The relationship between player and game is one of harmony, balance, and symbiosis. Without the game, the player has no purpose, and without the player, the game has no reason to exist. Perhaps that's why it feels like such a kick in the teeth when our games turn against us. I don't mean simple disappointment - that happens all the time - or even a technological snafu like locking up or crashing. As upsetting as those things are, they're an unfortunate reality of dealing with technology. No, I mean full-blown, slap in the face betrayal, the kind that leaves you staring at the screen, controller in hand, wondering what you did to deserve such shabby treatment. The kind that will prevent me from ever, ever finishing Enchanted Arms.
Enchanted Arms is not the kind of game that's likely to inspire player devotion. It's not bad, certainly not, it's just...well, it's terribly, terribly ordinary. If you've ever played a tactical RPG of any stripe, you've experienced most of what Enchanted Arms has to offer. There are dozens of games just like Enchanted Arms, but for reasons that I can't quite explain, none of them resonated with me the way it did. Perhaps it was the collectible golems, perhaps it was the balance of fighting and talking, perhaps I was just in a particularly good mood that month, I don't know. Whatever the reason, I loved Enchanted Arms and was eagerly looking forward to my final showdown with its main villain, the Queen of Ice.
After a cutscene that took about as long as my college education, my party - who was collectively pretty badass this late in the game - dug in its heels and began to fight. And got squashed like very tiny bugs. Fair enough, I thought, it's the final boss, it should be a hard fight. I adjusted my strategy and tried again. I fared slightly better, but still died pretty quickly. Again and again I tried, each time tweaking my game plan. I swapped out party members, I changed tactics, I threw the videogame equivalent of a Hail Mary - all to no avail.
Finally, convinced that I must be missing something incredibly obvious, I consulted a FAQ which laid out several different strategies for defeating the final boss, all of which required me to be at least 10 levels higher than I currently was. Which would have been fine, had I dodged a single brawl on my way to this final showdown, but because I enjoyed the combat so much, I had literally gone out of my way to find each and every fight the game had to offer. I'd had to grind a bit here and there to make it through particularly challenging sections, but for the most part, smart tactics had gotten me through without difficulty, an approach that had apparently worn out its usefulness. Even worse, due to the game's geography, getting back to an area where I could grind would've been an aggravating ordeal.
I felt completely betrayed. I'd recognized Enchanted Arms' shortcomings and loved it in spite of them, and this was the thanks I got? I put the game away that night and haven't touched it since. Since then, I've been disappointed, frustrated, aggravated, even bored by games, but none of them ever done me wrong the way Enchanted Arms did.
This week, we share in each others' tales of gaming woe. Richard Poskozim talks torture with I Wanna Be The Guy creator Mike O'Reilly in "The Pains of Being the Guy," while Peter Parrish agonizes over corrupted save files in "Save Our Souls." In "Developmental Stage Select," Neils Clark wonders just what all this gaming is doing to our children, and Brendan Main finds Final Fantasy VII's Midgar to be such a drag that he can't wait to "Get the Hell Out of Dodge."
Share and enjoy,