Part 2: Episode II: Stat Chat 1898Episode II: Stat Chat 1898
Welcome back to Koudelka. Were finally able to play the game proper now that we are out of the intro cutscene escapade. So naturally, the first thing well do is jump into the menus and dick around. Im going to be burning through a lot of mechanical under the hood junk about this game early here so we can just ignore it going forward outside of boss battles. Well... you all can. Ill be stuck in a hell of RNG and grinding off screen. Such is the turbulent LPer life...
Here we have the menu screen, awkwardly assigned to the O button. Granted, Triangle is the run button, Cross is examine and Square is cancel. Its all... just a bit off. Anyway, we have a variety of options here. Of note is Heal which allows anyone with a Heal spell, in this case Koudelka, who innately possesses the ability to use it, can top off an injured party members HP. Using Heal from the menu actually grants XP, so thats nice. Though... its not the XP you think it would be. Well get to that in a moment.
Also of note is that the Time is always counting even while sifting through the menus. There is no strict time limit for game completion. There is, however, a completely unexplained and frankly baffling mechanic regarding bonus items and the current game time. This too well approach later. Specifically... right around 1 hour, 11 minutes and 11 seconds of playtime...
The Status screen hosts all sorts of numbers regarding our characters. There is a whole heck of a lot of stats and hell if the game is going to bother explaining any of them at the moment. Well get to what all of these numbers mean at the end of the update when we can actually influence em. The key takeaway here is probably the fact that Koudelka has significantly less overall HP than Edward while Edwards MP is complete garbage compared to Koudelkas max.
We can also see our Magic abilities here. Right now the only ones unlocked are Flare, which we just acquired, and Heal, which is the default available spell. All characters can actually use Magic, despite Edward just having been mystified by Koudelkas use of a healing spell. Well... they can assuming they have the required MP to cast the spell. Which Edward currently does not. Itd be helpful if it listed the MP consumption here but... ha! You wish. Koudelka doesnt play that way...
In addition to our offense spells, there is also buffs for every stat. Though technically, these are all buffs and debuffs. Fortify Magic cast on an enemy will actually act as a Debuff. I never knew this the first time I played the game as (you guessed it) such a thing is never front-ended. Even in the manual.
While were here... you may notice there is there is LV indicator next to every magic spell. Thats because all magical abilities level up with use. Per character. It's fairly similar to Final Fantasy II's battle system aka the universally regarded worst Final Fantasy. Grand inspiration there! After a certain number of casts of a spell, it will permanently level up to a stronger form. And I dont mean using Flare a bunch will unlock Flare 2 as an option. I mean that Flare will permanently become Flare Level 2, a stronger version that also uses a chunk more MP on every cast. Which can run into issues of say... hey Flare was working well on these jobber enemies... but now Flare LV 2 is making the MP consumption versus enemies we are fighting an untenable prospect. So thats fun and well thought out.
But theres more! There are ten classes of weapons. Youll notice Koudelka has 120 next to the last icon. Thats because she used that revolver during that previous battle and gained XP in her proficiency with pistol type weapons. That right, weapons proficiencies is also a trait that levels up with use per character! Thats always a fun and cool mechanic. Improving weapon abilities will make attacks hit harder, improve accuracy and add additional blows to an attack.
Id like to reiterate, this is a twelve hour game. Maybe 14ish hours doing absolutely 100% of the story content, including beating the super boss and sorting out a couple optional end game quests.
Moving on to Equip. A weapon, armor and two accessories can be equipped on each character. Its all stand JRPG business. Weapons are obvious, armor improves defenses, and accessories will buff stats. But heres a fun thing! Armor? Theres no armor pick-ups in the entire game. As in, well never find armor in a treasure chest or discarded somewhere. All armor is gained 100% from RNG driven drops from enemy encounters. So if you happen to have completely shit luck... oh well! Sucks to be you! Better start tanking that damage or be happy with the rags that dropped the one time.
Koudelka is not an altogether well designed game may perhaps be what I am suggesting at this juncture...
