Yeah, you definitely have to suspend your disbelief in some of these chapters when the cast is meant to be there, but not present in cutscenes. This is particularly noticeable in a few places, like Ophilia's and Cyrus's Ch 3.
I really like Tressa and her story was charming as heck, but I agree with your criticism. Her tale in particular wasn't about a big villain, so I don't really mind a lack of build-up to the boss, but the baddie for Tressa was very out-of-nowhere and had almost no relation to Tressa at all. After doing more of the game, some of the links start making more sense, but prior to that, Esmerelda feels pretty random. And her motive to try to kill Tressa after it's established that she doesn't need the journal makes it feel even flimsier. Even so, I thought Tressa's speech about the joy of adventuring being the real treasure really sums up the whole game nicely.
@TriforceBun Yeah, that's pretty much exactly how I feel. I'm open to things falling into place later (I've been expecting that for a while), but without building things up early on they reduce the impact of things. Same with Noa and Tressa connecting with her. I like that part of the story, but if they somehow had managed to build up to that moment just a tad earlier instead of rushing through it all in one short chapter it would have been so much touching. Not to mention how much sense it makes for Tressa to bring up the main cast of the game when talking about how many interesting people she's met on her journey. As the player they are meant to be those interesting people to us, and it takes away from that when she doesn't even acknowledge that they exist. I mean, you just can't compare Ali to Alfyn or Primrose or anyone else.
But yeah, Tressa herself compensates for some of this, and it's a nice little story when looking at it from a distance.
Good points. I get that there was only so much they could put in the game (and there's already a ton of content and even little side details and things), but one easy way to help mitigate that party/story dissonance would be to put in a flag that added a little extra dialogue (if you had more than one character). Something simple like a villain saying "Drat, he brought backup!" prior to a fight, or Tressa adding "And I've met some amazing friends along the way. Like Olberic! He taught me blah blah. And Primrose has been like a blah blah..."
And yeah, I think a little more early establishment would've helped too. Primrose Chapter 3 big spoilers: for instance, Prim getting betrayed by her love in Noblecourt was fairly surprising, but since we'd just met that character for the first time an hour ago, it didn't have the punch it could've. An extra scene establishing him (in flashback) in Prim's first Chapter would've really helped drive home the hopelessness of the situation. You know, set him up as this one aspect of a normal life she can try to look forward to after her revenge. That's basically the irony they were going for anyway, but it just works a lot better when it's a character that's been established with the audience for longer.
Even so, I'd say this game has a stronger story overall than most RPGs. I think its thematic explorations (on a character-to-character basis) are consistent and there's a ton of great world-building through the NPCs and their dialogue.
@TriforceBun That type of flag is the exact thing I've been wanting; it's the bare minimum that I expected from this game when I started. One measly line from any additional character that you have with you in any given chapter, to show that they are there and that they are reacting to what is going on according to their respective personalities. And/or comments from the NPCs, like you said. It would have gone such a long way, and I really don't think that would have been a lot of trouble to add.
Your Prim chapter 3 example is also something I thought a lot about, and I agree with everything you say about it. Personally I think it would have been even more interesting (read:tragic) if Simeon hadn't been an old love interest, but instead some more fatherly type figure, like the old butler that used to take care of her or some such. Someone that would evoke that particular sense of security and familiarity that she's been missing all these years, only to rob her of that, again.
Plus, I never really got a good idea of how big of an age gap there was between her and Simeon. She had a different sprite that looked quite childish in the flashbacks, whereas he looked pretty much the same, I thought.
Regarding Primrose Chapter 3, it does look a little funny when they use the same sprite for Simeon as the flashbacks. I think this was mostly for cost-cutting sake though, since Primrose herself is supposed to be around 13 during that time (her canonical age is 23 and Geoffrey dies 10 years before the events of the game begin). I assumed Simeon was 14-16 or so then, which ends up having everything make enough sense for the most part. The reason Prim's sprite looks so young is related to a fairly minor thing in the 4th chapter, but I don't think you're there yet.
