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MechQuest: Release Analysis, 03/12/2010

Posted by Stelarinna on April 1, 2010

Welcome to Soluna, the city full of rainbows.
Yes. Rainbows. I counted thirteen.
Yes. Thirteen. In a holiday release that’s supposed to be themed around luck, not the lack of it.
Because that makes sense.

War Releases: Psycho Rainbow Vortex
Theme and Storyline

So, it appears that AE has decided to take this holiday a bit further than last year’s Mod releases. Well, a lot further actually. However, I still fail to see what the Shadowscythe could possibly have to do with bloated leprechauns, whether they’ve been spray-painted a sickly-looking green or no.
Design/Artwork and Relevance to Theme
The backgrounds are almost entirely made up of rainbows, the appearance of which vary considerably in quality. The Soluna City graphics update has a very nice-looking rainbow vortex, as does the main War screen and the introductory screens to each mission. Unfortunately, the quest backgrounds are a good deal worse. They are simply normal rainbows with a very slight blur added to simulate distance. In short, it doesn’t work. Instead, they look exactly like what they are; normal rainbows with an attempt at perspective tacked-on. They would have looked better without.
Motivation
Clovers are a carbon copy of Valor Badges. The main difference is that, according to Warlic, who in turn heard it from Korin, we’ll be able to trash them after we’ve opened the shops. (Personally, I didn’t attempt it, so I can’t write anything very specific. One too many memories of info-saving bugs from past AE releases.)
A reduction in the amount of Clovers required to open the first set of Rewards shops has been announced, and went into effect shortly after. Unfortunately, this happened so late into the war as to be of almost no use as an incentive, since the majority of the work had already been completed. Of course, it was wonderful news for the folks who’d already acquired the 150-or-so Clovers which had previously been needed to access both shops.

:Quest Releases
::SC Mission

Major Steele’s miniature essay at the beginning of the quest was an …interesting… quirk, and not exactly one which was entirely in character.
Enemy Pool and Relevance (to Theme)
So, this quest used to only feature ‘Lucky Warriors’ *ahem* Leprechauns *ahem* … Until about the middle of the war, when spray-painted Shadowscythe began appearing. If enemy color were the only factor, I’m sure that they would be very relevant indeed. As it stands, I must confess that I still have no idea what on Lore the ShS are doing in a rainbow vortex.
Plot Design and Contribution (to overall War Storyline)
Attacking a mess of puny leprechauns isn’t going to make them any more interesting. Let’s face it, the release as it currently stands has hardly any
plot, and what it does have is less than plausible. That said, there is a sort of ragged continuity to it.
::Attack
For once, the NSC quest was a deal more interesting than the SC. That makes for a nice change, it does.
Quest Layout and Design
Choosing one possible fork out of three wasn’t much to brag about, but at least it had something in this category; which is more than I could say for the SC mission.
It appears that there is one chance out of the three forks to battle a Lucky Warrior, and two chances to battle a semi-random enemy chosen from the larger pool. Which is probably what Major Steele meant when he said that the odds were against our even finding a leprechaun to defeat.
::Boss Battle
Rehash of the main war enemy. One new attack. Couple of new specials, maybe.
Design and Artwork
The new attack is not visually interesting, though solidly animated. Main enemy artwork is different from the grunts’, though not by much; an extra frill here, a torn overcoat there.
Enemy AI and Balance
There were a few new power-boosting specials added to the war boss, which were just barely enough to make it feel as though one was fighting a different enemy than the normal warriors one had faced until now.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
I think these quests are an excellent example of what it means for a release to be ‘merely good’. I will grant you that it was a minor holiday release, which are typically less involved than a release of permanent content, and that the team needed a break after Necryptos, so I won’t say that the release was horrible. It wasn’t. However, it still left something to be desired in some areas.

