I played a guided game last night. It was fun, exciting, and there was a lot of weird... Prior to this I had only seen two of the raid areas as I was invited to join an existing group that had lost a member. One area (gauntlet) I knew pretty well - having spent at least a few hours trying to clear it. The other (gardens) I had only played for maybe 15 minutes before the group disbanded when someone else dropped out.
Here's a few quick impressions of the guided game experience:
a. I waited 45 minutes, a little bit more I think. When I signed in this was the expected (advertised) wait time, so I'm not bringing this up to show that I was angry/surprised/or disappointed... The main thing about the wait is that I couldn't really do much while I waited - I fiddled around a bit with my gear, but other than that I sat with my headset on and my phone in my hand. What I would have really liked would be an opportunity to, say, tootle around on a planet and then get "summoned", say, a few minutes before it's "go time". I don't think this is really that feasible, but it might make the waiting experience better? Either way, once the invite came in you only have about 30 seconds to accept it...I think. It sort of caught me by surprise when I saw it and I was confused because it looked like Iwas getting invited to do a nightfall...but that might be because the group that invited also did those?
b. I accept the invite...and then..I'm in orbit with 5 other people! Yay! I'm starting to get really excited because I hadn't see the raid from the start. I quickly get a friend invite which I accept and, unsurprisingly, soon after I get an invite to the party chat. But the PS party chat - I'm guessing people really don't like the in-game voice chat..and to be fair the PS experience is generally better? (also, it keeps on running if someone bails in the game or gets disconnected - which helps)
c. I sheepishly start talking and... I get answers in Portuguese! Uh oh. We quickly figure out that at least one person speaks English so we can go ahead..and we chat so they know what I know/don't know. I'm now really curious to know what this looks like on the guide end - do you sign up and say what languages you speak? Does the location thing just randomly give you a group? Might I run into French players next? It's weird because I often do play with spanish-speakers from latin america...but never with Brazilians! It also turns out that of the 5, all Brazilian, one was living in the US, so maybe that's how it worked? Anyways, curious to know how matchmaking happens...
d. We spent a LOT of time on the gauntlet which is the first part of the raid (but maybe not really because the order changes). We also spent a lot of time lost trying to get to the bathhouse. It was a bit frustrating and I'm not sure this'll make for a good new raider experience...because the getting lost part was...well, I had a lot of downtime just sitting around with another dude waiting to know where to go.
e. We weren't able to finish the raid because the game glitched out severely on the boss. It had been glitchy (graphics glitches for me) and laggy prior to this, but this was pretty bad. So we all bailed...
f. If you bail or such you lose rep/points... I'm not sure what happened here. Did my Brazilian raid-guides lose points? I hope not, but I'm not sure what to do about it....
I guess there's something to be said for games that do things (mostly) "by the book" yet somehow fall flat when everything comes together in the end. I'm amazed by how much there is in the game - collectables, secret areas, lots of different kinds of gameplay - from puzzles, to action platforming...and the whole thing sort of fits together, but not quite. At least so far...well, I won't be playing it anymore so things might change - but I doubt it. A few things that have really surprised me:
a. The game is (AFAIK) 100% voice-acted. The voice acting isn't just for cut-scenes, but is also strongly present in-game. I can't tell if they used the original cast of the movie of if they hired "voice-alikes". I wonder what the real industry term for that is...someone who does voice-acting that's meant to sound like a different actor... I'm amazed they fit all this in the DS cart.
b. I'm guessing that prioritizing voice-acting meant that everything else (models, textures, etc.) suffered a bit. It's a DS game from 10 years ago...but it feels older? Or maybe I've lost sense of how fast things have changed and evolved. The models are definitely low-poly...
Played my second Nightfall strike last night. I find it really interesting that they've added a tough time limit (run out of time, you fail and get booted back to orbit) together with some non-shooting mechanics. In the case of the inverted spire nightfall you had to jump through hoops (literally!) to get increments of 30 seconds added. In the current one, you have to destroy hidden/secret lattices for 30 second increments of extra time.
I guess it makes the nightfall more "creative" because it's less about DPS and holding out for longer, and more about coordination and tactics. I'm not sure yet if it's more "fun" - because sometimes I just enjoy going in to shoot monsters, and the time pressure sort of gets in the way of that. On the other hand, after you've done them a few times you get into a hyper-efficient mode where you literally run to the end as quickly as possible and hammer away at the boss. I kind of liked the challenges they had at the end of D1, but I guess I also stopped paying attention to those after a while.
Made it to the next-to-last world (Himalayan/Tibetan themed) and I realized I was starting to get a bit tired. Each new world introduces a new mechanic you have to use before moving on to the next world. It's very "by the book" design - competent and solid, but not inspired. Tellingly, new mechanics are usually only used in that world. Mixing them all together wouldn't really work and then there'd be too much to worry about.
I've really enjoyed the general "mushiness" that moving the bubble around has. It's quite imprecise, but purposefully so. It reminds me very much of LocoRoco - in a good way. The game feels more organic, more like "play in the real world".
However, I got a bit bored, looked at the pile of shame and decided to call it quits when I got to a section where I was unable to do what I wanted after 20 minutes of trying (tried to swing a bubble into a secret area, but kept failing).