No Can Do

I’ve hit a bit of a wall with Final Fantasy XIII over the last couple of days – enough to stop me playing for the moment. See, occasionally there are these battles with things called “Eidolons”. They’re some kind of special thingamie that, if defeated, can then be summoned up by your character to fight alongside you. I’m in a fight with one right now in the game, and it’s tearing me a new one. It’s nice to think that it would fight with me, if only I could beat the damn thing first.

See, the Eidolon fights have kind of special characteristics – you’re not fighting to kill the Eidolon like you would with other opponents, you’re fighting to gain its respect. There’s a kind of respect-o-meter that slowly (oh, so slowly) fills up and at a certain point you hit a button to “claim” the respect (strangely labelled as “gestalt” – why?). There’s also something they cheerily call a “Doom counter” which basically means that if the timer runs out, you die. So, easy, right? Ha ha, yeah.

Anyway, the idea is that you need to “get to know” the Eidolon to figure out what it respects about fighting, and then you do those things, and claim the victory. Except I’ll be damned if I can figure out what the one I’m fighting respects (this is Odin, for what it’s worth). It’s absolutely unclear to me how I would come by this knowledge, too. I know there’s a kind of spell thing I can use that buys me some information about the battle, but that hasn’t prevented my being pummeled repeatedly into the ground.

Now, it could be that I’m just kind of dumb in this domain – I’m quite prepared to believe that I just don’t have Japanese RPG (or even general RPG) literacy, and so I don’t know the right kinds of behaviours that would lead me, perhaps gradually, but still progressively, toward victory. As such, without looking for external help, I’m pretty much stuck with the experience of loading the game, entering the battle, dying rapidly, and so on.

It’s kind of fascinating to be so stymied in a contemporary game, it’s not a common occurrence in this day and age of tutorials and player-friendly rules and hints and so forth. Even though the first 25 hours of the game are supposedly tutorial, it’s doing jack to help me with this particular fight. I’d like to be able to say that the experience of repeatedly losing with no knowledge as to why is some kind of revelation, perhaps even liberating, but it really isn’t – it’s deeply, deeply annoying. In my more valiant moments, I like to think of it (role-play it, even) as a kind of realism – the heroes progressed to a certain point, then it just turned out there was someone badasser than them in the way, and that was that, the story ended.

Ultimately I place this kind of thing in the category of “good for me” I think. It forces me to actually think about genre- and game-literacy as serious, real things, rather than academic constructs. It also pushes me into engaging with the community which surrounds these games by reading what other people have said about their tribulations with Odin the Eidolon. And that, in turn, has led me to read such beautiful words as “buffing” which I otherwise would never have encountered.

So, thanks Odin, I guess.

3 October 2010
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