know her, but Rush didn't seem the least bit surprised that this woman suddenly came along or that Emma was a mother. Sure, there was that character we'd bump into in some of the towns that looked exactly like Emma, and the game hinted that she'd be important. I'd figured she was a sibling or distant relative at best. The game could have done a lot better job of introducing her instead of just dumping the Emma Mark II on us with hardly a word.

The hits just keep coming, though. While infiltrating the palace in Nagapur to rescue Irina, Rush sudden becomes able to summon a Cyclops on the battlefield during one of the boss fights. There was hardly any explanation or build up to this, just a few bits of dialogue instead of combat options during the early stages of the fight, then blammo a mechanical cyclops comes out of the ground. It's a useful unit to have in a fight, but why was Rush suddenly able to do this? Why wasn't anyone surprised that there was this huge monstrosity fighting with them now? I've been given no good reason as to why this happened.

last remnant part 5 - 4
Rush can summon monsters now. How this came to be, I have no idea!
Then when Rush finally rescues Irina and everyone heads outside of Nagapur's palace, the Conqueror and his generals are waiting outside. A fight between them and David's generals ensues, which was fun to watch, but things got interesting when the Conqueror and Rush faced off. The Conqueror started emitting a red aura as the fight starts, but then Rush gave off a green aura. It was obvious that two very powerful beings were locked in battle, and they may not be totally human. Just as it looked like Rush was in danger, Irina stepped in using the powers of Marion Marshall, taking control of Gwayn, Nagapur's main Remnant. Suddenly there were lasers and explosions everywhere, armies are wiped out, and half of Nagapur was destroyed. Nevermind the fact that it made Irina a bit of a monster, as she likely killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people just to save her brother, but it wound up glossing over the fact that Rush obviously has much more devastating powers of his own. Even after the battle of Nagapur is over, there's a half year lull and everything is explained via some narration by David, letting us know how these events have changed the world. After that, the first order of business has been to help Athlum find a new Remnant to replace the Valeria Heart that the Conqueror stole. No one has mentioned anything about the whole incident with Rush glowing green, exploring the implications of it all.

last remnant part 5 - 5
The fight against Jager and Lob Omen is another good
example where RNG can be a problem.
The story is really starting to feel like an excuse to loosely cobble together a string of cool-looking cut scenes. Any context brought forth to explain what's actually going on comes off more as a half-assed afterthought.

If I'm not being clobbered by the game's ramshackle story, it's the RNG in the boss and rare monster battles. Earlier in the game this wasn't so bad, but of late it has become a real problem. Randomness can either seriously screw you over in a battle or make the whole thing a cakewalk. On several occasions now, I've been hit by rare monsters doing super powerful attacks multiple times in one turn that are pretty much impossible to counter or prepare for. These things will wipe out multiple unions in one shot just by being used once, but they may use it two or three times in a turn, and boom everyone is dead. Going in with stacked unions, splitting everyone into smaller ones with more on the field, none of it seems to help. The whole thing really takes the wind out of one's sails and makes it less enticing to even try fighting them.

last remnant part 5 - 6
Rush suddenly glowing with super powers seems important, but, again,
no explanation of how this came to be so far. It's not even questioned.
On the other side of the coin players' parties can suddenly be hit with an amazing amount of luck, trivializing some fights. The first time I tried fighting the Conqueror's army in the Nest of Eagles I wound up losing, so I tweaked my party and unions before returning. Upon trying the fight again, David wound up being able to use the Gae Bolg early on, and the thing decimated most of the enemies on the field. All of the support unions on the other side were killed instantly and the Conqueror's two generals were badly damaged. After that it was a quick couple of rounds before we won. This just made the victory feel hollow because it took so little effort to win. Not too long after this, RNG made a nuisance of itself again when fighting Jager and Lob Omen. The first time I fought them, Lob Omen marched right up to my summoned cyclops and one-shot it for almost 15,000 damage. My party spend much of its time resurrecting the thing and healing it. The whole fight was a mess, and eventually we wiped. The next time we fought, suddenly the cyclops was dodging or blocking just about every attack that Jager and Lob Omen threw at him. It just seemed silly how well it was doing. We won that time, and, again, it wasn't very satisfying because RNG was working so heavily in my favor. It just didn't feel like I'd earned that victory.

So yeah, things have been more than a little disappointing with The Last Remnant the last little bit. The story is a mess, and the randomness in the combat frustrating. This isn't to say I'm giving up on the game. No way! I'm going to see this through to the end if for no other reason to see how many more crazy things the story can throw at me without actually explaining it.