Next up we have items. Here we can take a closer look at what weve acquired. All items have an illustration and a descriptive blurb to go along with em. So thats a fun amount of detail. We only have a couple of weapons at our disposal at the moment.
That knife Koudelka pulled out to perhaps gank the suspicious armed Edward and later ganked that werewolf with is actually in our inventory. Now youd think we should probably equip this on say Edward since he is currently unarmed. But youd be wrong. You see, melee weapons all have that most dreaded mechanic of RPGs to this very day... Durability. <thunder crash>
So there are eight classes of melee weapons and seven of them are things that can break. Additionally, they dont frontend how much durability remains in any given weapon. Or even that it is at risk of breaking. The weapon in question will just randomly shatter after it is used to attack after whatever the RNG gods decree is too many uses. Larger weapons break faster. Weapons used against stronger enemies will break faster. Durability is and always had been the worst. Additionally, while there are static weapon pick-ups in the field, most of em are also random drops from enemies. So its kind of impossible to level up weapon types without getting lucky with drops and grinding a bunch. In this 12 hour game...
Oh and if youre wondering there is no way to repair weapons or even a shop anywhere in the game.
Pistols do not have durability. They do, however, have ammunition instead. It took four shots to kill that werewolf with this six-shot revolver, so its limited to two more shots before it is useless. Pistols also need to be reloaded, which can be done outside of battle. But if you forget? Welp. Tough luck. Waste a turn reloading!
So I had to replay the intro because I recorded that first opening bit like a month ago while the NieR: Automata LP was winding down. I replayed the opening battle five times trying to get Cheese 2: The Sequel to Cheese to drop again with no luck. Ended up with 10 bullets, 20 bullets and this the last few times. So were retconning our wolfman drop to Whiskey this games equivalent of a Phoenix Down.
Everyone knows if you find a friend passed out on the floor, the smartest method to revive them is to just shove a bottle of Scotch down their throat. Hair of the dog that bit you. Smart!
The final option here in the menu is Formation. Well get to that when were in a real battle later. I hope you like even more goofy bullshit dumped on this already too much going on battle system!
For now, lets head on out the door Edward was previously bleeding out in front of and venture further into this obligatory survival horror spooky mansion.
We immediately have another weird dumb mechanic tossed in our laps. As soon as we enter the next room were given a prompt. This is actually a save point... of sort.
Hitting confirm will activate a Temporary Save. Temporary Saves will... well, save the game. But there is only one save slot. Making another Temporary Save will override the previous one. So no taking back if youve made poor decisions or are in a bad way.
There are actual save points too. These allow multiple slots to save in like... ya know... any other RPG where you should be rotating saves. These save points also fully restore HP and MP thus making them optimal for grinding spells/weapon proficiency. The trouble is real Save Points are only unlocked AFTER beating an area boss. Which is not how I would design it to make my game a good user experience. But that is just how Koudelka rolls...
Its worth noting we should absolutely save at every opportunity possible because there are just some random battles that will come from nowhere with an enemy that will absolutely body Koudelka and Edward. I managed to get a Game Over on the first random battle due to bad luck against an unusually strong enemy that went real bad for our party.
It might be hard to see, but there is an item in the middle of the room a potion. Items in Koudelka are kind of a pain in the ass to see often times since they blend pretty well into the background/just plain look like a background detail and there is no shiny bit to make them stand out like say... Resident Evil. Koudelka will tilt her head towards items of interest while walking around, so thats helpful... sorta. Unless the cinematic camera angle is pulled far out or overhead making it unclear. Koudelka might have some severe issues to actually play... Which is why youre reading this LP!
Hey, did I mention there was limited inventory space? Its quite generous but it exists. So theres that too!
Potions are... just really good red wine that functions like a healing potion. That Cheese we got in a different Werewolf battle timeline was also just a consumable healing item. Potions heal more than Cheese. But the game will not display how much each heals compared to one another until you use 'em mid-battle or when someone is already injured outside battle. Of course it doesn't, have you been paying attention?
