I’m usually of the opinion that if you don’t have anything to say, there’s no need to talk. Unfortunately, regular posting schedules and not having an opinion on things don’t mix well, so here we are. I’m playing a lot, more than ever thanks to Fire Emblem worming its way into my usual evening routine of iPad entertainment but I don’t feel like I have a lot to add to the conversation around the game. Me starting it several weeks after everyone else certainly doesn’t help. It’s good! You should buy it! There’s a lot to it, a lot I’m still discovering.
Take the level cap, for example. There is one. I didn’t know that. If one of your characters hits it, they don’t get any better. That’s a bummer. Luckily, you can get around that by using magic seals and not the seafaring mammal type, to either promote them to a better version of their present class or switch their class entirely. When you do this, they revert to level one, but still keep all of their present stats. That’s important. You don’t want to bring a level one character out to the battlefield and have them get smacked around, possibly dying forever. Instead, you get to keep your current stats and go back to earning experience towards getting even better. Classes can only change to a subset of all classes, so you can’t make your cavalier a cleric, but you can let your cavalier change up mounts and ride a wyvern, which is pretty cool. Well, until you come across a bowman. Then it’s not so cool. It’s actually rather painful.
I’m about 60% of the way through Tomb Raider, although I have no idea what that statistic represents. Level completion? Collectibles collected? Skulls staved in with my climbing axe? I’m quite enjoying the game, even if some of the story beats alternate between aggravating and predictable. When Dante trolled DMC fanboys by not appreciating his temporary platinum hairstyle, I laughed as it was appropriate to the character and served to flip off people at the same time. That’s who Dante was at that point, a dude who didn’t care what others thought about him. When Lara enters her first tomb and says that she hates tombs, it feels like the writers are trying too hard to say, “Hey, we’re doing something new here!” The fact that I had already plundered two optional tombs at this point certainly didn’t help. I could have also done without the obligatory “lose all of your weapons” level, but at least they ripped off The Descent during the level, so I appreciated that we have the same taste in scary movies.
The farther I go in the game, the more I’m feeling how your skill choices matter. I think that by the end of the game, I’ll have everything, so I’m betting this is a temporary feeling, but now that I’m getting to more combat heavy areas, dumping all of my skill points into melee combat seems less and less like a good idea. Granted, the higher level weapon skills all involve finishing moves, moves you have to get in close to perform, but you also get a headshot reticle, something I could use right about now. More often than not, me rushing forward to brain a dude with my climbing axe ends up with one of many death animations either because the guy I was trying to kill was armored, armed or both.
On the flip side, picking so many skills that had to do with scavenging ammo and salvage was pretty smart. I mean, sure, the skill system sort of funnels you into that early on, but I could have picked the skill that makes it easier to find animals to shoot and I resisted. You’re safe from me, rat boys and girls! Auntie Lara couldn’t hit you if she wanted to! Now that I’m shooting a lot more, being able to find more ammo on dead guys is very important. Granted, I don’t know how a brilliant archaeologist managed to get through higher education and not learn how to rummage through a pocket but maybe pants in England don’t have pockets. I’ve never been.
I’m finding the combat to be both satisfying and maddening, satisfying when I finally get through a rough spat, maddening with how much they harass the player. You can’t just hang back behind cover and pick guys off. Between the machine gun fire, the molotov cocktails and dynamite and the melee guys, staying in one place is a good way to get killed. Trust me, I know! At this point, I would be surprised if there’s a death animation that I haven’t uncovered. My favorite is a tie between “debris spike through the neck because you didn’t dodge correctly during the river rapids sequence” and “impaled on the armored brute’s makeshift pole-arm thingy”. Both are pretty gross. I should know, I’ve seen them a lot.
I’m also quite enjoying the collecting of things however I think that you can probably ignore 90% of it if you don’t care about experience and maxing out your skills. Sure, Lara knows her way around Japanese artifacts, but their descriptions don’t do anything to explain what’s going on or to set up character interactions. The documents, on the other hand, are very good for that and shouldn’t be ignored. Granted, years of achievement hunting have trained me to spend hours poking around for things, time you may not want to spend, but I think in the case of the documents, some extra time taking in the sights is worth it.
On the ukulele front, I’m practicing a lot of chords and chord changes. It is boring, challenging, frustrating work, but it’s important and will pay off down the line. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. At least now I have an excuse when what I’m playing doesn’t sound like music.