Wherein I discuss why I should never gamble with legal tender, sexual misconduct amidst the largest game publisher in the world, a deadly representational misstep, and Paper Mario making me sad.
So, in Dragalia Lost, the mobile gacha action RPG that I have been playing on a daily basis for just shy of a year, there was a summon showcase, also known as a banner, that offered players a higher percentage chance of adding rare and powerful adventurers to their collection. One of these adventurers was Gala Cleo, or Gleo, a character considered to be among the best in the game, and one who I have been wanting for quite a while, as she is a staple part of clearing a lot of endgame content.
Considering my luck in the past, and the fact that she had a 0.5% chance of being summoned, I did not feel too bad about digging into my stockpile of wyrmite, a freemium currency, as I had enough for 1,400 summons. However, Dragalia Lost by no means guarantees players any character (outside of premium dream summons), and even with the rate of 0.5% being boosted several times throughout the summoning process, it ultimately took me 500 attempts before I could finally add Gala Cleo to my party, and the event was a bittersweet one.
I got what I wanted, but I did not feel good about it, as I spent far more resources than I intended to get something I felt that I deserved to get at an earlier point in time. That being said, the summoning I did was by no means a waste of resources. I did get Gala Cleo, but I also got another 9 new characters, bolstering my collection to 170 out of 200, a handful of dragons to merge with my existing copies, duplicates of Gala Mars, one of the best dragons in the game, and an excess of upgrade materials. I made out pretty well all things considered, but I am still overcome with salt and regret over how much I had to invest to get what I want. But I suppose this is simply the nature of probability, percentages, and gacha. Sometimes you get the SSR waifu within your first 5 summons, and sometimes it takes 500.
Around one month ago, there were several sexual misconduct allegations raised regarding a number of key Ubisoft staff members, and while this story became muted against the absolute deluge of sexual misconduct accusations that were floating around in the game industry around the same time. However, this week was kicked off with a Ubisoft Forward, a digital event made to supplement and replace their originally intended E3 2020 press conference and show off what games they have planned for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Realizing how these two things might conflict with one another, Ubisoft issued a statement saying that Ubisoft Forward was pre-recorded and does not reflect what is going on at the company as it tries to clean up its act, which it began doing so a few hours earlier. As revealed via a press release Ubisoft has parted ways with several high ranking members of their staff in light of allegations and accusations made towards them. This includes CCO Serge Hascoët, Canadian Managing Director Yannis Mallat, and global head of HR Cécile Cornet.
While I personally think this is a good start and that changing workplace culture, especially for a company as large as Ubisoft, is a slow process, I did see a fair bit of discourse over how Ubisoft was choosing to stick with their pre-scheduled showcase without directly addressing the issues in a public-facing manner. While I do understand why people feel this way, as Ubisoft higher-ups have been accused of some truly terrible things, that is not how massive international conglomerates work, and to expect them to work like this is overly idyllic at best, and stupid at worst. They set a time, they have a schedule, and they did not want to go through the hassle of changing everything they had rolled out to be released during and around the event.
On that note, Ubisoft Forward was a showing of upcoming Ubisoft games, and while nothing in their line up looked particularly bad, nothing about it struck me as especially interesting. Watch Dogs Legion continued to look like a brazenly politicized game about fighting against the system by taking control of innocent people and using them to the gains and revolution conducted by the true protagonist of the game. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks like a direct iteration over Odyssey, which I considered to be a very ‘factory-made’ video game bereft of the various traits that I look for when scoping out games I want to play.
Lastly, this event’s closing act was none other than Far Cy 6, which was revealed using an opening cinematic showing the names of the voice actors brought into this project followed by a pre-rendered cinematic of the charismatic antagonist. Something that all Far Cry titles need to have because the series is still chasing the success of Far Cry 3, which in many ways was the tentpole Ubisoft title of its generation.
The game itself is set in the Caribbean and centers around a prolonged revolution staged by its people against a fascist regime whose leader intends on molding his impressionable son as somebody to continue his legacy of war crimes and murder. It sounds fine, I suppose, but the imagery of protestors battling against the oppressive and better-armed police had taken on a new meaning in light of recent events in America, and I’m curious as to how the game’s political overtones will be handled when it launches on February 18th, 2021 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, and Stadia.