There are two doors out of his weird hay filled storeroom. The one to the northwest is locked from the other side, meaning well find the back way into that later on. To the south is another door leading to progress.
A candlelit chandelier must be a real pain to keep maintained. Do you just keep those burning during the day, even in crappy rooms you barely use? Or do you need to go around every morning/evening lighting and putting them out. Anyway, weve got a couple more options to explore. A ladder up to the next level next to those stairs and a door leading to the east. But, we are not going to see either of those this update, because...
Random battle time! Sorry, no fancy transitions or screen shattering effects. Just the screen goes black and the battle music fires up. Welcome to the worst part of Koudelka! Random battles that take for~eveeeeeeeer!
Our first proper battle is against two giant bugs called, very mysteriously, Bug (the giant cockroach) and Suck (the giant flea.) Apparently, Suck has initiative so it gets to hop two squares towards our protagonists. Thats right, this combat takes place on a grid with movement and positioning being important to battles. All battles... I should mention that enemy movement can be EXTREMELY slow because many enemies just have a glacial pace shuffle to move squares and weve got to watch every square they move. So thats fun too!
So weve got a couple options. Action. Move. Wait. Status. Status just brings up the stat screen so it is seldom useful unless a status effect has been inflicted. This doesnt take up a turn. Action lets us attack with our weapon, use magical abilities, utilize items or switch equipment (if something breaks/runs out of ammo.)
Koudelka herself is primarily a magic use oriented character. So what were going to want to do immediately is start having her use magic to improve her spells. So Flare is the order of the day until further notice.
We can target either Suck or Bug. Magic can be cast at any enemy on the field from any distance. However, the range from caster to target does influence the strength of a spell. Flare cast on Suck, who is currently two squares away, will inflict far more damage than Flare cast on Bug, which is six squares away. Likewise, if Koudelka were the next square up on the grid right in front of the giant flea, the Flare cast would inflict even more damage.
Additionally, the actual damage inflicted is randomized somewhat between certain ranges. So say Flare will at base deal 150-200 HP of damage. Then subtract an unseen percentage from that for every grid square away the caster is from the target and thatll roughly get the damage output. At least, that seems to be the case. None of this is frontended and there is zero documentation as to the damage calculus anywhere in existence. Just get close and hope for the best!
Combat in Koudelka is turn based but it is also dealing with an Action Points calculation between our characters and the enemies. Its actually kind of similar to Final Fantasy X in that way. Certain actions will consume AP more than other actions (EX: magic will eat up more AP than standard attacks) and the order of turns will be determined from that. But, unlike Final Fantasy X there is no indicator of whose turn is next based on actions taken so... it may as well just be random, frankly. For instance, here we have Koudelka begin casting Flare. Many times, itll instantly be cast immediately afterwards.
However in this case, Bug has more AP available than Koudelkas Flare cast, so it gets to move up on grid space in that time.
Now Edward gets to go. Koudelka is still in the process of casting that spell. Since Edward is too dumb with magic to have the MP to cast anything, were going to need to Attack directly.
But to do that, were going to need to move Edward in range. Here is how the grid system works for movement. Playable characters cannot move past other playable characters horizontally. They can also not move vertically past enemies. The same works for enemies. So if Edward is out in front and there is a bunch of enemies that are melee only, they wont be able to hit Koudelka if she hangs in the back row. Instead, everyone will beat the shit out of Edward until he is dead. So there is a bit of strategy involved. Mostly regarding turning Edward into a tank. But well get to that later too.
Melee can be performed in another of three squares ahead of a target. However, blows dealt diagonally from an enemy are reduced damage. So its best to just get right up in an enemys face when going on the offensive, even if it means more damage toward Eddie here.
Given all the weapon durability nonsense and the fact that weapons are mostly RNG based drops from random battles, the actual best course of action is to... just ignore weapons and turn Edward into a beast of bare fist punchman, since Unarmed is also a weapon class and the only one that doesnt involved inventory management or relying on the unreliable. As such, Edward will just be haymakering giant fleas and abominations he comes across in this adventure and I can get behind that behavior.
