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DragonFable: Release Analysis, 02/12/2010

Posted by Stelarinna on February 18, 2010

It comes around every year: Hero’s Heart Day. For love, honor, and chocolate sales!

Just as a quick update, Endon will be reviewing the upcoming ArchKnight finale (and be a lot quicker about it than I usually am, if all goes well); we’ll be working together to cover DF releases in the future, at least until Perpetual Enigma returns. You all can expect to find out more about this recent turn of events in the next week or so.

Hero’s Heart Day
Quest Releases: Love Letter

So much pink can’t be in the job description.
Plot and Story Design
We’re helping two teenagers find their respective dates for Valentine’s Day? Well, after all that we’ve done in the past, from sinking ships to battling bandits, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.
Art and Enemy Design
Just some recolored versions of previous enemies, like most in Hero’s Heart Day (I suspect that Big Daddy hires Moglin Cherubs every year to spray-paint the monsters pink and scatter heart shaped candies around).
Quest Layout and Walkaround
Walking straight east is not exactly what I’d call interesting. With a name like the Forest of Infinite Terror, I’d expect it to be a little more difficult to navigate. But then again, we did get a massive amount of new artwork and cutscenes this week, so I can’t complain too much.
Bugs and Balance Issues
Unfortunately, excessive amounts of pink are not a balance issue.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
Blech. Pretty random. In fact, Hero’s Heart Day has been random since the start. Random ideas, random quests, random big-talking cherubs. So I guess this year is nothing new. At least not in the random department.

Quest Releases: Young Love
More awkward than cute, if you ask me.
Plot and Story Design
It was only a matter of time before the DF team brough Ash in. Ash, Aria, Hans… they’re all one of the few characters young enough to believe in Hero’s Heart Day without much cynicism, but old enough to become infatuated with someone they’d met on it. Yes, I said “become infatuated”, not “fall in love”. People sometimes fall in love at their first meeting, but I’m…skeptical…of that idea.
Art and Graphic Design
Time of day: around twilight, or at least evening. Near as I can tell, our character completed this Hero’s Heart mini-chain in a day, might’ve spent the rest of the week delivering singing Snuggle-Grams. Thereby putting some pressure on our friend Ash to rescue Lazuli and Ophelia/Ophelia and Lazuli (So they don’t get into another argument over who he came to save first…) before night fell, as I doubt they’d have survived one in Frydae’s castle. Not that they actually needed rescuing.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
This quest was basically one giant cutscene. Dunno why cutscenes seem to always come inside quests. Maybe it’s easier to code that way. Or, not easier to code, but easier to save. I wouldn’t be best pleased if I was stuck at one point in the story, eternally hoping Cutscene X would save so I could move on.

Quest Releases: Change of Heart
…So…many…spiders.
Plot and Story Design
Besides quashing any romance that Frydae had imagined between them (smart move, your Majesty), it seems that Safiria has taken a liking to Lazuli and Ophelia (I’m not going to repeat that in the reverse order again. Sorry, Ophelia.). That little turn of events would’ve made a nice cutscene or two. Instead of following our character all the way through a linear and rather uninteresting plot, we could’ve seen how Ash, Lazuli, and Ophelia unwittingly worked together to resolve the whole Love Letter mess. Ah well, maybe next year…
Art and Graphic Design
The only truly-new art was in the Nosferatu enemy and the new NPCs, which a.) were introduced in a previous quest and b.) should really be given their own separate section. But other than that, it wasn’t bad at all. Some background progression, too, though the switch between forests was rather abrupt.
Combat and Enemy Design
Re-used the Hugrantula and Pink Widow Spider enemies from one of last year’s quests. There were a lot of them, too. Some Lesser Blowhearts would’ve made a nice change, as would a recolored skeleton or ghoul (which could have outlined another reason why Frydae dislikes Big Daddy, as I wouldn’t put it past that cherub to paint all the monsters in surrounding areas in case they wandered into his neck o’ the woods). There was a new enemy at the end, though, which partially made up for the previous repetitiveness. However, I do wish that Ms. NosfeRATu (I doubt that they intended us to consider that enemy a she, but I find that saying “it” is too heartless, and there aren’t many distinctly-female enemies around) had more-intriguing specials. Considering last week’s Introducing 9.0 quest, I see no excuse whatsoever for the DF team to implement new functionality and then not use it.
Quest Layout and Walkaround
It let you avoid a few enemies; which doesn’t make sense, as I’d noted in a previous review. But I suppose one must make allowances for the format a story is presented in: games and visual novels have their strengths and weaknesses, anime, TV shows, and serialized novels (not that publishers are too interested in them anymore) have theirs, regular fiction and poetry have theirs, the various musical and artistic media have theirs… And one of a game’s weaknesses is that sometimes the story and physics have to bend a little to allow for playability.
Other than that, the transition between the Forest of Love and Candy and Doomwood/Amityvale was quite abrupt. But considering that all Big Daddy did was hire moglins to spray-paint his area of the forest, I guess it makes some sort of sense. Those spiders weren’t born pink, after all.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
Spiders? Ow. Pink-dyed spiders – even more so. Run away. It’s not worth it.
Let it make no difference that I leave spiders alone whenever I can see they’re obviously of the mostly-harmless (to humans) varieties–they can get rid of at least some other garden pests, and as long as you don’t bother them, they’ll stay out of the way–I don’t like them. Like 99.5% of humanity, I bet it’s just the strangeness that gets to me. That, and the fact that while I’ve learned to speak Cat, Dog, and Parakeet to some extent, I’ve never met anyone who can speak Spider.

