Posts by Tag / GAME: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (6)

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Unrewarding Rewards

Here’s another pet peeve: when games forget that something is positioned as a reward and get stingy with it.

I was thinking of this recently because of Hyrule Warriors. Similar to Fire Emblem Warriors, it has a system where you can scan up to five different amiibo per day and for each one get a semi-random reward of in-game currency, materials, or a weapon. Characters from the game’s actual franchise get special treatment, but any old amiibo will give you something.

Currency is generally the worst reward in my opinion, as that’s the easiest resource to farm in-game. You can get different amounts of it, though, and 50,000 rupees is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, one of the possible rewards - which I have gotten several times - is one rupee.

I normally have about one million rupees on hand. One rupee is basically worthless. It would almost be less insulting and frustrating if you got nothing at all.

This might be a reasonable outcome if everyone just got five pulls on this slot machine every day. I think I’d still rather balance the rewards so the expected earnings were the same but there weren’t any duds like this, even though you’d still probably get something decent from five pulls. An engagement reward shouldn’t be insulting.

But pulls aren’t free. They are a reward for buying amiibo and an attempt to add value to them as a platform. (Even if Nintendo has largely abandoned this.) I bought a figurine expecting to be able to use it in a variety of games, I go to the effort to fire up the game for the day, go to the amiibo menu, and physically pick up my amiibo and put it on the controller - and the game blows me a one rupee raspberry in response.

I’m glad they figured out this was a bad idea. This “reward” was dropped from Fire Emblem Warriors, and the smallest amount of currency you can get from an amiibo there is five hundred.

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The Pickups are a Put-On

As I mentioned a bit ago, when you defeat enemies in Hyrule Warriors dropped rupees get automatically collected but dropped materials and weapons become pickups that just sit there unless you go collect them.

These items are crucial to long-term character advancement, so I’ve been carefully getting all the drops as I play, which has had a significant detrimental effect on my experience. Musou games are about moving quickly; you really should move on from an enemy the moment it’s defeated. It’s detrimental (and unfun) to wait around for it to have its death animation and drop its pickup and go collect it - especially if your last attack happened to have significant knockback. Worse, you can continue to juggle them unintentionally after they’re already dead, which just delays the animation further. And the worst are enemies who have scripted things they say when they die, because they’ll just sit there defeated on the field until the message queue clears and they can say their line, and then drop their pickup. And the cherry on top is when these delays cause you to miss an optional objective or an A-rank by mere seconds.

Well, it turns out the pickups are a lie. You can ignore them completely. You still get the dropped items automatically when you clear the mission.

I have no idea why they still have enemies drop these items and leave them on the field and play an item pick-up sound and display a “Material received!” message when you pick them up. It really makes it seem like you have to collect them manually, which misleads the player into a much less fun way to play the game.

Really glad they fixed this for Fire Emblem Warriors and had the dropped items immediately vanish and display their collection message.

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Musou’s “Shazam” Characters

So I mentioned that before Fire Emblem Warriors, Musou characters tended to be homogeneous in capability and differentiated mainly by various trade-offs. One interesting trade-off is demonstrated by what I like to call the Shazam character - one who is normally weak, but has a transformation that makes them very powerful.

Musou games commonly have three levels of attacks. First are the combos triggered by hitting the weak and strong attack buttons in various patterns. Next are the special attacks - you gradually earn charges for these as you deal and receive damage but can only store a few. They vary between characters but are usually short-range high-damage area attacks. Finally, there’s Rage mode (that’s its name in mainline Dynasty Warriors; it gets called other things in other games). A meter fills as you perform critical hits or successful combos or similar, and when it’s full you can enter Rage, which causes the meter to drain but makes you significantly more powerful until it runs out (and it’s usually capped off with a special attack). So, you might use normal combos on fodder enemies, special attacks on officers, and Rage mode on heroes.

Young Link in Hyrule Warriors and Tiki in Fire Emblem Warriors have comparatively weak combos, but have especially powerful Rage modes - Young Link puts on the Fierce Deity Mask and Tiki transforms into a dragon. So the primary way to maximize these characters’ effectiveness is to spend as much time in Rage mode as possible - and to help with that, these characters (and only these characters, I believe) have the ability to spend special attack charges to refill the Rage meter.

They’re still fairly awkward to use in the early-to-mid-game, but if you invest in them and get the right upgrades and weapon skills, by the late game they can basically spend entire missions in Rage mode, making them extremely powerful.

This is hardly the first game to make characters with this sort of dynamic, but it occurred to me that this is very much the sort of thing you can only do in non-competitive games. If these games had versus modes, you’d basically have to ban Young Link and Tiki or they would dominate high-level play. But in single-player or even cooperative games, it’s actually okay to have this kind of imbalance. It creates interesting experiences, giving players a chance to invest in characters that then “break” the game - which in that context can be satisfying and fun.

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Musou Tactics

After playing Fire Emblem Warriors, I thought I was super into Musou games. After moving on to the (earlier release) Hyrule Warriors, while I do still enjoy Musou it turns out that what I was super into was Fire Emblem Warriors. In particular, its tactical depth.

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Put off by Pickups

In many games, enemies drop money, items, or other resources. Sometimes this is figurative - you just receive those resources when you defeat the enemy - but other times it’s literal, with the resources appearing as pickups where the enemy was defeated and not being received until you go collect them.

I think the pickup approach is almost always a bad idea.

To illustrate why, I’ll start with an example of a game that does it well: Super Stardust HD.. An Asteroids-like shooter where you navigate a crowded level avoiding and destroying hazards, safely collecting the pickups dropped by enemies and rocks is part of the always-be-moving-always-be-shooting challenge. But it’s more interesting than that, since some pickups change over time and you might want to let them change before you nab them - plus, boosting through a large number of point pickups in one go rewards a significant bonus, so there’s a risk/reward trade-off. The point is - collecting the pickups is just as interesting a part of the gameplay as destroying the enemies in the first place. It challenges the same skills and presents similar interesting decisions.

This isn’t the case in most games. Usually, collecting the pickups isn’t interesting at all; it’s just another thing you have to do. Defeating the enemy is usually the interesting and challenging part, and going over to collect the pickup is usually an extra rote step you are obligated to take for no clear reason and with no interesting challenge or decision involved.

As a player, your instinct might be to minimize the time the interesting action is interrupted by uninteresting action and just collect all the pickups at once after defeating all the enemies. But obnoxiously often, games punish or prevent this - pickups fade away after a few seconds, or the action continually leads you away from where pickups have already dropped, or defeating the last enemy immediately ejects you from the area without letting you collect anything. So your attempt to maximize the enjoyability of the game is punished by the game robbing you of the rewards you’ve already earned in combat.

It is fun seeing the resources drop, but there’s no reason to force the player to collect them. (Oddly, Hyrule Warriors recognizes this with rupees which shower colorfully out of enemies and pots before being collected automatically but still obliges the player to pick up dropped materials and weapons which are much easier to miss and much more valuable.) Some games - I think Kingdom Hearts did this, I’m not sure if the sequels all do - include optional upgrades that increase your pickup collection radius, allowing you to mostly forget about the tedious collection and just enjoy the game as it should have been all along.

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