Those are great, but they do generally make the game quite a bit easier after you get them! The bosses required to get to them are also arguably tougher than the Chapter 4 bosses, so keep that in mind too.
A tactic that works a little TOO well on two of 'em:
A good strategy (aka a rather broken strategy) for both the Starseer and Archmagus bosses goes like this: use Dancer's Divine Skill (Sealticge's Seduction) on your Cleric to allow her/his Reflecting Veil spell to affect your party all at once. Boost that sucker for up to four reflects per character, then laugh at the boss as they proceed to fry themselves with 12 deadly magical attacks all at once, often breaking their own defenses! Keep refreshing those shields and you can start thinking of who you want to dress up as a Sorcerer.
First off Ophilia's, which was alright. Perfectly fine, even if the dialogue was pretty bad and on the nose at times. Especially how the bad guy was hamming it up and playing up how evil he was. I like the idea behind it all though, I think it's mainly the game's pacing that makes the devs think they have to write certain things the way they do, causing the somewhat clumsy writing. I'd like to play this game in japanese one day and see how different that version is in terms of tone and stuff.
Then I went on to beat Primrose's. 11/10, I fucking love it. Her story is amazing stuff, some of the best RPG questing out there. I'm still critical when it comes to the way she's written in a couple of travel banters, but other than that it's all pretty much perfect in my opinion. Was a bit worried that she'd go all soft in the final moments there, but all went well! Such a horrible story all the way through, but in the best ways possible.
Can't quite decide which one to go for tomorrow, but it'll be either Cyrus's or H'aanit's. Those are the ones I feel the strongest about, after Prim's.
Glad you enjoyed Primrose's so much! I'm a bit torn on the villain, but he absolutely had presence and the whole dynamic layout and setting of her chapter was fantastic. Really great set-piece, and I especially liked the psychological battles they partook in. A tad more closure would've been nice, but it was a highly memorable sequence and I loved the use of the song Determination.
I was a big fan of Ophilia's story myself since I found its optimistic, religious themes particularly endearing. Ch 4 spoilers: Mattias is also one of the only final bosses that actually has dialogue during his fight, which I found really added to the battle.
Are you learning Japanese? I'm attempting it myself, but it's going slowly.
@TriforceBun My old criticism of Simeon still stands in that I think he should have been introduced earlier, and that the love story angle is less than perfect, but now I only think it is from Prim's perspective. He would have been even scarier if she had thought of him as a fatherly type character whereas he was obsessed with her romantically. But yeah, the final battles were great (I like the throwback to Helgenich with Simeon sitting in his chair at first), the set- pieces were impressive, and I love the contrasting endings of the play and the real life tragedy. Especially the very end when the characters on stage share a loving embrace while Simeon and Prim share their fatal one up on the balcony.
I was learning Japanese before, and managed to learn hiragana and most of the katakana, but when I got my current job I stopped having time to study as much as I'd like, and I've been losing much of what I've learned. It's also got a bit to do with the fact that a few other languages came into my life and started competing with the Japanese even though I'm not actively trying to learn them.
All the fourth chapters are done now. Gonna post my brief impressions of the latest ones, to clear my head if nothing else.
H'aanit: I've got a soft spot for H'aanit, and I've enjoyed the atmosphere in her quest since her first chapter, so this all sat well with me. Since I like her so much I was happy to see a happy ending, but at the same time I didn't feel like anything big was at stake in the end. To the characters in the game it was obviously a matter of life and death, but as a player we were promised that everything and everyone would be alright once Redeye was slain, so that took some of the drama out of it, I felt. Still good though.
Cyrus: Cyrus is another one of my big favourites, and I absolutely adore the fantasy/noire detective/horror adventure he's experiencing. The one real negative to me is that he is the only character that doesn't seem to make an inner journey the same way the others do. He's pretty much the same when he comes back as when he sets out, and his convictions were only tested for about two seconds. But like I said, I adore his story anyway, and the final location he had to explore was gorgeous.
