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Autonomous Monster
Apr 29, 2013

a miserable failure as a person

an incredible success as a magical murder spider

I am loving loving this game. I was a massive fan of Commandos back in the day, and this is precisely a reconstruction of that series with modern design sensibilities and a Japanese reskin. It's actually so similar to Commandos 2 mechanically that I'm thinking of it less and less of a thing in its own right and more and more as a sequel to that game. Right down to watching green cones sweep back and forth and analysing patrol route timings for half an hour before your cunning scheme is unceremoniously derailed by that one rear end in a top hat you didn't spot because of an awkward camera angle

All the little details they've polished up are great. The interface is fluid, intuitive and highly readable (and doesn't ask you to nail three pages of hotkeys to the inside of your skull). All of the characters feel useful and meaningfully differentiated. I love the fact that there's almost always some way to use the environment to kill your enemies- and I love the fact that doing so doesn't trigger alarms, it transforms it from a gimmick into a core element of strategy. Verticality is used very well to layer depth into spaces- which is fairly impressive given it's a top-down game. The badge system seems like a great replacement for hunting through containers for bonus books. Enemies actually notice when their partners are missing, and will start hunting for them.

There are a couple of things I don't like about it, though. The levels don't feel quite as complex or as dense as those in previous games, at least not the ones I've seen so far- I'm only halfway through mission 4. Osaka I'll give a pass because it's the tutorial mission (and a fairly good one by those criteria), but Nakasendou and Mount Tsuru both feel a lot more linear than was really necessary or desirable. The Thieves of Imai was definitely my favourite of these four, and I think probably the standard the game should be aiming for? A wide, open plan environment, lots of criss-crossing, multi-level routes, multiple ways to approach every objective etc. It still doesn't stack up against something like "Das Boot, Silent Killers", though.

I said before that all the characters feel useful, and while that's true, there is one that I'm starting to feel a little down on- Mugen. The problem here is mobility. Originally, I thought Hayato's ability to scale ivy, hookshot up walls and just generally scurry about the place like a hyperactive rodent was going to be his shtick. A little further into the game, it's become obvious that it's actually the reverse- everyone gets to do that poo poo by default, and Mugen's inability to do so is a special restriction on him. The first problem with this is that, as I said, the verticality of the levels adds a great deal of depth to the environments, and Mugen can't interact with any of that- he is, essentially, stuck in a different and less interesting game than everyone else (Takuma aside; I don't know how agile he is, but as a sniper I imagine it won't matter quite so much for him). The second problem is, while Mugen has a very impressive suite of offensive abilities, most of the difficulty in taking down an enemy lies into getting you and him into the right place at the right time. This is much, much easier for the non-Mugen characters. A lot of the time, by the time I've cleared a path for Mugen to move up, there's no one left for him to use those abilities on. Or, it's simply easier and just plain more fun to take care of enemies with someone else. It wouldn't be quite so bad if hyper-mobility was the province of just one character, but when it's the norm, Mugen starts to feel like baggage.

While I'm generally on board with the ways Mimimi have streamlined the design, one thing I don't really like is the abundance of body dump sites. You're rarely more than ten seconds away from some sort of bush or well or similar, that you can just chuck a corpse into and have it magically disappear, no matter where you are in a mission. This trivialises the "cleanup" portion of the approach-isolate-neutralise-cleanup problem. I'll admit that it was never a particularly interesting part of it, but it didn't have to be. We have enemies that search for missing friends now- what if they could, potentially, stumble over corpses in bushes, and you had to account for that? I think there's a whole dimension there that's just been factored out.

The division of enemies into regular/straw hat/samurai is interesting... but ultimately I think a detriment to the game. The problem is the way they're differentiated- the higher tiers are just plain immune to most of your arsenal, and samurai can only be dealt with in very specific ways. While this does successfully differentiate them- you can't approach a problem involving straw hats in the same way one with just regulars- does so by robbing you of options. You can't approach a straw hat the same way you would a regular because a whole bunch of tactics just don't work on straw hats- and they're usually the most interesting tactics, too. The whole core of the game is being giving a toolbox and a problem, and using the former to circumvent the latter in whatever way you choose. Anything that funnels you into approaching a problem in a small number of very specific ways cuts directly against that.

Finally, shadow mode is something I don't think is wowing me as much as it should. It's a solid innovation of the interface, but most of the time if there's a puzzle I'm having a hard time with, it's more about precisely timing the actions of one character than coordinating actions across multiple characters. Or, if it is, the problem is issuing a sequence of orders to multiple characters in quick succession- I think shadow mode would be a lot more useful if you could queue multiple actions for a character. This might just be a problem with my playstyle, or it's just that the early missions aren't stretching me in that particular way.

Regardless, 9/10 GOTY give me a dozen more games like this pls.

ParanoidInc posted:


makes me want to go back and check out those commandos games since I'd never heard of them before this

Commandos, especially Commandos 2, is great. The interface is janky as gently caress but it's cheap as chips right now so dive on in and learn to love hotkeys.


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