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MechQuest: Release Critique, 02/26/2010: Necryptos Finale

Posted by Stelarinna on March 13, 2010

“Yes, you may insert a witty summary of your choice in place of this entirely useless block of text. The reason why I left it blank to begin with is open for interpretation. I might have done it because I don’t much like writing narrative summary, or I might have done it to emphasize that this review completely shatters my SRT, or I might have done it simply because, as so often happens, my brain simply could not come up with a simple summary. You take the call.”

*Stelarinna has entirely neglected to turn off the voice recorder.

“How’d I do?”
“Stel…I don’t even know what SRT is.”
“That? Oh. It’s short for Standard Reviews Template. The ‘UL Blog’ aspect is implied.”

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

“So. Think the opening’s weird enough to draw some readers in?”
“Well, it’s certainly… Different. I can’t say whether or not it will draw the readers in.”

On February 26th, 2010, Korin and the MQ team released the Necryptos finale; or, at least, what has been announced as the finale. Speculations have been heard that the next releases contain the real Necryptos ending.
“Who cares, it was horrible enough to ruin any chance they might have had at a decent ending.”
“Biased.”
Regardless of whether or not this release is the actual finale, it has been announced as such. Therefore, I will treat it exactly as if it were, and shall make no more mention of the matter.

“Ow. Did you ever see anyone uglier?”
“Sure. Akana.”
“But that cutscene–”
“It shows exactly what I was expecting it to show.”
“You mean you were expecting Mina to turn into a mech after promising to kill everyone who accidentally helped her?”
“That Mina would end up becoming Miracyrina? …Weren’t we all?”
“I was hoping for something a bit more creative.”

The quest(s)’s opening cutscene shows Mina being transformed into Miracyrina and subsequently: a.) again transforming, this time into ESP Energy Ghost or whatever Mira’s * mech form is called, b.) burying Han Velsing underneath the Lyceum town statue (though not to worry, as his somewhat-less-snippy twin brother Shawn immediately pops up to take Han’s place), and c.) vanishing into the first of various areas where we attempt to battle her.

There are several problems with this cutscene, disregarding Mira’s art and design for the moment. First, I cannot see how Miracyrina could’ve infected or possessed anyone while her soul was locked away in the Bloodstones (“Because she couldn’t.”)which, by the by, sound suspiciously like the Bloodstones Safiria had us merge. Is it just me, or am I finding it hard to believe that she only did it to help us out? For all we know, merging the Bloodstones might’ve been the very act which finally released Miracyrina.).

“No seriously, think about it. The Sekali tomes said that her spirit was trapped in a crystal, which was then divided among her remaining siblings. If we merged the shards back together, wouldn’t that just piece her soul back together too?”
“Stel, its AE, remember? AE doesn’t care about little things like whether it makes sense.”
“…I thought I said something about not bashing AE over this.”
“I don’t remember it. :D”
“If Stel says she said it, she probably did. I wouldn’t push the topic any further.”

It’s not known whether or not she actually infected Mina to begin with, so it’s possible that her soul simply took over the most susceptible person around; however, the little problem of the Darkspyre bloodline certainly does throw a monkey wrench into the works. There are a few possible explanations for this not-so-unexpected quote–”plot twist”–unquote. Most are faintly ridiculous, some are rather more plausible, but I believe the actual reason is:

“It was the only quick way to end Necryptos without leaving a massive amount of loose ends behind.”
“Still, it’s strange–the staff feeling this sudden need to get Necryptos over with, I mean. They speeded the schedule up only recently.”
“Yes… Hurry and sweep the horror under the rug.”
“Biased.”

For some reason, Korin and the rest seem to have tired of Necryptos. I can’t say as I can blame them per se, as the combination of story and implementation premises didn’t exactly leave room for a ton of interesting material. In fact, I would say that blues had the most fun, designing the many unique specials (and in my humble opinion, Necryptos showcases some of his best work so far) that made the planet fascinating enough to warrant a play-though.
“So… What about the idea of being essentially forced to use a specific mech just to get through some of the harder missions?”
“Touchy. Myself, I kinda like the thought, but it seems to me that AE just didn’t think of the non-SC inventory limit at the time. Not to mention that it killed customization.”
“To a certain extent, yes. There are entire shops devoted to the VH and there’s the possibility of equipping outside weapons, so it isn’t as bad as it could have otherwise been.”
“My problem is that I can’t be hard on AE for such a decision and still keep labeling my opinions here as ‘Common Sense’. Within context, it actually makes some sense to have to use a Hunter– though I’ll confess that I think extending vampiric characteristics to their mechs was probably going a little overboard.”
“Heh. Wait until you get a little deeper into the mecha anime genre.”
However, I cannot exactly say that I believe the storywriters had much fun writing such a simple item-collection plot; while it was probably enjoyable for the artists to be able to work in such varied settings, the vampire siblings seemed flat and two-dimensional, both character- and art-wise; and there was some interesting new functionality implemented, especially in the Rune Minigame, but most of it was a rehash of older work. I think that the most obvious and logical answer is that the team tired of vampires and Gothic flamboyance, and decided to wrap things up quickly with some typical Korin-humor.