As my review from earlier this month should indicate, I love Deadly Premonition, and I was naturally incredibly excited to check out Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise when it launched, which it did on July 10th. However, I am apprehensive about starting this title due to the not-so-positive buzz I’ve heard about the game. While people have praised it for being a bizarre and surreal experience, there have been a lot of criticisms levied for its technical performance, abysmal frame rate, and a… very bad portrayal of transgender people.
Now, hearing all of this confuses me. Deadly Premonition was the result of a small developer that had no idea what they were doing trying to make a Shenmue-like open-world game for HD hardware, which was something so crazily ambitious for the time that not even larger developers wanted to take a crack at it. The game was busted, but in a charming way where you could tell that these developers really tried. However, that was a decade ago, technology has advanced, and developers of all shapes and sizes have been putting out polished and high quality large-scale and open-world HD games for years and years. This includes smaller support-type studios like Toybox, the sole developer of DP2. As such, I cannot fathom why the game runs so poorly or has so many glitches unless it was somehow deliberate. Except, if it was, why did Swery, the writer, director, and core creator of Deadly Premonition, say that he will fight with the producer to improve the frame rate?
Then there is the depiction of trans characters, which supposedly flip flops between incredibly positive and disrespectful, involves a lot of deadnaming, deliberate misgendering, and other icky stuff. This depiction confused a lot of people, as Swery is very fond and supportive of trans people, as made evident by how positively the subject was handled in his 2018 game, The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories, which I plan on reviewing next month. In response to these criticisms, Swery issued a machine-translated apology for his portrayal of trans people in DP2, saying that any harm done was unintentional, promising to rewrite certain scenes, and to have them reviewed by a diverse team.
I am glad to hear that Swery is taking this issue so personally and planning on revising the game to remove unintentionally problematic elements, but at the same time, I need to ask why this happened in this first place. Why were these scenes not previously shown to a diverse team before the game shipped? Why were trans consultants not brought in, like they were with The Missing? But I suppose that we won’t know the answers to these questions until they are brought up in an interview after the game is updated. Until then, I’m going to keep my copy of Deadly Premonition 2 right where it is. On my desk shelf, still wrapped in plastic, because I would rather have my first experience with DP2 be a positive one. Besides, it’s not like I don’t have a hefty backlog to work my way through.
However, DP2 is not the only game sitting on my desk shelf, as right above it is another recently released Switch game in the form of Paper Mario: The Origami King, a title that people have become increasingly sour on as more details have come through. Such as how the game lacks a proper EXP system and instead uses a Dark Souls esque hybrid EXP and currency system, as the player can buy permanent stat upgrades at designated shops throughout the game. Or how the combat lacks the same expediency as the earlier titles, due to how the player must organize enemies before attacking them.
Though the most unfortunate note is how Nintendo has limited what the Paper Mario team can do with regards to character designs, such as no permitting them to modify existing character designs and not allowing them to create new Mario character designs. All of which quite vehemently goes against the character designs seen in the original trilogy, which gleefully iterated and toyed with the Mario aesthetic and came up with some positively banger designs for new species and characters in general. I would ask why this limitation exists, but it’s obviously for the sake of maintaining a consistent brand image.
It is all rather unfortunate to hear and makes me pine for the lax Nintendo of yore who gave the okay to something as unique and bizarre as Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door or the even wilder Super Paper Mario. Still, I bought the game, wanted to support it, and want to give it a fair chance, even though I expect to walk away from it with a very mixed set of opinions. Ones that are wedged somewhere between loving the dialogue and world design, and not liking much else.
It all makes me pine for the Good Era of Mario RPGs, spanning from 1996’s Super Mario RPG to 2009’s Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, but I have known those days were over for a very long time. Nintendo has wanted these games to be quirky comedic showcases rather than full-on RPGs for quite some time, and with the bankruptcy of Mario & Luigi developer AlphaDream and the limitations placed on the Paper Mario developers, I don’t see things getting much better going forward. It sucks, but it gives me an excuse to revisit the 7 good Mario RPGs, which I should probably get started on before this horrible year is over…
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to procure some ROMs for games I legally own but don’t want to play on their original hardware, because enhanced emulation is the best way to play video games in general.
Header video comes from the official Dragalia Lost Twitter account.