Ys: The Oath in Felghana Playtest – A Streamlined Remake Of Ys III

By Laura . November 1, 2010 . 9:01am

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For those just tuning in, Ys: The Oath in Felghana is the third Ys game in the series, and it is a complete remake of the original Ys III: The Wanderers of Ys.

 

Having played Ys Seven and enjoyed it plenty, I was eager to try out Oath. Character portraits are detailed and rich, and as is Ys tradition, the music is wonderful too. The portraits reminded me of Ark of Napishtim art and are consistently detailed, even if they’re of a random townsperson who has no bearing on the story whatsoever.

 

Some events in the game are fully-voiced, and on those occasions, each NPC has their own set of chords. These scenes include when you first meet the character, when you activate a quest for the character, and important story events.

 

Admittedly, the voices themselves aren’t exactly dulcet, but the effort put into the game is tremendous.

 

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The story isn’t anything to write home about, but it does its job. After his previous adventure, Adol and his friend, Dogi, hear about rumors in Dogi’s home Felghana, so they decide to pop in to check up on it. There, they find Dogi’s childhood friend, Elena, being attacked by monsters and her brother, Chester, missing. Monsters have also appeared mysteriously throughout the land. All of it seems to be linked to a past legend involving the sealing of a demon that had threatened the nation in the past.

 

Where Oath really shines, is in the exploration and the boss battles. The dungeons in the game are veritable mazes, and are huge and crawling with enemies fully-capable of taking Adol down when given the chance. Just in order to survive, I had to get very comfortable with jumping and double-jumping, as well as making full use of the items that I found along my journey, such as the magic bracelets that let Adol shoot fireballs, charge through cracked walls, and hover in midair.

 

Oath encourages exploration by streamlining it. For example, finding hidden treasure chests, and out-of-the-way items that you can’t reach at any given point is never much a problem because, after you do make the effort to obtain them, you can always warp Adol to any save point you’ve previously encountered and continue along your quest to avoid too much backtracking.

 

A lot of other precautions were taken to prevent the game from being pointlessly annoying, too. When you die after a boss battle (which can and will happen), you’re allowed to restart from the battle itself. The same applies to when you die in a dungeon — you can restart at the last entrance you used with the HP you had when you entered.

 

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With the inclusion of all these conveniences, you might mistakenly think Oath is an easy game. Unfortunately (or fortunately), that isn’t the case. Having played Oath, I think I now know what people meant when they said they felt Seven was too easy. I must have died at least ten times trying to figure out how to best the first boss in Oath, and then ten more trying to beat him using my newfound strategy.

 

In comparison, I didn’t die once in all of Ys Seven. The battles here are made all the more hard because the bosses really put the hurt on you and Adol can’t regenerate his health.

 

Boss battles feel like a classic pattern-recognition boss puzzle. One boss, for example — an ice dragon — had a single weak point, which was its head. When I would try to jump and attack it, it would snap its jaws and I would watch my HP decrease by approximately 60 points (out of 220).

 

After repeatedly failing to take it down, quite by accident, I discovered that if I charged at its leg, the dragon would fall over and I could attack its head without any fear of retaliation. Once its HP was down to approximately 500, it would start using a new attack where it would throw Adol up into the air and he would get pummeled with five 60-damage attacks that would more likely hit than not. In other words, either I had to learn to avoid getting picked up in the first place or almost surely die (again).

 

While my initial reaction to this was that of annoyance, I soon began to look forward to the boss fights at the end of each area in the game. They’re really quite exhilarating and Oath is a game that relies on reaction time and skill. I hadn’t had as much fun with a boss battle that perpetually beat me to the ground over and over since Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts II.

 

As with every game, Oath in Felghana is also home to a few minor inconveniences. One of these is its camera, which is controlled automatically by the game.