:Enemy Releases: Lucky Warrior
Ugh, that artwork looks horrible.
Design and Artwork
Terrible. Horrible. Hate.
Now that I’ve made my feelings quite clear, here’s why I dislike it so much. The artwork is very monochromatic, with almost no color variation within the  shading, and quite unbalanced. (Note that in this instance, I mean “unbalanced” from a design perspective, not in the GBD sense.) Not only that, I find it to be quite poorly drawn, with choppy shading technique and too-obvious lines. There is almost no contrast, and what little there is does not complement the overall image one bit.
The best part of this enemy’s art sequence might be…the death animation. Not only is it rather funny, in a macabre way, but the downscaled leprechaun has everything the full enemy doesn’t; some contrast, a decent and easily-recognizable color scheme, and a tiny bit of personality, in shaking its fist at you after defeat (and probably inadvertently bringing its own gold down on its head). Even if that is the cardboard-cutout “grouchy leprechaun” personality. Not to mention that the actual artwork looks much better throughout the sequence; it’s of a higher quality and more in keeping with the standard MQ art style.
Relevance and Theme
“Very relevant to the [war] theme. Unfortunately.”
Enemy AI and Balance
This enemy did feature one intriguing special; it actually stole credits from you. Granted, this is not a few idea; it’s been used on Gark in different ways before. Heck, I even own the Treasure Mugger, which mechanics are exactly the same as Clover-person’s special. So why did I opt to mention this, instead of degenerating into a discussion of “MQ enemy AI really has more potential than the team is giving it credit for, and it’s a real shame to just let it lie and focus on “MOAR ITEMS PL0X, WE NEED ITEMZ NAO” -aimed releases”?
Because the credits aren’t exactly stolen. If you win the battle, they are added back into the rewards. I may be giving the MQ team a little too much credit for being devious, but it was quite a smart move, from a motivational standpoint. The special can activate repeatedly, which can add up to over 100 Gold losses per battle, especially if you’re playing a higher-level character. Who want to lose money walking away from a fight? Not me! For characters with plenty of credits to spare, this might have resulted in little to no added incentive, but for casual players who don’t have money to burn (Come to think of it, gold doesn’t burn (except perhaps at unreasonably high temperatures), does it? It melts.) it may have helped keep them going. At the end of the battle, it looks like the war rewards have been boosted by a certain percentage, as sometimes happens in wars and special events; but, in fact, all the player has done is gain back their supposedly-stolen money.
(Of course, practically everyone caught on to this little trick shortly after the release, so its value as a motivational gimmick was short-lived, if indeed it was ever intended to be one–which, despite my exposition in the previous paragraph, I find unlikely. In general, the MQ team’s biggest flaw is that they are too nice.)
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
I despise leprechauns, as I once wrote in a St. Patrick’s essay/rant for middle-school English class. (No, I am not going to repost it here or anywhere else. Don’t ask. I doubt that I even kept it.) So it’s been harder than usual to give this release a fair overview. Leprechauns, rainbows, clover, pots of gold, lucky charms… I find the whole shebang faintly ridiculous.
But, since AE wanted a luck-themed holiday, a luck-themed holiday is what they released, and have continued the trend in practically every game they develop. And a luck-themed holiday is what I’ve ended up reviewing.
The idea might be ridiculous, but it still deserves a fair chance. No more Braddock Steele anecdotes, Korin. No more Lucky Warriors, Thyton (and whoever helps him and Jemini/Korin with the MQ artwork these days. Lyris’ main work seems to be limited to uniforms… Which is a real shame, as I know that someone with her talent could help MQ out a lot if given the chance). No more random ShS insertions in the middle of a war with no discernible reason.

War Rewards (Coming Soon!) (Where soon doesn’t refer to the longstanding AE joke; but, in fact, means just what it says. This section’ll be up soon, i.e. within the next few days. Why it’s empty in the first place is a bit more complicated.)

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6 Responses to “MechQuest: Release Analysis, 03/12/2010”

  1. mechquestlord said

    actually the grunts had torn overcoats as well.

  2. mechquestlord said

    actually the grunts have torn overcoats as well so part of the post was… incorect.

  3. Aren said

    You sound a little bitter.

    • Stelarinna said

      …Hm. I tried to keep my dislike of leprechauns out of the review, but it seems that some of it crept in when I wasn’t watching. I really wasn’t kidding when I said that I despise the little beasties; I’m sorry if I came across as snippy because of it. The actual release wasn’t that bad, although I won’t deny that the rewards seem to be its strongest point.

      • Aren said

        It doesn’t bother me; I just wanted to see if you realized it sounded that way–I despised the entire release, but I’ve never been a fan of the holiday release in the first place.

  4. mechquestlord said

    theres a torn jacket on the grunts as well as the boss.

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