Zone of the Enders for Playstation 2 – A Beautiful Ending

Zone of the Enders for Playstation 2 – A Beautiful Ending

On the face of it, Zone of the Enders for Playstation 2 seemed awesome. I was like, “So you mean I can be a robot? And I can fight other robots? And I’m in space!? I’m sold.” This enthusiasm stayed with me all through the opening montage of the game and actually increased in magnitude once I reached the title screen and heard this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdznoXlO5s0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

I sat listening to it, not even wanting to select New Game, that’s how beautiful it was.

I should have stayed at the title screen. The opening movie was actually pretty cool, right up to the point where Leo, the main character, finds Jehuty, the robot (or Orbital Frame, to use the game’s lingo), and climbs into what I can only describe as the genital region of the robot. Why the game designers thought that it would be a good idea to make the pilot’s seat in the penis of the robot I will never know, especially considering how the main character is a young boy. But I suppose it does bring a new meaning to the word cockpit.

From there, the game rapidly declined. The attacks are limited to two defaults for each long range and close up engagements, plus two additional burst attacks. Even the addition of secondary weapons falls flat as I often found myself opting for the default attacks which were both quicker and more powerful. The enemy robots have only two types, one skinny and one fat, which means that before long the battles become very formulaic.

The basic premise of the game is that you, Leo, seek refuge in a giant robot whilst your home colony in orbit around Jupiter is attacked by more giant robots. You quickly come ot terms with the controls of the robot with the help of ADA, an artificial intelligence designed to help the pilot of Jehuty, and then spend the rest of the game trying to reunite Jehuty with its rightful owners. The ‘world map’ (it’s pretty small) consists of numerous battle environments which you need to descend into and, once there, fulfill various mission objectives.

The battle environments are mostly uninteresting and very limited. What’s worse is that you are forced to travel back to several of them in order to complete your mission objectives. The environments do not become more exciting the second time around. There were some optional S.O.S. missions that you could engage in between mission objectives, during which you are supposed to clear the environment of enemy robots who are intent upon destroying the occupied buildings there. After getting a couple of 80% fatality rates in these, I decided it would probably be better for everyone if I didn’t do those missions anymore. I think at one point Leo’s girlfriend Celvice – whom we rescue at a point early in the game from outside of a church in a scene that for some reason gave me flashbacks of Final Fantasy VII – even says “Let’s not go to the towns anymore, okay Leo”.

But I stuck with the game, traipsing back and forth between uninteresting environments looking for weapons or passcodes or whatever I needed to get me past a certain objective. I’m glad that I did though, because during the last hour or so of the game it really steps up a gear and becomes the game that I wanted it to be from the very start.

Even though the combat system is very limited, the boss battles are pretty good. There’s only a few of them, and most of them are in the final hour of the game, but once you get to them Zone of the Enders becomes very fun, very quickly. Unlike the rest of the battles, the boss battles require strategy, skill and timing. Often you are facing up against enemies many times your size with huge arrays of long range weapons. Because of this you will have to clear yourself enough space to launch off a charged attack. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but I found these battles to be very long requiring patience and testing endurance – which is what good boss battles are about, right? During these battles, I would have to find small windows of opportunity in which to chip-away at the huge health of these giant robots, before being rewarded with a lightshow as they exploded into a thousand pieces.  In the final hour or so, there are three of these boss-battles pretty much back-to-back.

Up until the final hour of the game there is very little storyline. There is some character development, but not really enough to hold your interest during the first five hours. Then, all of a sudden, the storyline of the game becomes very dramatic, and as the moral structures out of which both Leo and the main enemy Viola are laid bare the story culminates in a climatic sequence that was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in a video game. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but I’ll just say that both Leo and Viola have had a lot of pain in their pasts, and they have become very different people because of it. Their distinct beliefs, although equally valid, are incompatible and it is within this gap between these two systems that the drama of the story unfolds.

And then the game ends. After nothing really happening for almost the entire length of the game, loads happens all at once, and then the game ends. Strangest of all, another villain is introduced right at the very end which leads to nothing. Because of this, I was left with the feeling that this game was almost like a intro, or even a demo, to a bigger and better game. Like the choice of location for the pilot seat in Jehuty, it seems as though some wrong decisions were made in putting this game together. There is a great game in there and we glimpse it only at the very end, but the rest of the game seemed like a wasted time. For example, I would have liked to have seen more character interactions, more boss battles, and a levelling system where you can actually upgrade things, perhaps. The feeling I take away from Zone of the Enders is that it was rushed, perhaps the guys at Konami had other things to do, I see on the back of the box that some game called ‘Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty’ was released at around the same time, I wonder what that’s like?

Zone of the Enders - Case (Back)

Kind regards,

Lefthumbstick

Oh, and one final thing, is it just me or is the design for Viola’s Orbital Frame, Neith, very similar to that of Face Nemesis from Xenoblade Chronicles?
See what you think and maybe leave a reply below:
Neith - Zone of the Enders
Neith from Zone of the Enders

Face Nemesis - Xenoblade Chronicles
Face Nemesis from Xenoblade Chronicles

Heroes of Order and Chaos for iOS – First Impressions

Heroes of Order and Chaos for iOS – First Impressions

When Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek he thought that in the future we would all be playing Tri-Dimensional Chess instead of normal chess, he was wrong. MOBAs (Multiplater Online Battle Arenas) like League of Legends, Dota 2 and this game, Heroes of Order and Chaos, are the real spiritual successors of chess. They have the pieces with their own individual skills, the strategic gameplay and, of course, the square shaped board.

