Friday, December 4, 2015

Let's Split Up Into The Worst Possible Groups, Gang!

There's a particular moment in Septerra Core that I have to say is one of the most amazing ideas in the whole game; it's the sort of thing that I can never decide if it's a great idea or a terrible one, but it's certainly an idea.

During the final battle, the party splits up into three groups of three, because there are two things that need to happen before you can go fight the final boss, and Maya says this:

(Maya [because the world is about to end and the piece of it they're standing on is about to become very unlivable]: "We don't have time for that! Lobo, take Araym and Led and knock out engine room one. Grubb, you take Runner and Badu and kill engine room two. Corgan, Selina and I will head to Doskias' bridge."

Screenshot taken from this video.)

This is an... interesting way to divide up the party, because it seems like a terrible idea. Let's review the teams:

Lobo, Araym, Led: Lobo and Araym are pretty much literally best friends, actually; no problem there. But Led hates Lobo because he's physically a Jinam combat cyborg and she's from Jinam's old enemy nation, Ankara. In fact, she will literally attack him at random intervals if they're in the party together during battle. (To Lobo's credit, he doesn't reciprocate this behavior, even though this is easily Led's nastiest character trait. She's not really a particularly nice or sweet person and I see no reason to hold that against her, but then she treats one of the nicest characters in the game horribly because he looks like a category of entity she's been taught to blindly hate. Racism metaphor much?)

Grubb, Runner, Badu: Grubb is a tiny nerdy guy, good at building and fixing things and casting spells. Runner is a gigantic (slightly larger than a Smart Fortwo) robot he built, with the dazzling intellect of a dog and a laser cannon in his mouth (I think it's self-explanatory why that combination of features is unnerving). Badu is a great warrior/hunter from a primitive culture/mutated human subspecies from the deepest part of the world, adapted to live in a Nausicaa-esque Mold Forest, completely blind and reliant on sonar, has Poison Spit and Vampyre (health drain) as attacks, is about as large as Runner, and armed with "knives" that together are about the size of a surfboard... and is also completely unable to speak Septerra's lingua franca. In a non-video game party situation, that would have been a bizarre and hilarious scene.

Maya, Corgan, Selina: Maya's the party leader. Corgan is from Shell Three, which was a pretty nice place until the Chosen invaded it to make its largest city into an airship base to give their living airships the water they needed for long journeys into Septerra's depths*. Selina is a former Chosen general who was nominally the leader of a unit that destroyed some outlying towns that were potentially mustering resistance... most notably Corgan's hometown. Like Led, Corgan hates Selina so much that he'll randomly attack her during battle. (Like Lobo, Selina doesn't repay in kind, mainly because she didn't actually give the orders even though she was nominally in charge, and feels personally responsible for the slaughter even though she couldn't actually have stopped it. I reckon Corgan's somewhat more justified than Led, even if it makes putting him in a party a pain in the arse sometimes.)

So I'm a little mystified at the exact logic. I mean, the plot dictates that you should use certain specific weapons, a pair of legendary magic swords, in the final battle, and Corgan and Selina are your sword people, so I pretty much get that, even if it seems a little suicidal.

That's where it gets to the brilliant/terrible/certainly an idea part:

There are three special sidequests in the game that are intended to help build up the relationships between your party members. You can complete the game without them, but they're largely intended to make this little stretch of the game go more smoothly.

Specifically, two of these sidequests require the "hated" member of the party to do something positive for the people of the "random attack jerk" party member, and that'll offset their hatred and remove that random attacking factor. Considering how the combat engine works, completing these quests is a little less "helpful" and a little more "friggin' mandatory."**

Then there's the third sidequest, which involves getting Grubb to notice that Led is totally into him, which gives the two of them some rather neat love-powered combination attacks (that are ultimately overshadowed by the magic system of the game, which is basically itself entirely a complicated but awesome combination attack system). And... those two are in different parties in this chunk of the game for whatever reason.

I think that even if Septerra Core hadn't made much of an impression on me otherwise, I'd probably have remembered it just for this.

*Septerra is made up of a bunch of floating continents arranged into seven layers or shells which move like a huge, deranged clockwork. The highest shells have the lowest numbers.

**The battle system is loosely based on the clock-based "ATB" system found in many JRPGs. Each character has three "ranks" of attack strength, and to a point, the longer you wait the stronger your attacks will be. This is most vital for the spell system, the Fate Cards, where you combine multiple characters' moves to create spells of up to three parts to unleash the strongest attacks in the game, generally things like summon magic and the fancy and visually spectacular Destroyer/Big Bang/Black Hole spells. While you only need one character to have a full three-rank bar to get the full effect of a three-part spell, it still involves a lot of waiting... and thus the random attacking that Corgan and Led do can deprive your party of a link in your magic chain at a critical moment even if the damage done by the attack itself is negligible. Even worse, usually when Led's in the party with Lobo, it'll be under the assumption that she's that party's primary caster and using her Repair skill to be Lobo's medic.

-Signing off.

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