” “Item collection’ and ‘plot” “varied settings’ and ‘flat and two-dimensional” “interesting new functionality’ and ‘rehash of older work”? Some of those words don’t belong….”
“Quiet, you. You’re taking me out of context again.”

Mira’s art follows the trend created by her siblings’, with bold outlines and simple, direct shading. It isn’t a bad style, but compared to the rest of MQ, it looks awkward. Also, I find the clothing a bit… odd. I had expected it to be closer to what Mina was wearing at the time. Vampirism is a change in one’s physical body; possession normally only affects the victim’s mind; clothing does not fall under either of those categories. They are outside objects, not part of one’s physical being; they might have taken quite a beating during Mina’s transformation, but they would have remained the same. Unless, of course, one wishes to invoke that timeworn excuse, “MAGIC!”

“Why point it out specially? There are enough problems in that cutscene that they make the design look unobtrusive and common-sense.”
“Because I like to think that I have enough artistic sense so I won’t entirely embarrass myself when talking about it?”
“Because you have enough artistic sense that it bothers you.”

Also, her scaling is even worse than Castle Darkspyre’s. In the opening cutscene, Miracyrina was obviously about the same size as Mina, even a bit taller. Then, in the next phase… well, I think this is one of those cases where a picture is worth, perhaps not a thousand, but certainly several hundred words.

Yeah. That really makes a lot of sense.

“Sure, claim all the credit for something that wasn’t your idea….”
Unfortunately not by Stel.

Shawn Velsing is a re-introduced Han Velsing, with no art changes, no service changes, no shop changes. The only difference is that he seems to have a very slightly different personality; not as sardonically witty as Han, not as diametrically opposed to vampires. (Then again, the next week’s release put that in question. If you look at it in hindsight, he doesn’t even have the benefit of a different personality.)

“Shawn is pathetic.”
“You just said not to bash AE and now you’re calling the ‘new’ NPC pathetic? Hehe…”
“No, I’m stating a fact. Shawn is pathetic.”
“Isn’t that an opinion? Heh.”
“I hate to say it, Stel, but that is an opinion. Grounded in fact, yet…”
“Not the best wording on my part. Could I excuse the mistake by saying it’s a Devil’s Proof?”
“Eh, I wouldn’t attempt it.”

“Shawn” quite literally popped up right after Mira killed his, ahem, brother. That is, indeed, a very original plot twist, and I highly commend AE for thinking of such an unobvious idea.
All right, I’ll lay off on the sarcasm; I think you get the point. Quite simply, convenience trumps plausibility in this release, and nowhere is it more apparent than the Necryptos ending cutscene.

Why did Han just wait passively while the girl standing across from him transformed into a vampire? (He’s committed his entire existence to fighting them, remember?) Why did he never mention his twin brother, who also just so happens to be a vampire hunter like himself?
I could continue, but it would become repetitive and unnecessarily negative after so long. However, my point remains the same. There’s a place for humor, but a planetary finale is not it.

“Typical Korin…so typical. Don’t worry Stel, it’s no different from the other endings since Warlic promoted Bag-Head.”
“You really don’t understand the meaning of neutrality, do you?”
“Being forced to understand something isn’t going to make me like it any better. :P”

The concept of traveling to different areas in search of Miracyrina is interesting, but not especially innovative or sensible. For one thing, wouldn’t it make more sense to search in an ever-broadening area beyond Lyceum? Mira might be able to move quickly and inconspicuously, but I don’t believe it has been confirmed that any of the MQ vampires seen so far can teleport. Also, why is it that she could only be found at any of the temples? If she truly did absorb the essences of her other siblings, her ability to summon them probably wouldn’t be linked to any specific site.
“And the logic is that “Once she has been defeated in all four temples, the only place she has left to go is Lyceum”. Because THAT makes sense.”
“I said it wasn’t very sensible. That’s as far as I’m willing to go in the official review, I’m afraid.”
“I thought this was part of the official review?”
“It’s part of the review, but not the official review.”
“You said our conversation would be part of the official review… Not just the review.”
“Contradiction. :P”

“Part of the official UL review, not part of the UL official review.”
“All I see is your changing the word order to make it look like you have a plan. :P”
“So I did, and so I do.”

