Asdivine Hearts: Back to business!


A looong time ago, I started Asdivine Hearts, and polished off a good half of the game; and just a couple of days ago, my gaming instinct claimed the other half. I obviously complied, because who am I to say no to the gaming instinct? 



Ten hours later, AH is done and dusted. Or not so much, actually; I only witnessed Stella’s Ending, and didn’t feel the need to reload Clear Data to watch the other outcomes. I’ll be honest: the harem element left me cold, and even annoyed me at times. As far as the narrative is concerned, I definitely prefer Bond of the Skies, whose story and character interactions were both less intrusive and more touching. 



Fortunately, AH is entirely redeemed by its huge focus on grinding, and its overall grinding-friendliness. Gosh, does this game know how to make a grinding fiend happy! Not only does it give you excellent reasons to grind, but it also gives you convenient ways to grind:



The reasons: Apart from the thrill of reaching L.99, the main incentive to grind like a beast is the Magic system. In a nutshell: Magic comes in three forms, namely Light, Shadow and Void. Party members learn one of the three “naturally”, and the other two by equipping specific crystals; this means that you can have all characters master all types of magic. But wait, that’s not all: wielding all three types at once grants you access to specific spells that include party heal, meaning that your whole party can be potential Healers. If you put in the grind, that is!   


The ways: Luckily, AH gives you everything you need to grind painlessly. The game world kindly provides two spots (see pictures below) teeming with metal foes that, in true Dragon Quest fashion, give you a crap ton of XP. You can also max up the effect of your grinding sessions by using Hearty Peels and Hearty Fruits, two items that double the amount of XP and SP reaped from a fight. Then you have the ultimate grinding facilitator: the Attract Jewel, which triggers a battle for every step taken. Perfect for your late game grinding sessions!


Grinding becomes really tedious in the late stages, as the amount of XP needed to gain levels becomes absurdly enormous; but fortunately, reaching the big 99 is by no means necessary to beat the final boss in easy mode; although I peaked at Lv.95, that final showdown was a cakewalk. Do I regret grinding so much? Why, not at all! Grinding is a pleasure in and of itself for me, you know dat. 


Long story short: I spent a lovely time with Asdivine Hearts, and I totally don’t regret buying the Asdivine physical collection for the Switch. And thus my love story with Kemco continues!  



Fire Emblem Engage: Should I play or should I pawn?


After some five hours spent on Engage, I’m really torn about soldiering on or not; so much so that I shelved the game under further notice — or, in that case, a firm decision from my gaming instinct. There are many things I love in Engage, but there are just as many things I despise; and I’m gonna try to sort out these feelings by jotting them down here. 



The Good:

The art style! Not gonna lie: the character design and cover art were the first things that caught my eye, and they immediately made me immensely partial towards Engage. I cannot find words to express how much I love that combination of blue, red and white in Alear’s design (I’m French, so obviously that specific mix is gonna tug at my heartstrings), and how much I dig the sheer brilliance of Mika Pikazo’s work on colours. Art direction very seldom plays a part in my liking a game, but it totally does as far as Engage is concerned.



Huge focus on battling! Now that’s something that plays a huge part in my liking a game; and Engage is more than happy to indulge me. First, no cutscene is sacred in that game, as they can all be skipped. Secondly, enemy phase in battles can be bypassed entirely, and battle animations can be turned off. Thirdly, non-battling gameplay elements can be cut to a bare minimum. For instance: after every battle, you get to chat with your units on the cleared battlefield, and reap ‘Bond Points’, an in-game currency, as you do so. Say you’re in an Elvis mood and want a little less conversation, a little more action please? Feel free to exit the scene and move on to the next battle, as the game will kindly grant you every Bond Points you’d have reaped through chit-chatting! 



The Bad:

  Grinding is too tedious! Engage offers optional battles for the level-grinders amongst us; but these battles are routinely harder than story battles. That’s not how it should work, dang it! This is a breach of all non-written grinding rules since the dawn of RPG! 



Battles are too strategic! Am I really blaming an SPRG for being strategic? Err, not really. What I’m saying is that Engage’s battles are simply too challenging for me — even in Normal mode. For one thing, the number of foes on each map is simply astounding; you’re outnumbered as a rule, in every single battle. For another, battles are really just plain hard. Take the chapter 8 battle, for instance: you have to use a ballista and quell waves of Pegasus Knights coming at you every turn! It should surprise no one that I threw the towel at the beginning of that battle, and haven’t touched the game since. 



The bottom line is that Engage doesn’t accommodate my tried-and-tested way of playing Fire Emblem. I usually grind as much as I can, roll with the strongest units, and go at opponents without worrying too much about strengths and weaknesses and unit type complementarity; and it turns out that this way of playing is difficult to pull off in Engage. Here, you have to worry about weapon and unit type complementarity and plan every move carefully, lest you be swarmed and overpowered by the opposition. 


Yup, I really love my girl Alear.


The question now is: can I find a way to make Engage work for me? There is a lot of goodness to be salvaged in that game, and I must admit it’s still kinda pulling at me as I’m writing this. If only I could find an efficient way to grind, and maybe strategize more… I mean, some players are soloing the game in Maddening mode; surely it shouldn’t be so hard to wrap my head about whatever strategizing is needed to progress smoothly in Normal mode, should it? At any rate, Engage is shelved until my gaming instinct decides its fate.