It is also worth noting that powerful blows that critical, which Edwards first attack just happened to do, will knock back an enemy a grid space. This also true of our characters. Of course... now well need to waste some AP walking forward a grid space to punch it again, so... Look, this isnt the most well thought out battle system Ive ever encountered.
Oh hey, Koudelka finally got her shit together and casted Flare on that overgrown flea. Thankfully, spells are targeted toward enemies and not the grid space they were standing on when initially casting. It could always be worse...
Often times after using an attack or spell, well have leftover AP to waste on Move to reposition ourselves for the next turn. But since there is no benefit in moving to the front row and opening ourselves up to attack, Koudelka is fine just waiting a turn and conserving AP for the next time shes up to bat.
One key thing worth mentioning about positioning is that our characters must be behind or adjacent to other PCs in order to use Items or Magic on their allies. In other words, Koudelka can use whatever she wants to aid Edward if he gets in trouble. But if, in theory, that Radroach suddenly pulled out a gun and busted a cap into Koudelka then Edward would have to move back a row to poor Whiskey down her throat to revive her. He cant do it from the front row. So thats a dumb annoying thing added onto the pile!
Bug manages to scurry over and attack Edward. Turns out all of Bugs physical attacks inflict Poison. Yep, first random battle and were already getting hit with status effects. Poison in Koudelka is just a small fraction of HP (around 19 HP in Edwards case) every time their turn comes up. Its not a big deal. However, weve got no means of curing it at the moment and it never wears off on its own. So Edward is just going to be bleeding HP until the battle ends. Thankfully, all status effects are canceled at the end of battles. RPGs that keep poison going after battles are the WORST.
I mentioned earlier that critical attacks will send characters/enemies flying back a grid space. This is not true if another character is directly behind them. So in this instance of Edward getting headbutted so hard by a gigantic roach he goes flying five feet in the air, he just lands on his ass in the same space because Koudelka is behind him on the grid. So that comes in handy occasionally.
In any case, several haymakers and pyromancy instances later, the tyranny of the Bug ends bringing victory to our duo.
New Music: Level Up!
And wouldnt you know it, Koudelka Iasant has earned enough EXP to Level Up! With that new level we gain four Bonus Points to put in any stat we desire. Yep, we get to build our characters in any way we see fit. No automatic stat boosts here. If we wanted we could turn Koudelka into a strong punchman. I mean, its a bad idea since her starting stats are way more geared towards her being a mage and shell never be as good a punchman as Edward if they were both built with the same stats. But its possible. In theory. If you wanted to grind a ton in this, again, twelve hour narrative experience...
I suppose well conclude this session with going over what the hell all of these eight stats do. There actually IS a bit of a tutorial if R2 is tapped here on the Level Up screen and only here. Its just pages and pages of white text on a black background. So Ill add a little bit of visual aids to spice it up. Lets start with...
This attribute determines how much damage a character does in combat. No matter how high a characters STR is, it doesnt mean anything unless the character can hit his or her opponent. While raising a characters STR is important, remember to keep a balance between the characters STR and DEX.
Strength determines how strong physical attacks are overall. This is a dump stat for Koudelka (the character) since she is absolutely never going to be using melee attacks. Edward, on the other hand, is going to be pumping this nearly every level.
This attribute determines a characters chances of hitting his or her opponent in physical combat. No matter how high a characters DEX is, it doesnt mean anything unless the character damages his or her opponent. While raising a characters DEX is important, remember to keep a balance between the characters STR and DEX.
Dexterity is the companion to Strength. Itd make too much sense to roll those into the same stat, so both must be pumped otherwise attacks will miss or the random damage calculus will go toward the lower end of damage output. Again, Koudelka herself is never touching this while this is part of Edwards bread and butter whenever he levels up. Dont worry, Koudelka has similar magic versions of these stats she needs to pump equally instead!