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NPC Releases: Lazuli Doom and Ophelia the Odd
I wish AE wouldn’t buy into the philosophy that younger means shorter…
Design and Artwork
Not as richly detailed as some that are out there, but nice enough. The color schemes aren’t particularly imaginative, but they mesh well, both with each other and for each individual character. It’s also nice that the girls will turn to face whoever they’re talking to at that particular moment; it adds some more realism, and strangely enough, realism is always what we humans want in fiction… Even when it’s specifically a fantasy setting.
History and Relevance
Nyeh. Blank cards, both of ’em. Perhaps Safiria’s interest in them, and her importance to the Hero’s Heart storyline, will result in our seeing more of Ophelia and Lazuli.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
As I said, younger doesn’t necessarily mean shorter; Lazuli seems a bit taller in most cutscenes, but even she still looks like she’s about ten years old. I know the DF team was trying to emphasize that they’re still just teenagers, but that can be done in other ways than over-relying on physical size. (Then again, their height, or lack thereof, might just run in their respective families.)

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Shop Releases: Hero’s Heart
(Spending more time on the rewards than the quest chain, Stel? For shame.)
(Can I help it if there’s more to discuss about the weapon series than there is about the quests? Besides, I’m not spending more time on them than I did the quests; or, at least, I don’t plan to.)

::Ebony and Roses
Design and Artwork

Scythes are usually always (I love that phrase…) good-looking, and this one was no exception.  It follows the theme of the other 2010 weapons very closely, but in this case, it’s not a bad thing. It’s also interesting that all the other weapons in the 2010 series are Fire (one of the traditional Hero’s Heart reward elements, besides Stone), but the Scythe is Water. It makes it stand out a bit more, besides the fact that Scythes aren’t as common as the other weapon types. Until recently, they came around Mace/Wand rarity; they’re now a little less common than axes. Counting rare scythes, they’d be a little more common than axes; but of course you can’t count rare weapons in an overall ingame-item-amount comparison, as most of them are no longer accessible and should be treated something like heavily-nerfed staff items. That’s the real problem with having so many rare weapons; they don’t have any lasting impact on the game.
Level Variety
Coming in around levels 20, 40, 50, and 60, it’s a bit different from the Axe/Sword/Dagger/Staff series. That’s one reason I’ve put the Scythe separate from the others; the other was the slightly-different design approach (which is impossible to avoid in designing a scythe right now, due to the inherent differences between that weapon class and most, if not all, others).
Strength and Balance
These are post-Tweak weapons, but Wisdom still isn’t included in the Stat Bonuses area. I wonder why, as WIS is END for mana and END is certainly receiving plenty of bonuses (so many items have END bonuses that I no longer find it worth the effort to search out items w/high END statistics, as I’ll usually get more than enough health from my stats and whatever items I have equipped). It might be a design decision based on game physics and the Lorean magic system, but somehow, I think it more likely that the DF team have all been so busy recently (what with the ArchKnight Finale/Water Orb Saga coming up and all) that they simply haven’t had time to update the Item Stats template yet. Then again, one might argue that with the addition of a new stat, it was also the team’s responsibility to integrate it into the game more fully – which includes, at the very least, updating the item designing templates and, if there was no time to rework older items to give some WIS bonus, the addition of new items which do give WIS bonus.
::Bleeding Heart (Axe) ~ Love’s Edge (Sword) ~ Faith of Isolde (Dagger) ~ Unrequited Love (Staff)
Design and Artwork