 

Because the game’s camera is positioned differently depending on the map, there are times when distance can be hard to judge. Attacking midair enemies while on a 2.5-D field is one of the hardest parts of dungeon-exploration, while sometimes the camera is angled such that judging horizontal distance is difficult. It wasn’t enough to hinder my appreciation of the game, but it does require quite a bit of getting used to. Eventually, I just learned how to watch the shadows on the ground to tell where mid-air enemies were.

 

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Restarting at a dungeon entrance with the same amount of HP you first entered with can be a hindrance, too. Sometimes, I’d enter a new area with only 10 HP left, and even if I restarted at the zone, I’d still only have 10 HP to tide me over. There’s no way to heal yourself in Oath game by using items, so I’d either have to avoid everyone until I found a save point, hope for a level-up, or depend on enemy drops.

 

Luckily, enemies drop goodies often. Sometimes, it can be temporary stat augments that increase your strength, MP, or defense, and sometimes it’s just the usual money drop, but by far, the most valuable are the HP restoration items. It’s too bad these are determined by chance because I heavily relied on recovery items to keep me alive.

 

Leveling your character is a large part of Oath. Sometimes, a boss that was previously unbeatable can be made far easier with just one more level-up. The good news is, leveling is especially easy because the enemies regenerate when you leave the screen.

 

Oath in Felghana lets you choose from five different difficulty levels, too, and I was given the option to restart a boss battle at an easier difficulty level after I had died several times. For the most part, I didn’t touch this option, but the one time I did (presumably changing Normal difficulty to Easy), I found the enemies attacked less often.

 

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But again, don’t be fooled by the streamlining. If anything, Oath is proud of its difficulty. Here’s the description for the Nightmare level: “A truly nightmarish, completely absurd level of difficulty. For the elitist of the elite only. Mwa ha ha.”

 

Admittedly, Ys: Oath in Felghana initially caught me off-guard due to its increased difficulty. To describe it shortly, I’d say it was like being shoved off a very large hill after having been inured with my previous Ys Seven experience.

 

That said, I quickly got used to it, and I found that the experience wasn’t so much frustrating as it was challenging and fun. The game does its best to accommodate players that dislike minor annoyances, making it much more playable overall. Oath in Felghana was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me, right down to its story.

 

Food for thought:

 

  • The game also rewards you with the standard goodies as you play through it. You can view the prologue and the opening movie, although the gallery and the other movies will have to wait until after you finish the main game to be unlocked.
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  • You can also toggle the sound to play the old PC88 version, as well as the X68X version, of the soundtrack.
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  • On a random note, Halloween was just passing by when Ys decided to throw me a dungeon full of zombies. What a sense of timing…

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Sposeto/1417567402 Chris Sposeto

    Really can’t wait for this tomorrow, work until 2:30 but will be picking it up after and playing all night, and I have Wednesday off too.

    • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

      I will pick it up to but I have to finish P3:P before I can sink my teeth into this game.

      • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

        Oh wow Im playing P3:P too, how far are you in it?

        • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

          I recently reached the 3rd block in Tartarus.

  • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

    Wow the game sounds staggeringly difficult. Memorizing patterns to bosses that can alter their battle patterns once their HP changes? How does one even keep track of it all and not get frustrated beyond belief. This game sounds way out of the league of standard RPGs. The lack of recovery of health or health recovery items sounds like such a drag. If I read that right…all the dialogue isnt voiced? I always find that odd in games with voice acting. How is preference given over which are voiced, sometimes lack of voice at key scenes can damper the experience. I did have one question about the story…what was the motivation to keep playing it through; as it was presented here, it seemed like it’s possibly light hearted and not really about “saving the world”? Is it still a rewarding story experience. I guess what Im trying to say is…is the story compelling enough to warrant suffering through the staggeringly difficult boss fights and pursuing it through to the end?(I like the combo hit counter in the top corner)

