Category: Touhou

Managing Resources

This is something I’ve actually been wanting to talk about for a while, mostly because of how insane its extremes can be. Resources can be literally anything, the most basic definition is “something you need that the game provides, in limited quantities.” This is anything between what a mana and health-point bar are to minerals, vespene gas, and unit cap can be, across any genre and skill-level of game. Labyrinth of Touhou, a personal favorite dungeon crawler that actually has an insane number of combat-based resources, is the game with the most amount of resources that doesn’t break combat down into a cluttered bombshell during ordinary game-play .

The systems at work in Labyrinth are actually massive and way beyond the scope of what I’d be able to squeeze into one-thousand words or so, so we’ll just be focusing on resources to juggle around once combat actually starts. The mind-boggling stats and item system will have to come at a later day, sadly. Even removing all of that, the list is still large. In total, there are six things to keep in mind; Health, Mana, TP, the ATP bar (also called the Active Gauge), position, and mana regen. That looks a little excessive, but the game helpfully breaks everything down. All of them are interconnected, but separate enough that not having an intimate understanding of the mechanics will lead to a party wipe.

This screen is something you'll see a lot.

Of them all, Health and Mana are the most basic resources to keep in mind, and are basically hammered into a gamer’s mind from the get-go. When health hits 0, that character is knocked out (or sometimes dies), and no longer able to fight. Losing everyone means game-over, but it’s possible to survive with one and run back to town to revive everyone. So keeping a party happy and healthy is the first concern. Second is where mana comes in (In Labyrinth, it’s referred to as “Spell Points,” or SP, but it’s only a name swap), and this is usually some of the fun parts of combat. You can see from the screenshot that there are multiple spells with different costs. Early in the game, casting something like ‘Royal Flare’ can utterly bankrupt a mage’s mana… but it can also be a party-saving nuke to clear out enemies. Managing just these two alone ratchets up the complexity as decisions now revolve around offensive and defensive actions. The player could go for an all-out spell… or use something cheaper that might do the job and have someone else clean up. Or the enemy may get a turn in, causing the decision between lost hp (from the enemy attacking) versus reduced mage power (from bigger spells draining their pool faster).
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Labyrinthine Goals

Hey guys, I know it’s been quite a while since my last post, and I am sorry about that. On the upside, thanks to these ridiculous Steam sales, I now have a nice backlog of games to work through, which should give me quite a bit to work with, even if we’re going to be talking about a much older game today. But first, a quick update as to whats going to be happening. First, I’m reinstating my goal of at least two posts a week, aiming for one Tuesday and one Thursday. That’s just the minimum, so more content could easily be put out in any given week, so look forward to that. Second is, sadly, a hiatus on the Dark Souls LP. I don’t feel comfortable putting up that quality of work, and you guys deserve better. I’ll be trying a few things to get it back up, but right now the videos are atrocious. The color distortion and quality of the video just don’t do the game justice, and make it hard to see what I’m doing (or picking up), which just isn’t right for a Let’s Play. I have more recorded content (Catacombs and Gravelord Covenant), and may put that up since it’s already sitting on my computer, but anything more is suspended until the recording quality improves. So, again, my apologies if you enjoyed that content, and hopefully it will be back and better than ever soon. Now then, with those out-of-the-way, let’s get started with a game I actually rather enjoy.

Labyrinth of Touhou is an indie game (based itself on the indie Touhou Project) dungeon crawler that has an utterly massive cast of recruit-able characters, some nice and witty writing, and an exceedingly fun, strategic combat system. unfortunately, it also has a lot of bad to go along with the good. We’ll be focusing on the bad, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. If you like the Touhou Project and dungeon crawlers, give this a go. It’s a lot of fun, despite the vitriol I’m about to start slinging.

As a minor complaints is that while the writing is really good, there really just isn’t enough of it. Characters often speak in the early levels to explain certain mechanics and event flags (while also usually shattering the fourth wall), but rarely talk in the later levels outside of encountering another character or moving to a new floor. Some events trigger conversations, but the game could use a little more dialog, especially since it’s gone out-of-the-way to create consistent characters that are actually fairly in-line with what the canon (little of it there is) portrays them as, and taking a few liberties elsewhere. Ordinarily I’d nitpick character traits or personalities, but I do enjoy how the game works. Now that my one true nitpick is done with, we’re moving on to the things that really boil my blood.
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Grind House

Oh god, I’m not dead. Undead though, so close. Don’t worry, you’ll see what I’m talking about soon. I promise. Power outages and a little bit of life issues and blah blah, get to the game talk Kana. Alright me, sheesh, so bossy. Anyways… today, I’d like to talk about a certain mechanic that is present in a massive number of games, if not all of them. I’m talking about the horrid nightmare of grind, the act of repeating an action and and over to gain some kind of reward. Most of the time, when you hear the phrase “grind” it means slaughtering dozens to hundreds of a certain type or group of NPCs for a reward at the end, but virtually any repetitive action can be defined as grind. It’s all in how you perceive it that makes it good or bad. So today, we’re going to compare two of my favorite games and see if there is any way to make grinding more fun. One of the two I’ve already covered, my personal monster killing fetish fest, Monster Hunter. The second is a smaller game, based on the Touhou series called Labyrinth of Touhou. It’s a more-or-less standard dungeon crawler with an obscenely huge cast. Right, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.

The main thing I want to get across is that I absolutely love both of these games. Over the course of a week or so I dumped well over thirty hours into Labyrinth, I enjoyed all of the characters, the music was absolutely beautiful, the mechanics were solid, and my favorite, favorite, favorite character from anything ever was in there as part of the recruit-able cast, and she played the ‘high-yield glass canon’ archetype, which is my personal favorite. The whole thing sounded like a dream, and it was right up until about the 30th hour of play. Everything came crashing down as little things that had previously annoyed me piled up and I ran into a massive brick wall. The only available solution? Grind levels. A lot of them. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn’t do it. Two levels later, I had to turn the game off. I came back later and played for another level, then another, then just… stopped. I couldn’t find the effort to keep going. The three main things that got me were character development, repetition, and a distinct lack of rewards. Now then, let’s compare how my monster-murder game compares and, in my opinion, does grind better.
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