Love to hate to break you

I will never know whether or not Dragon Quest VII is a well balanced game, and it’s all my fault. I would love to blame this sad state of affairs on Enix, Stephen Colbert, and even Barack Obama, but it is unfortunately a burden that I will have to bear entirely on my own. You see, a couple days before this year’s United States presidential election, I realized I had over a month of full episodes of The Colbert Report to catch up on. I also realized that, if the election didn’t go my way, I would be too depressed to watch them, forever depriving myself of a over month’s worth of hilarity. Hours and hours of free comedy to consume and a love of double tasking meant that I needed to think of something to do while catching up on Colbert. In the end, I decided to keep my hands occupied by thoroughly breaking Dragon Quest VII’s job system.

[[image:cg_dqviiclassart.jpg:This adorable job system concept art is nowhere to be found in the actual game. :center:0]]
I am admittedly an apologist for Dragon Quest. I’m fairly new to the series, and I’ve found it to be considerably more well balanced and less focused on grinding than popular opinion about the series led me to believe. I was able to get through three Dragon Quest games (Dragon Quest IV DS, Dragon Quest V DS, and Dragon Quest VIII) without stopping to grind during the main game, and I really enjoyed all of them. They’re a simple and relaxing way to unwind after work, and they never punish you too much for making a mistake. Things were moving along smoothly in Dragon Quest VII as well, until I opened up the job system and just couldn’t help myself. I had to break the game.

This nearly always happens to me in games with robust skill systems. Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics were also enormous time sinks for me, and this problem is exactly why I’ve avoided the Disgaea series, for example. Not because I think I wouldn’t like it, but because I know I’d like it far, far too much. I don’t think I’d be able to stop until I’d wasted countless hours creating characters so strong that nothing could stand their way. I would want to utterly break the game, and I would love doing it. On the other hand, the lack of this kind of a job system is also one of the reasons I liked playing through Valkyria Chronicles, which emphasises battle tactics and offers only a bare minimum of possibilities for character customization. As much as I enjoy playing games like this occasionally, there are simply not enough hours in the day make them a habit.

[Image from Dragon Quest Shrine]

15 thoughts on “Love to hate to break you

  1. You must be great at DQ 8 if you didnt have to grind for exp or money. I must have put in as much time moving the story along as i did with getting exp.

  2. I’ve purposely stayed away from MMOs due to my weakness for any kind of job system. Dragon Warrior III was the first time I got hooked and it’s been downhill since then.

  3. That’s pretty much exactly why I have trouble getting through the Disgaea series and it’s ilk. My perfectionism demands that my characters be perfect, but I’m just not OCD enough to go through with it. Fortunately, fantastic story sees me through to the end.

  4. These are my exact feelings regarding FFT and Jeanne D’Arc. While I’ve discovered that a Master White Mage/Time Mage/Mystic/Bard with master Arithmeticks is a complete game-breaker, and I love it so much, Jeanne’s fixed weapon classes and equippable skill stones force a more strategic, chess-like approach –which I also enjoy.

    I dread the moment I start up Dat Gaea on my PSP, because that’ll be the last time my DS sees the light of day in a long, long time.

  5. The biggest problem with DQVII’s job system is that progress is *so* slow. In VI, I didn’t have any trouble maxing out 3-4 jobs by the end of the game, but in VII I didn’t finish the Hero job before completing the game. The other problem is how obtuse it is (with all the monster jobs and the skills that you can never remember what they do).

  6. My problem with job system games is I don’t have the patience to level up job skills along with my normal level. What I’d like is a game where your level effects all jobs equally, and you aren’t punished for switching. So if I’m at Level 10, that will unlock level 10 skills in whatever job I chose to be at that moment. Then make the challenge of the game figuring out the correct set of jobs for that moment.

  7. Dragon Quest VII is an awesome game, and a lot of fun for inveterate game-breakers – if you’re running it on an emulator. If I didn’t have the benefit of speed throttling and save state abuse to get all the hearts and speed along the glacial job system, there’s no way I would have played through it again.

  8. @LilSpriteX: I didn’t max every class for every character or anything, but I definitely broke it to the point where it lost all challenge. (All my characters get 4 hits a turn at no MP cost, two can heal the party fairly substantially for no MP cost, they’ve all got loads of super effective status attacks at no MP cost…)

    Then, I got frustrated with how long the game was (even without my pause to break the job system) last week and took a break from it read a book, but I can tell that I’m close to the end and will probably beat it this week or next.

  9. That’s pretty amazing, about 1/2 of the play time I spend on Dragon Quest games is grinding (sometimes nearly fifty hours), and that’s every game in the series. I’d say I spent less time grinding in Final Fantasy VII-X over Dragon Quest games.

  10. Dragons Quests 3 through 5 are all pretty grind-free, which is really nice. I’m not sure how you got through 8 with no grinding, though. A couple of bosses just owned my face time and again without getting some levelage in.

  11. The first thing I did when I started Final Fantasy III for DS was to set about making a party of Onion Knights. This made the game unplayable and I haven’t touched it since.

  12. I’m not sure I would describe Disgaea as having a “robust skill system”. It’s just the most grindy game ever made.

    Now, if Final Fantasy Tactics had an infinite random dungeon generator, there would be obsessive nerds dying of dehydration and lack of sleep left and right.

  13. I think most of the DQ series’ reputation for grinding comes from the original NES edition of the first two or three entries, Dragon Warrior I in particular.

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