The downside of taking breaks between installments of this game is that when you have a game so thoroughly built upon making an extended project out of your characters, you occasionally… forget what you were doing with your characters. Luckily, it usually just takes a few minutes of glancing at abilities to figure out what I was doing again with character abilities.
With the plot? Not so much, since we have unfortunately slipped into a mire wherein we are going in a seemingly random direction for no reason beyond the fact that there’s stuff in that direction or something and I guess we can go that way or something? We seem to have nicely stepped away from our ostensible goal of finding the Earth Crystal, that’s not great. So it’s off to the Desert of Shifting Sands, because that’s close on the map and we haven’t been there yet, so why not?
I was excited for the launch of the Combiner Wars subline for Transformers, because I really like giant robots that transform and I really like when those giant transforming robots themselves transform into combined robots. But I was also apprehensive, because I had a pretty strong feeling that it was going to mean a whole bunch of the same thing we see every time. And sure enough, we have another Optimus Prime, and the first two combiners are the Aerialbots and the Stunticons.
This was not altogether surprising. As we prepare for another Spider-man movie that yet again sets the clock back to the earliest stories, it’s worth asking the question of why we keep feeling the need to retell these stories until we’re all blue in the face. It’s not that there’s a problem with remaking things; I quite like when someone takes something familiar and puts a new twist on it. I am, however, less thrilled when that “new twist” is just an update in the time of release.
The party has a boat again, which is a good thing. It’s impossible to imagine that the fate which befell the last boat will also befall this one, due in no small part to the fact that this boat is not being pulled along by a sea serpent. With this boat, we can hopefully prevent the last crystal from shattering, which would both be the first successful effort that the group had made thus far and also be kind of a failure anyway.
I mean, we’re down to saving a quarter of the world-preserving crystals here, somehow I don’t think the one still working will make the other three better.
Still, no point in not trying, right? Off we go, and to the great surprise of absolutely no one, there are only a handful of locations to go to that we haven’t already visited, thus making the process of locating the Earth Crystal chiefly a matter of finding which one has something relevant to do there. At least it’s consistent?
I am not a fan of MOBAs. There are a variety of reasons – the toxic and vile player communities they tend to attract, the symptom of meatheaded posturing previously associated with physical sports steadily seeping into gaming, the usual control schemes that they support. But boy, if there was ever a genre that didn’t exist a decade ago that’s managed to explode in popularity since then, this would be the one, and I can certainly understand the heck out of people who do enjoy the games.
Of course, the downside to success is and always has been imitation. MOBAs have been hit by this pretty hard, to the point where it seems that almost every game company in existence has brought out a new MOBA, like the online equivalent of Japanese game companies making pachinko machines. Frankly, these games are a hard project even without all of the copycats, but the addition of those copies has only made the dynamic more difficult.
I made a passing comment at the end of the last article that I think deserves to be unpacked a little bit, because it’s the basic problem that every single Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy V has been trying to solve. How do you allow characters to share abilities while still making all of the diverse classes available be worthwhile for something unique?
The reason this comes up is because of things like Beastmaster. As a class, Beastmaster is pretty awful. Its big tricks aren’t useful, it doesn’t provied more damage or healing than any other class, and the one thing it has in its favor is the ability to control an enemy. That sounds pretty screamingly useful, to boot… but then you realize that there’s no need to actually put that ability on a Beastmaster. Why would you not just grind for a little bit on Beastmaster, unlock Control, and then never touch it again?
Such is the plight of several jobs in the game. Such is, in fact, the plight of several jobs in every game, but this is the point where the struggles begin. In Final Fantasy III, there were a couple of classes you could get away with never using, but a majority of those jobs were useful somewhere even if you weren’t likely to use them from start to finish. In Final Fantasy V, even decent jobs pale compared to the jobs that combine nicely with other jobs.