The idea of searching different areas is more interesting than simply having our character track Mira down, then battle her, without any more fuss. That would have been very anti-climactic.  However, the fact remains that the quest design was stagnant, hardly varying at all, with a simple dialogue-screen from Shawn to tell us if we’d found Miracyrina yet or had stumbled upon another of her (for I suppose they were hers, for a time) minions, a fact which was patently obvious simply by looking at the screen. (Not to mention that the dialogue upon defeat seems to assume that we had been versing Mira, even if that wasn’t the case.)
“Are you sure about that sentence? It might not have been obvious to some people.”
“None of which should be in your intended audience.”
“B-but, half the time, I can’t even tell who’s reading!”
“Oh you know we do Stel. :D”
“Out of how many…?”

The quest backgrounds, when I played it, seem to have indicated the next area one should search to find Miracyrina’s next incarnation. However, this does not make any sense in a larger context–the context of area-specific imagery.
“You haven’t given up on your “keep your weapons where they belong” soapbox yet?”
This problem also crops up in the larger enemy pool, which is drawn from if one enters the wrong area. At the very least, AE might have limited area-specific enemies to their areas. Vladic Knights don’t belong in Fangor, nor do Mech-Skeedo’s in Bloodrock. If that’s quite impossible, one can always stick to generic enemies like the Purple Minion. (On a related note, Mira does have a definite appearance order, but, paradoxically, it seems to vary somewhat between different accounts. However, there are some consistent aspects; it seems to reflect the reverse order in which the previous areas opened.)

“No, I have not. Art should stay in its own area, not get shuffled around the neighborhood on account of time-crunched graphics people.”
The Revived Vampires are an, ehm, interesting touch, but there are a few problems, both with the idea and execution. It was never explained how Mira was able to absorb not only their powers, but also their essences, and how the latter could be returned to their respective original forms while still remaining under Miracyrina’s command. It’s not impossible, just a stretch. Also… Why were they originally not classified as vampires? (I’ll be fair, it was a bug.)

“I have to say it was impressive for a last minute idea, though.”
“Assuming it was last-minute?”
“Even if they had decided it on Monday…we know coding didn’t start until Friday.”
“…Really?”
“That’s the conclusion I drew from Warlic’s Twitter.”

I’m still not sure why Mira’s mech form *had* to turn up in Lyceum once we finally got to battle her. The attack variety was a bit limited, without any truly outstanding animations, and only a few specials. However, the few specials which had been implemented were pretty good; a real-time healing special being the most notable. There are still the problems with scaling, though they aren’t as noticeable here as they were in the opening cutscene.

Speaking of cutscenes, my biggest problem with the Miracyrina bossfight is not actually inherent to the battle itself. It’s the fact that there is no ending cutscene afterwards. Yup, that’s right. If you want to see Mira destroyed, you’ll have to watch the death animation. There was no tying up of loose ends whatsoever. There’s still the open-ended question of what happened to Mina, though it’s implied that we weren’t able to save her.

Why Necryptos Had the Best Ending Ever
These days, stories always have predictable endings. Especially in AE games. It’s always a battle between light and dark, where the light gains an incredible amount of power in order to defeat the darkness. In Necryptos, this power was the Necryptos Bloodshard. And with it we went to defeat Miracyrina. However, we couldn’t save Mina..or Han.

The characters that came into play during the ending weren’t that important. But it certainly was what you would expect from AE while still being creative. We fought Miracyrina multiple times in challenging fights where she ‘revived’ her dead siblings. And eventually we faced her in Lyceum and defeated her. And then with a seemingly random bolt of light, she was destroyed. And Necryptos was saved and Safiria came to thank us.

This ending was pure genius. It came full circle. The adventure started in Lyceum on a seemingly random adventure to help a young girl named Mina, and then ended in Lyceum with a seemingly random finishing blow. The best part about Necryptos…was its ending. This entire plot here is very small in the scope of MQ’s story and leaves endless possibilities open. From here…we can go anywhere with anyone and everyone involved in the Necryptos story.