Therion: Probably my least favourite character and quest line in the game. Therion's a walking RPG cliché, and the whole learning-to-trust-people-again plot would have been interesting if it weren't for how heavy handed and on the nose the whole thing is at all times. Nevertheless, I think Therion's final chapter was really good, and I especially enjoyed Darius's fate, even if that wasn't exactly subtly done either.
Alfyn: Apart from the ridiculously convenient turn of events that had Alfyn and Ogen meet up in the only place in the world where you can get the exact ingredient to cure Ogen's illness, which also conveniently was the exact same illness Alfyn had had but had forgotten about but now conveniently remembered, I like Alfyn's story a lot. Top three or at the very least top four, to me. He set out to do good, faced hardships and doubt, overcame it all and came out of everything that much closer to becoming the person he wants to be. Very good stuff. I also appreciate how the story - unlike so many of the other ones - doesn't smack you over the head with what's good and what's bad all the time.
Olberic: While I stand by my opinion that Olberic is a total dick in chapter 3, he seems to have learned how not to be in chapter 4. Don't have much to say about this, really. It's a good chapter. Not fantastic, but certainly not terrible either. Enjoyable.
Nice writeup. I don't really disagree with any of that, except that I enjoyed Olberic's story as a whole more. Alfyn's is indeed interesting in how it looks at the ethics of helping people, and I'm satisfied with how it wrapped up for him (I feel like a far simplified take would've made Ogen the final boss, which wouldn't have been nearly as interesting). I also wasn't a big fan of Therion; I found him overly snotty and unlikeable in travel banter, although in his defense, he did make me laugh more than most of the characters. His story was pretty straightforward but I enjoyed the use of Heathcote and Cordelia. As a one-time teacher (and husband of a teacher, and brother/son/other son/other brother/nephew/other nephew of several OTHER teachers), I really appreciated Cyrus's monologue to his final boss. Really summed up his character's love and respect for the concepts of knowledge and learning.
The Ch 4 boss music was one of my favorites in the game, and I particularly looked forward to those charming little FIN images for each character! I screenshotted all of them.
@TriforceBun Haha, I screenshotted all of them as well! Thinking of turning them into a collage and using them as my laptop wallpaper.
I was afraid they were going to do exactly what you're talking about with Alfyn's quest, making Ogen a boss, but they avoided that pitfall brilliantly. I really wish they'd done something similar with Tressa's quest, somehow.
It's interesting that you should say that about Cyrus, because I've been wondering how much of my general attitude has always been similar to his, and how much is a result of me currently working as a teacher. Either way I feel like I can identify with him to a decent degree, which is nice.
I was probably being a tad too harsh when talking about Olberic's final chapter, because it's definitely a good one, just not one of my favourites. And as far as his previous ones go (with the exception of the parts of chapter 3 that I complained about earlier) he's got a really good plot line going, and he's certainly an interesting character.
To make the Battle-Tested weapons available, do I need to beat the game with all characters or does each weapon correlate with a certain character. For example, I've beaten the game with Ophilia and Cyrus. Will the battle-tested Staff now be available?
@DrFinkelstein I'm not EXACTLY sure how it works (if its per-character or not), but I know I got some Battle-Tested items before beating all the Ch 4s. You should be able to get the Staff by now if I remember correctly.
Groovy. Thanks. I wouldn't mind having some nicer weapons as I progress through the Chapter 4s. I made sure to do all Chapter 3s before starting my first four and I'm leaving Tressa's (my main) chapter 4 for last.
Is it wise to try and nab some of those extra classes before finishing all the Chapter 4s?
Doing some sidequests and experience farming. Came across the big bad wolf up in Forest of Purgation. Fought it for half an hour with what I thought was an impeccable (if slow) tech. Then he removes all of my buffs and wipes me out in three actions without me being able to get an action in between them. Kind of don't feel like going for the post-game content right now, if this is any indication of how this will go.