Faces of death

The responses everyone posted to yesterday’s request for more games that handle the concept of player death in interesting ways are pretty great. So thanks for those. Granted, a lot of them are games I already knew about but which slipped my mind — senility, and all that. Others, though, I’d never known about. I am eager to try some of them out.

But first! First I have to finish playing through Final Fantasy XIII for review. FFXIII takes a pretty fascinating approach to death in that it’s a mere interruption. Lose in a battle, you’re kicked right back to where you were immediately before the battle began, no worse for the wear. It works pretty well, because rather than neutering the game’s sense of challenge it emboldened the developers to make individual battles more difficult; I’ve lost more battles in 18 hours of FFXIII than I did in the course of who knows how many hundreds of hours of Final Fantasy VII through XII. It’s never frustrating. Sometimes annoying, sure, but in just about every instance it’s my own stupid fault for getting careless or taking too many risks. It’s a fine example of developers thinking about how death works in their game and deciding to go with a fairly mundane expression of it — but building an interesting experience around something which could have completely undermined the game.

Saving’s another story, though. Given the loss of real setbacks and the density of save points, I kind of wonder why they didn’t just go with a save-anywhere system. As it is, you rarely go more than about five battles between save stations. They feel like a formality, something the team included simply because that’s how these things are done rather than because they were necessary.

Anyway! I expect to submit GameSpite Quarterly 4 for a press proof tomorrow. I just need to write the foreword and the interior will be complete. I’ve yet to decide on a cover, though, but that can wait until I’m finished with copy edits. As it stands, I fully expect the next issue to be available for purchase by about March 5, which almost exactly three months after the last issue went on sale. I guess it won’t be late after all, provided the InDesign/PDF workflow works out the way it’s supposed to. Here’s hoping.

9 thoughts on “Faces of death

  1. So, was this the least-painful-to-assemble installment of GameSpite Quarterly yet? It sounds like you’ve been less frustrated with this volume than with some of the earlier ones (though this may just be due to the easier layout/assembly process you’ve been using this time out.)

  2. FF Mystic Quest let you instantly retry after death, too. It was kinda nice because if you died once then you knew you had to actually pay attention next time. Yeah, it was kind of just a band-aid on the gaping flesh wound that was FFMQ but it was still a nice feature.

  3. This was the hardest issue to write, probably because I was burnt out from GSQ3, but by far the easiest to put together.

  4. FFMQ, a “gaping flesh wound”? You go too far, sir. Any game with that much awesome music is A-OK by me. I just like it for what it is, and I don’t hate it for what it’s not.

  5. FFMQ had a lot of neat features I wish had carried over into the main series.

    TWEWY takes the same approach as FFXIII in that death only forces you to restart. It’s not as robust, in that it doesn’t let you change strategies (though it does give you an option to cheese the battle), but it had the same effect in making individual battles more lethal.

  6. You can throw Skies of Arcadia in with this grouping, Vyse never gives up. (At least for the gamecube version, sadly I have never played the original so I don’t know if the retry feature was added in later).

  7. I remember this game called Shadowman for the N64 (and other consoles), I didn’t play it much, but I remember that after I died my character went to another world or something. The game was so big and confusing that I didn’t keep playing, but I think you get “rewarded” for dying in the game.

  8. Final Fantasy XIII lets you start right back before you entered the battle you died in? This hallway story game keeps sounding more appealing in the gameplay regard, if just because I’m not a fan of the “start over from the last save” deal the series and most other RPGs have adamantly stuck to.

    As for Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, I have no hate for it but it had this weird feeling like it was a hybrid of Final Fantasy Legend (SaGa) and Final Fantasy Adventure (Seiken Densetsu/Mana) in its design, instead of Final Fantasy.

  9. Add Wild Arms 4 and Odin Sphere to the stack of games that treat death this way. And it is indeed appreciated, especially in Odin Sphere, a game that uses the difficulty setting designation “easy,” in jest.

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