Quick Critique: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King

The Nintendo Channel worked on me. I was drawn in by its video and description of My Life as a King, and after looking up a few generally-favorable reviews, cashed in some Nintendo points for this WiiWare title.

The first four-to-six hours were great by my estimation: I was introduced to the world and began building my town and sending out adventurers to explore nearby dungeons. The story was fairly tepid but new buildings were quickly and steadily introduced to my town, keeping my interest and encouraging me to keep playing just one more game-day to gain the next unlock.

Before long my town was bustling and I had a crowd of (all basically identical) skilled adventurers lining up to do my bidding. The story kept grinding on stupidly but was overall inoffensive. I acquired all the building types (including the DLC ones I paid for) and integrated them into my little city.

And then.. the game fell flat. I'd exhausted the mechanical payout curve by unlocking every building type before the story ended, so that my motivation to advance another game-day went from "discover what new kind of building you'll get next" to "build a second instance of that same building you already have."

My two major critique points would be these:

  1. Extend the mechanical payout curve to match the length of the campaign. My Life as a King reminded me of an FPS where they feed all the weapons to you in the first half of the game. "Do the same thing, but more" is not a compelling motivation for me to complete your game. Sure, building more of the same buildings allows me to expand my city, which in turn allows me to advance the storyline. But the storyline is so boilerplate and uninspiring that it fails to keep My Life as a King afloat on its own. The game should have spaced out the reveals of new buildings all the way into the final chapter, so that I would have new mechanics to keep striving for up til the end.
  2. Allow me to customize individual adventurers. There are a few different classes of adventurers in My Life as a King: fighters, thieves, and white and black mages. But aside from some slight cosmetic differences, a fighter is a fighter is a fighter. Individual adventurers who complete quests for you gain (invisible) "medals" which buff their stats, but all adventurers still basically look and act the same. Let me personalize my individual adventurers! This fosters emotional attachment to individual pawns and motivates the player to continue forward in the campaign, to gear up his favorite adventurers and track their little lives. As the king, let me bestow the armor, weapons and accessories of my choice to my favorite adventurers, along with stat-tweaking medals. This way it becomes not just the story of my town or my voiceless little king, but of the individual adventurers I decided to specially favor.
I'm not sure how far through the campaign I made it, but I'd guess about halfway. I have a mild urge to pick it back up, but it feels like there's nothing left to discover, and the urge passes. I don't understand the predilection for mechanical frontloading that so many game designers have, but at this point I feel like I've seen all My Life as a King has to offer. It plays into the self-fulfilling prophecy wherein traditional wisdom states that most players don't complete games, so we should put all our content up front, which makes players unmotivated to actually complete our games... and whoops, here we are.

It was a very nice first half, though!


Sparky said...

Of course, your adventurers find your town so amazingly fascinating it's all they can do to keep from running around it blindly all day. As you get later and later in the game, the fact that your heroes don't depart the city until it's almost dark slows down your progress, providing further disincentive to continue. It's a decent way to while away a few hours, but I agree with you that it feels like less than it could have been, even with the size constraints.

Monogamie said...

I got tempted into buying 'Life As A King' pretty much exactly the same way you did. The game's first few hours didn't do all that much for me. Limited buildings, repetitive game pattern, hand-holding... When I stop playing, it felt like we were still stuck in 'first gear', but that the game was on the verge of 'breaking out' into something more interesting.

Reading your post it sounds like what I was playing was actually the 'interesting' part.

Oh, well... crap.

Wiley said...

What an incredible snoozer this game was. Not only are all your adventurers a big generic pile of nobodies who you don't care about who run around all day shopping and then go out adventuring five minutes before dark and then return home without having done anything, they're magically immortal.
I understand it would have made some kiddies cry to have one of their citizens die, but when the stakes are so low in a game, who cares? Now if we had customized adventurers with families etc, who can kick it if you tell them to go defeat a boss before they are ready, instead of just limping home, you might actually care about what you are doing.

Anonymous said...

I can speak from the perspective of someone who has completed the game. I will address some of the concerns mentioned in the post and the comments.

Connection to adventurers:
1. Read their reports in more detail this will add to the value of their experiences to you and you will start rooting for individuals. Remember you can drill down and read a round by round of each encounter of a day.

2. Have more than one weapon shop this will unlock new weapons so there will be a difference between adventurers.

3. Invest money at the class training halls and look at the skills different adventurers purchase.

4. Obtain medals which will make adventures lean toward specific actions or preferences like casting offensive magic or using Hammers.

My adventurers tool around all day: 1. Restructure your town so that buildings adventurers use like taverns and shops are close together. You will need to have unlocked the dismantle command.

2. Use raise morale to get your day length extended that way they will stay out later.

3. Make sure your item shop is selling magic torches so that adventurers can stay out later.

4. Explore areas fully to find shortcuts.

I liked the ending and the game it was a good veg out game when I did not have the energy for something more timing based.