They all carry the same motifs and color-scheme: red/black crystal hearts on the weapon pommel (the Staff/Axe weapons also have a larger, broken heart making up their main art centerpiece, while both the Scythe’s hearts are unbroken), either a red or black (and often both) rose, violet-grey metal for the blades and some accents, and a diamondwork/plain black hilt (or, to be precise, “hilt and/or longish staff handle thing”).
Beautiful work, Tomix. It’s near impossible for me to find any artistic or design flaws. I don’t know if you came up with the weapon ideas all on your own, or you were just responsible for the art, but you did a wonderful job. My only complaint is that the cross-hatched hilts could’ve been shaded a little better. Perhaps switching the red and black would’ve worked, or even re-using the staff/scythe’s red vine-motif and leaving the rest of the handle plain black.
Level Variety
Grah.
(That Grah meant “Semi-sorta-random-but-not-really”.)
Skips 20 levels in between I and II, skips 18 levels in between II and III. But since you have the Ebony and Roses scythes to fill the in-between levels, I’d say this item series is the most useful  I’ve seen for a while.
That said, these individual items skip so many levels that if you’re around the level required to buy one and you’re a casual player, getting the next version is pretty pointless. By the time you’ll be able to use it, something better will have already come out.
Strength and Balance
While this technically does not belong under “Strength”, it does come in under Balance. And sine I don’t have anything interesting to say about the Hero’s Heart 2010 weapons’ strength (they’re useful and they look great, what more do you want?), it’s good that I can simply retreat to the safety of one of my erstwhile favorite topics: item pricing.
The Tokens of Affection (which shall henceforth be referred to as ToA) required have been drastically cut from  previous years’ costs. Ebony and Roses VI, the level 60 Scythe, required less ToA to merge than the level 21 Stone weapons of ’07 fame (which you can still find in Chapter 1, if you care to hunt around for 20 ToA). Smart move, AE. One of the reasons I never before purchased Valentines’ weapons in DF was the outrageous amount of Tokens required. Well, not outrageous, but not exactly appealing to the casual player. And considering that Tomix did such a great job on their art, I think many more people who liked the weapons were able to purchase them than last year. (Well, there’s me; I count as somebody, at least.)
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
I am a bit peeved that most of the scythes we’ve been getting recently are Rare type, since that doesn’t help to fill out the enormous gaps in that weapon class one bit. A high-level Water Scythe would’ve been very useful. As long as there’s still some drawback to its cross-class abilities, I don’t see why scythes have to constantly go rare as soon as they’re released. (In fact, I consider an excess of Rare items/cutscenes/minigames/etc. a waste of AE’s time, as they  *should* have little to no impact on the game as a whole.)

Shop Releases: Big Daddy’s DC
That scoundrel of a cherub. After getting rich from our efforts, he uses the money to make cheap trinkets, which he then sells to us for DragonCoins at an exorbitant rate. See if I help him out again when next Hero’s Heart Day rolls around.
::Blinded by Love
Design and Artwork

Well, there isn’t much to speak of; it doesn’t have an actual artwork, as far as I can tell from the Encyclopedia entry (what, were you wondering if I was going to spend my hard-earned DCs on anything other than extra bag slots? I think not.), though the skill gained from equipping it does.
It is morbidly funny, how the DF team persist in making a simple mistake in their selection of elements. Good and Evil are not elements, they are alignments. I would repeat that for added emphasis, but I’ve spent too much time here already… ah, who am I kidding, I just spent more time explaining why I wasn’t going to repeat myself than it would’ve taken to say “I repeat, Good and Evil are not elements, they are alignments.”
Strength and Balance
It seems quite a bit weaker than the previous years’ trinket, which allowed for a two-turn stun; this year’s only gave you -30 BtH. But then again, I suspect this special lasts a bit longer than two turns, and I have never seen any monsters with resistance to BtH-nerfing.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
Based this one entirely off the Encyclopedia entry; only looked in the shop to make sure what information I could verify was correct. Sorry. I just don’t have the DCs to spare, and even if I did, I prefer to spend them on item storage or the very occasional special item (and even then, I’m more likely to purchase the latter on a secondary character). I don’t consider this trinket, or its predecessor, worth it. Some people obviously do, or there wouldn’t be any Dragonpedia entry to glean information from; I’m just not one of them.

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