Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
The AI is dumber than a box of rocks
on March 10, 2010
While there are some good things going for this game, a lot of the innovations are either tedious or silly, and most importantly, the game suffers from an AI that is dumber than a box of rocks. Let me start off with the AI, first of all.
The battle system - the battle system is slightly silly and not a plausible representation of how spacetime would normally work. It's quirky and based on goofball spacetime bifurcations kind of like in Disgaea: anytime you're in range of an enemy and an ally initiates an attack, you get a free attack. For a party of 4, this can mean that your party can attack up to 16 times in one turn. It's not really a plausible mechanism, and there's no reason why people should be able to perform actions 4 times as quickly as usual just because other people are around. A more reasonable approach would be to make characters pool all of their attacks into a unified attack, so that the combos and whatever still stack and the enemy still only gets to counter-attack once (if they even survive at all). Needlessly proliferating the total number of actions characters can take is just random and cheesy, and it severely limits the effectiveness of splitting the party into two halves, say - which means there are less possibilities for mixing up strategies in a halfway effective manner. It pigeonholes you into rigging up a geometric configuration that maximizes the total number of attacks, rather than prioritizing targets in any strategic way.
The Sin system is not only tedious, but it turns the usual principles of strategy inside-out just for the lulz. Instead of efficiently managing your attacks to just barely squeeze past a rough battle against an aggressive, evenly-matched foe, you're presented with a ton of overpowered morons you're supposed to overkill one at a time - otherwise, the money and items you need to succeed in the game are withheld from you for not producing enough "Sin". However, it's not hard to produce sufficient "Sin", just tedious - you just gang up everyone on one target after another - lather, rinse, repeat - the whole game long, and endure the repeated finishing attack cutscenes on top of the already-lethal damage you already dealt.
The AI. It is massively stupid, and is probably the biggest, most striking cut corner the whole production. The enemy characters are entirely catatonic until there is something to heal or attack within range that turn. To compensate for this, they stack the odds against you otherwise, making battles into a very tedious exercise in which "strategy" means drawing aggro just enough to pick off lone enemies one or two at a time. This is why it's trivial to max out your "Sin" if you're doing well enough to beat the map at all - most of the enemies will ignore you for most of the fight, and everyone is attacking multiple times anyway because of the spacetime goofiness, so it's not like you have to make careful choices on who to take down and ration out damage - you hit everyone ever time for full damage, and only two per turn anyway because the rest patiently wait for you to approach them while you beat up their comrades, like mindless the mindless horde of circling thugs in a cheesy martial arts film.
The real trouble comes in rescue missions. These are the only missions that turn out to be hard, if not impossible. Your "rescue" target usually does pathetic damage that only serves to provoke near-fatal counterattacks. Not only are they pathetic, but their attacks don't combo with your party, so the spacetime exploitation wackiness doesn't kick in to bring them almost up to par. They don't even move, and in one mission, you're supposed to rescue a priestess who starts out within range of three enemies, any two of which can kill her in one turn... and she doesn't move away at all. There might be some way to use some kind of spell to draw the attacks to another character, but I didn't stick around to find out because at this point, playing the game any longer would just have been an exercise in feeling like throwing the DS through a window. This wouldn't be at all necessary if the AI just weren't so totally stupid.
This came a few missions after another rescue mission, which I will describe: The computer has a mage and a lancer. The lancer is within attacking range of your rescue target, and for some reason attacks from one square away instead of two to avoid counterattacks. Well, whatever. You can heal your rescue target faster than he can damage her, so no problem there... or so you think. After several turns, she finally wears the lancer down. So the mage walks over to heal the lancer. Then the next turn, the mage is close enough to the rescue target that suddenly he has the bright idea of adding some attacks of his own... but in the world of VP:CotP, two attackers means *four* attacks per turn, because of the spacetime wackiness - and there's no way to heal fast enough (this is assuming you haven't used the Plume on your only healer in a previous battle, in which case you just can't win and you have to start the game over). Suddenly the rules of the game are totally changed because a monumentally stupid AI got just the right nudge from a hidden timer you probably wouldn't have expected; instead of being primarily a game of strategy, the wonky, stupid AI turns the game into a nonsensical, isometric version of Choose Your Own Adventures, where you just have to experiment and see how the AI of your overpowered-but-stupid opponent will react, and start over if you do the wrong thing.
You can't win without exploiting the AI, and if there's no one to rescue, you can sit around recovering as long as you want, making it more like a turn-based version of the boring early parts of World of Warcraft where you hunt non-hostile creatures. If you want to juggle resources and take chances as foes advance from all sides in the heat of battle... this isn't the right game for you, at least half the time.
The multiple plot threads and endings and such are nice, but they killed this game by making it clumsy and awkward. You might find some fun in there in spite of all that, but the hard parts aren't hard for the right reasons, and if you're like me, you'll be more relieved that they're over than pleased with your strategies.