And that is why it is one of the best endings to a planet we have seen yet.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

And that is that.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht, alles schlaft, einsam wacht….

(That was random.)
(I blame my choice of background music. Bach reminds me of the holidays.)

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

* I absolutely refuse to type out that ridiculously awkward name any more than I have to. Yes, “Stelarinna” is the same length as “Miracyrina”. Length is not the problem, keyboard layout is. Standard QWERTY keyboard has your fingers darting back-and-forth between keys in very similar locations. One gets used to it after a while, but for as many times as I’d have to write the name before that happened, I think I would just waste a lot of time going back and fixing typos, which could have been better spent writing the rest of the review.

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8 Responses to “MechQuest: Release Critique, 02/26/2010: Necryptos Finale”

  1. Many Times More Anonymous said

    You know sweetie, I almost believed your final option regarding Necryptos’ ending.

    However, it’s rather obvious, to all involved, both on the AE forums and some fellow player friends of mine, that the ending was actually wasted. Sure, it ended quickly and quietly. However, it basically killed any last hope of Necrytos rising above “So-So” when looked at as a whole. It’s tied with Westion for most muddled planet ever in MQ, due to the fact that there seems to be little rhyme or reason to do what we did on either planet (mainly more on Westion Part 1 than Part 2, but nonetheless).

    Loved the convo, sweetie, and I do agree with most of the points presented, such as the artwork. The bold borders really detract from the designs, and the scaling is all over the place. I know you didn’t mention it, but the final battle has both the player and Miracyrina fighting in the exact same background that is seen for Lyceum, distorting the scale so that it’s either the mechs are barely taller than two people, or the buildings suddenly underwent a growth spurt.

    I just cannot reconcile with the fact that Necryptos was more rushed and ultra-minimalist in design and result. No real backstory, no real lead into it, no real plot, and no real end. Just a series of rather obvious turn of events and cliches. Gomen nasai.

  2. Hmm. Unique format. I like it! 😀

    Anyway, I really don’t have much to say here. You really hit the nail on the head here.. There’s no real ending to the planet. We hit Miracyrina, and then it’s over. No interesting death cutscene, no funeral for Han Velsing, no thanks from anyone, and not even a hint of just why we came here in the first place.

    Truth be told, all Necryptos did for MQ was introduce the concept of having to have a particular mech to get through a zone, and some very tough enemies. The latter is cool, the former.. Eh, not so much.

    I mean, there was great potential, right from the start. Space vampires, entire planet seemingly ruled by vampires. I was thinking we’d be liberating the world from them, but the path the planet took was.. Less than stellar.

    Oh well. Maybe the staff will take a look back at it soon and spruce things up. I doubt it.. But maybe. 😛

  3. Aren said

    Most wasted potential of any planet yet. I haven’t been this disappointed since Arthuria.

    • Shards Superior said

      Which leads us to think whether the MQ team has lost its touch. Arthuria/Lagos/Gark was logical, but incredibly tangled. Westion Pt. 2 was a deus ex machina (Horrible, by the way). Now, Necryptos, even more disappointing than A/L/G, if you ask me.

      • Nineball said

        I honestly believe the MQ Team lost their ability to plan and design solid releases.

        One would think that with their Wednesday Releases being done away with would have given them more time to work of the Friday Releases (and the releases in general), but it has not yet seemed that way.

        The only reason I would give them a bit of mercy this time is because Korin himself stated that they will not be back into full gear for a few more months.

        However, whether it remains to be within the span 3 months or less, remains to be seen.

        About the only thing I do have major issue with is the new art style of using thick black borders. It is ridiculous on any NPC outside of the Yetis from the December 2009 release.

  4. Shards Superior said

    Wow. I like this format. I wonder how difficult it is to write like that.

    • Stelarinna said

      Not much harder than writing a normal review. Once I’d decided that I wanted an “unbroken” format, the worst was planning the whole thing. I actually had to write a one-time template in the end to pull it off within a reasonable amount of time. *shrugs* What can you say? When it comes to writing, I’m lost unless I have a system of some sort.

      I think the hardest part was writing the dialogue. I’ve had these characters in mind for a while, but actually adopting their voices… was more difficult than I’d anticipated. The conclusion was tricky as well. Ultimately, a friend had to help me out with it.

  5. mechquestlord said

    right then. they need a few more mq designers so all people over 13 who have an email can go and tell them stuff. sweet?

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