This attribute determines a characters defense against physical attacks, as well as that characters maximum HP. This attribute is very important, as it directly affects a characters longevity.
Yep. This bumps HP and defense, making it important for every character. Koudelka is rather squishy right now so she could use the HP. Likewise, Edward is going to be our designated tank and tank is no good if he goes down like a chump from a few attacks.
This attribute determines how powerful a characters magic (both attack and healing magic) are. No matter how high a characters INT is, it doesnt mean anything unless the character can hit his or her opponent. While raising a characters INT is important, remember to keep a balance between the characters INT and MND.
So this is the magic users version of Strength. Koudelka will be bumping this every level in her gearing towards becoming a full-fledged wizard. Meanwhile, Edward will never touch this because hes an idiot and magic scares him.
This attribute determines a characters chance of successfully using attack and healing magic. No matter how high a characters MND is, it doesnt mean anything unless the magic is powerful enough to affect the target. Try to keep a balance between the characters INT and MND.
The phrasing No matter how high a characters Mind is... makes me chuckle. This is the magic version of dexterity. Since again, rolling those stats into one thing is too simple for this battle system designed for a 40+ hour JRPG stuck in an eight hour Survival Horror game. This too will see a lot of play from Koudelkas character while Edward remains dumb on multiple statistic levels. Since otherwise spells will just completely whiff, including healing spells. Thats cool and good.
This attribute determines a characters resistance to an opponents magical attacks, resistance to an allys healing magic and that characters maximum MP. If PIE is raised too much, the character will begin to resist even an allys healing magic. Try to keep a balance between the characters INT and PIE.
This is dumb as hell as far as stats go and just means Koudelka will be using consumables to heal herself instead of casting spells. You need this to raise MP and magic defense given as magic spells level up, they consume more and more MP so its essential. But it makes Healing spells (and buffs) less effective. Why would do this and think it is a good idea? It just makes the game more tedious to play and it already started as bunk...
This attribute determines a characters speed. A character with high AGL will be able to perform multiple actions to an opponents one. It goes without saying that having a high speed can make the difference between life and death for a character.
This stat is extremely important because as it turns out, being able to take a bunch more turns before the enemy can do so is tactically extremely advantageous. Early on its not a bad idea to pump either this or vitality each level just in the name of overall survivability. Or just really pumping Agility the first few levels might be the best bet.
This attribute determines a characters good fortune. This attribute affects a character in many unnoticeable ways. A character may not even be aware of his or her good fortune, but will always appreciate having it.
Oh yes, the shittiest stat in every RPG ever... the nebulous void that is Luck. What does it actually do...? Fucked if were going to tell you, player! Maybe it improves item drops? How would you even know given its all already randomized? Maybe that critical attack was based on Luck? Or maybe it does nothing and is just a broken worthless stat. Who knows?!
Im never raising Luck because its a stupid goddamn stat in every game its ever appeared in. Apparently its chief function in Koudelka is determining who the enemy will target first in a battle. Definitely sounds worth spending a point on there!
Finally theres a blurb about AP or Ability Points, not to be confused with Action Points the stat in battles that determines order of turns. Theres an added level of confusing calculation on top of the aforementioned stats above regarding buffs and debuffs. This battle system is a terrible mess. Which is why we are getting the bulk of explanations for it done here and now so I can just glaze past it outside of major fights. And also as a deterrence from anyone who might want to actually play Koudelka. This is a bad game. There are a lot of things I like about this game. The actual gameplay is absolutely not it.
Concluding this mess, were going to give Koudelka a point in Agility, Intelligence, Piety and Mind for now as we shepherd her down the path of becoming our partys mage. Tune in next time as we do anything but talk about stats and mechanics and perhaps meet some of the residents of Nementon Monastery. What, did you think it was only going to be werewolves and giant bugs? Pfft... The greatest monster of all awaits ahead... Old White People.
Video: Random Battle Demo (Just a sample of how long the average random battle lasts.)
Koudelka Iasant Render Well... at least shes actually wearing hiking boots and not high heels like 90% of female protagonists.