1Up has a preview of Baten Kaitos II. I quite like the original. I feel compelled to share my initial thoughts on the revised game system. Thank the heavens for RSS feeds – I would’ve never seen this story otherwise, since navigating 1Up is too much pain for not enough gain.
What really drove Baten Kaitos was the excellent game system. It really kept things fresh. I saw no real fault with it, which is why I’m skeptical about the changes they’ve incorporated. It’s not all bad, though.
The game is a prequel to BK, being set fifteen years before the first game. The cast is different. I don’t care, really: I don’t remember much of why I was running around the beautifully rendered world in the first game, either.
They haven’t touched the basics of combat, which is good. The way it worked in BK really kept things interesting even in the most mundane battles. There is one change I like right off the bat: no more separate card decks. So you only have to build one deck, which ought to keep things more manageable.
The magic gauge which enables the characters to use their most powerufl attacks is filled by using normal attacks. Hard to tell if this will be a good thing or not. I do think it sounds like a needless element. The original’s system of enabling powerful attacks only when you had managed to string together a sizeable combo worked very well. That required forethought and skill, a gauge makes me think of mechanical repetition. At least the gauge is for the whole group.
Then there’s the “relay combo system”. The idea is that you can combo the characters together so that their attacks flow seamlessly through the party. This sounds good, provided that it isn’t too easy to do. Successful relay combos grant you “Tech Points” which are another word for EXP (-erience points). The original’s way of upping your level only by finding special cards wasn’t satisfactory at all, so this seems like a good idea. And it should award skillful play.
What I’m not sure that I like are the new “equip” cards. They modify attacks and give you defensive properties, but they’re in effect over multiple rounds. Also, there are no more defensive rounds, at all! Attack/defense used to bring a nice rhythm to the combat, but admittedly the defensive round was a little hit and miss. So now you don’t get to defend: instead, you pick your defense beforehand and hope that it can deal with whatever’s incoming. I’m a little worried that this might turn combat into a passive “waiting for my turn” -game, which the original never was.
What I know that I don’t like is the way that the sequel lets you combine cards in shops. Combining cards during the battles is what kept things always interesting.
You won’t see me complaining over the new quest log. It was a pain keeping tabs on where you’d met people in the game, since the original didn’t feature any sort of log.
We know the visual and audio assets are in excellent hands – provided that the same team is working on them – and the less said about the JRPG stories, the better, so all thing told, this is a sequel I’m waiting for.
Although someone could please fire the English dub team.