I haven’t actually played League of Legends or Dota 2, so I can’t vouch for their quality, nor can I tell you how this game matches up to those. I have watched lots of videos of Dota 2 though, as TotalBiscuit of Youtube fame will often have them as the backdrop to some of his videos, and it was these that actually prompted me to get this game. And so, it is on this meagre foundation of understanding that I shall build my argument that these games are in fact what will be played aboard the starship Enterprise when they actually get around to building it.

Heroes of Order and Chaos has two modes, 3 versus 3, and 5 versus 5. 3 versus 3 sucks, so I’m going to tell you about 5 versus 5. In this game mode you are presented with a further four options: PvP, where all the heroes in the game are controlled by actual people in real-time over the internet; Co-op, where only your team is controlled by real people and the opposing team is controlled by a mysterious entity called ‘CPU’; Solo, where all but your own hero is controlled by the almighty CPU; and, Custom, which I don’t know anything about having never clicked on it.
HOC game mode
From this point you are invited to pick a hero from a line-up to use during the battle. Heroes are divided into four types: fighter, guardian, support and magic, and you can pick one from either the roster of free heroes for that particular week or from any heroes you have elected to buy from the game. Not only does each character class have a different way of being used, but each individual character plays differently. As you level you can assign points to the different classes that strengthen whatever character class you may be opting to use.

It’s all pretty daunting at first and there is a whole bunch more that I could tell you about skills, inscriptions and tablets, but that’s not where the fun is at. The fun is in playing the game.

HOC gameplay

In chess you have pawns, in Heroes of Order and Chaos you have soldiers. These soldiers are controlled by nobody, they have lives of their own running ever forward and attacking any enemies they see. Unfortunately, these soldiers are about as useful as pawns are and so they get killed, lots. But that’s part of the game. As a hero (my hero is the fish guy with the trident in the picture above) it is part of your job to kill as many of the soldiers from the opposing team as you can, doing so will allow you to level in the match (not to be confused with leveling generally – damn this game can get confusing). But there’s a catch, you will only get the experience and extra gold from an enemy soldier if you land the last hit on it – a trickier feat then it sounds, especially if your hero has a relatively weak attack power and/or speed. This is where skill starts to come into the game.

Heroes of Order and Chaos is free to get, although you can pay real money for extra boosts and stronger characters. However, I don’t think that it’s a case of pay-to-win as there is a lot of skill involved. Maybe I haven’t been playing long enough to know for sure, but I would have thought that the worst player of this game could not beat the best player even if the worst player had payed for all the extra boosts and bonuses.

In the top right hand corner of the above picture you can see the mini-map that shows the battlefield. There are three lanes that you can choose from with each teams’ base being in the corners diagonal from each other. It is along these routes that the blindly courageous soldiers run, and it is also where the towers are. Busting down the tower of an opposing team allows you to progress further along the lane towards their base. The game is won by destroying the opposing team’s base. That all sounds pretty simple, but when you consider that the heroes on both yours and the opposite team are controlled by people, and given the fact that people can often be pretty crazy, winning a game becomes a lot more difficult prospect.

I’ll hold my hands up and admit it right now, I have yet to win a PvP game. I try my hardest to get last-hits and not die at the hands the opposing team, but it never seems to be good enough, and that is what is so great/infuriating about this game. I’m no good at chess either, however if I am playing chess with someone who is better than me I am invariably going to lose, with this game though, I can suck and yet still have a fighting chance of winning a game.

Obviously it helps that  you can play the game well, but there are so many other factors that contribute to the game being a win or a loss, that it doesn’t really matter how well you play. There’s something philosophical in that, like a life lesson or something. Doing the best you can, and knowing you are doing the best you can is all that really matters and a loss when you know you have played your best is worth more than a win where you have played awfully.

This is where Heroes of Order and Chaos and other games like it actually surpass chess in my opinion, and will continue to do so until they invent a game of chess where each of the back-row pieces is controlled by a separate person. And even then, games like this will still be better, as chess pieces don’t miraculously spawn at the back-row whenever they die like the heroes in this game do.

I’m not sure if I’m explaining this game all that well, but anyway what I am trying to convey is the general spirit of this game. So too surmise, games like this take skill, patience, timing and a thick skin. But you are rewarded for your time and efforts, every defeat helps you to learn how to play the game better, and, best of all, no matter how much you know and how powerful your character is you can still end up losing to a team of newbies. That is why the idea and spirit of games like Heroes of Order and Chaos and so great. Sure there’s no storyline, and the touch-screen controls are pretty awful, but what’s the storyline behind chess? If you take only one thing away from this spiel, make it that question ‘what is the storyline behind chess?’

Kind regards,

Lefthumb

Have you played this game?
What did you think and how does it compare to LoL and Dota 2?
Think chess is better?
Leave a reply below.