« on: March 11, 2010, 07:38:48 PM »
Hey Jonny, major kudos for keeping an open mind about this game despite James's protestations. It's a somewhat intimidating genre. I think you might be less frustrated if you don't worry too much about trying to complete the game -- concentrate on the journey, and think of it as a sort of "score attack" to see how far you can get. You are expected to die a lot -- that's the only way you can advance the sidequests with the various NPCs. It's part of the game, so when it happens, think about why it did and what you might be able to do to prevent a similar situation the next itime. Sure, sometimes you just end up in a ridiculous situation where you're totally screwed, but in most cases a little ingenuity and clever item use will take you a long way.
A few quick tips:
1. Explore levels as thoroughly as is practical to maximize your loot collection. Just because you've found the exit doesn't mean you should take it. Most of the monsters in the first half of the game aren't too dangerous physically (just watch out for rice changers if you have any items you don't want to lose), so take that time to hoard stuff and build up some experience. Once you get past Mountaintop Town, there are some outdoor areas with tricky stat-draining monsters where you'll probably want to proceed the next floor as soon as you can (Scrolls of Light are very useful for this), but in general it's advantageous to explore as much of each level as you think you can get away with.
2. Don't forget about moving diagonally (hold R). Taking the shortest path can significantly reduce the amount of turns it takes to get where you're going, so you won't get as hungry. Additionally, moving diagonally is useful when engaging monsters that fire projectiles. They won't fire unless you're directly in their line of sight (or in the case of some of the bigger tanks, if they can hit you with splash damage), and if you're not, they'll use their turn to move to try to line up with you. This often means you can move in a zigzag pattern to close the distance until you're close enough to melee them.
3. If a monster kills another monster (or NPC), the surviving monster will "level up" into a stronger form. You probably want to avoid letting this happen unless you're confident you can kill the stronger form (in which case it's a good way to get experience). Most monsters will not attack each other, but if you're in the line of sight of a projectile-shooting monster, it will fire in your direction regardless of any other monsters that might be in the way... so watch out for that.
4. If a bunch of monsters are ganging up on you in a room, try to lead them into a hallway so you can take them on one at a time. (An exception to this is monsters with projectiles, for the reason above.)
5. When using jars of holding, try to distribute your most valued stuff among multiple jars in case one of them gets broken or stolen.
6. All the unidentified staves that you can find in the main quest are safe to test just by using them on a monster and seeing what happens (when you've figured out what it is, you can then use the "name" menu option to identify it for yourself for future use). You can try this with jars too, but it's a bit harder to narrow it down (and don't insert anything that you're not OK with losing).
7. Don't feel obligated to kill every monster you encounter. Sometimes it's better just to avoid them or incapacitate them and make your escape.
8. You can press A+B to rest and regenerate some HP; just keep an eye on the map in case of approaching monsters. It's best to do this in a secluded area, and if you can think of a way to block the entrance to the room, that's even better...
9. Don't try to steal from a shop unless you really know what you're doing (or don't mind dying).
10. Big riceballs restore your fullness to 100%, so the most efficient way to use them is to refrain from eating them until you're at 0%. Also, if you're hungry but you know there's a town with an inn coming up, consider waiting until you get there instead of eating. Being 0% full doesn't kill you; it just starts to slowly drain your HP.
11. Whenever an NPC asks you to do something, it's in your best interest to humor them if you can. It will pay off in the long run (even if it's detrimental at the time).
12. You can get a free big riceball from the guy in the restaurant at Canyon Hamlet. This resets every time you attempt one of Fay's puzzles, so it's easy to stock up on food before you set out.
13. If you paralyze a monster, it stays paralyzed and essentially becomes an immovable object until it gets attacked. If you put a monster to sleep, it stays asleep for several turns, even if you attack it -- but when it wakes up, it will be faster.
14. Most monsters move at the same speed as you. If you're losing a fight, you can always try running away; as long as the monster stays behind you, it won't be able to hit you with a melee attack, so you might be able to regenerate a little bit of HP while you're on the run. (Of course, you still run the risk of running into other monsters.)
14. When you're about to enter a room, try attacking the first square inside it to reveal any traps that might be there. That way you won't get caught with your pants down if there are a bunch of monsters in there.
15. In dark areas, if you can't see a monster, it can't see you, so if you can put at least one space between yourself and it, it will probably forget about you.
16. In the first half of the game, if you don't think you're ready to proceed to the next level, you do have the option of going back to the previous one instead. I agree with greybrick that grinding is kind of a waste of time, but you can also take your valuable stuff back to an earlier storehouse if you don't think you can make it to the next one. Once you've got far enough, there will be a guy with a wagon in Canyon Hamlet who can take you straight from there to Bamboo Village.
Hopefully some of that will help.
This game is primarily about learning how different things interact, and figuring out ways that you can use those rules of interaction to your advantage. This is much more important than just improving your stats, and that's why the deaths can sometimes seem unfair; the monsters and traps are designed so that just doing a lot of grinding and brute-forcing your way through won't cut it. If you're accustomed to traditional RPGs, this can take some getting used to, but I find that once you get the hang of it, it's a lot more rewarding.
(Think of it like playing Magic... you don't know what your opponent will do or which cards you'll draw, so all you can do is try to use the cards you have in the most effective combinations. (Sorry for the cheesy simile, but I do think they have some things in common.))
If you're having too much trouble with Shiren, I agree that Chocobo's Dungeon for Wii is a much gentler introduction to roguelike mechanics (but at the cost of including more grinding and less interesting items and monsters). That said... it's possible you just don't like them and never will, but I commend you for at least giving it a shot.