    • https://twitter.com/#!/Ojsinnerz Firo_Prochainezo

      The game comes in 5 difficulties. And honestly, you play all your games on the easiest difficulty, so I guess “Bosses changing their attack pattern” would be surprising for you. Almost every single RPG does this you know.You say you’ll challenge yourself to play ZHP, which is guarenteed to be far harder than Oath, but call this too difficult despite never playing it.And how do you play any games with human competition? The only thing I can see you doing is to quit playing due to frustration of losing to some reasonably experienced player.Ys games have never been about story. They’re about kick-ass gameplay and fantastic music. Characters, story and everything else have always been lacking. At least the Ys games are honest about it.I stopped playing video games for “stories”. Story in any game in recent memory have been bland and uninteresting (Except Nier) and I stopped caring about it. It’s nice to have, but I want something of Hotel Dusk quality. Nowadays, it’s all about having fun, and listening to the soundtrack.If you really want a good story, go read a novel.

      • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

        I manage to do well in Uncharted 2, a TPS/AA, in games against human players online. Sure I may not come out the highest ranked against people who hold my same lvl 58 rank in matches but Im decent at it. (who wouldnt be decent at the game after sinking 338 hours into it?). Modern Warfare 2 was the only game where I literally became flustered with the online mode and traded the game in swiftly, since I was so terrible against people online.

        Well just recently I did start playing Persona 3 Portable on, not easy difficulty, but on Normal difficulty and Im not dying so far (through the first full moon event), so perhaps Ive been underestimating my own abilities in games. The experience is showing me that perhaps I am capable of handling difficult game modes. And even more shocking to me is that I am even playing it without the use of a FAQ or guide! I wanted to try to see if a game can truly be rewarding without the use of a set of instructions to get through the game and trying to figure out things on my own, and by not playing on the lowest difficulty. If I can get through that game, then I should be able to get through ZHP, and then, therefore, I would be able to get through this game…

        I think computer AI is more difficult than human intelligence in that, for humans, people do not operate on patterns and one can logically deduce what moves they would make. For a computer enemy operating on some complex set of algorithms, that may go against rules of human logic, that is herein subject to errors, I imagine that I would find myself always doing or anticipating the wrong move that the computer would make. It reminds me of a statement that someone made on this site in which in the olde days or when people play games without strategy guides and faqs, they had to resort to some sort of memorization technique or pen and paper to keep track of things that happened in the game, such as dungeons and what not. I still think thats a mighty large task to include with playing a game. I imagine the people had to spend many a lives to even correctly figure out a bosses pattern and then to devise a plan to fight it. Thats so much time lost and so many lives lost (or in the case of this game, thats like 20 lives lost on just one boss alone). Ultimately, I struggle to see hows it is rewarding.

        Im so used to stories of friendship and saving the world, that I just expect it to be the norm in RPGs. In console based ones, the story, keeps me hooked (so that I can reach the next cutscene, or dialogue sequence). If a game is lacking in that department, unless the battle system is extremely innovative and catchy, then I imagine I would sit the game down and not play it (ie Yggdra Union PSP was innovative but not catchy). This game, Oath in Felghana, seems to, based on the writing of the article, put the story in the background.

        • KCdash

          First it’s good that you’re challenging yourself little by littleSecond about saying “AI” is more difficult than human intelligence and so forth, I have to say a big no on that. True humans do not operate on patterns but that’s the reason why a human opponent would be more difficult since you can not logically deduce the same conclusion each time, there are too many variables when facing one. They have the potential to learn, to adapt, and to change. A computer opponent will always have the same set of algorithms and patterns every time you play against it be it today or 5 years from now its still the same. It’s scripted by a human programmer with limits, it can’t suddenly make up new patterns and such or else that would mean we would have true AI which would probably be interesting yet scary. Like my slightly eccentric music teacher used to say “pattern recognition is intelligence kids!”Finally in reference to how you see things rewarding keep in mind there are many kinds of things people find rewarding which others do not. Why do people climb the tallest mountains that would seem to have more risk than reward? probably that sense of euphoria after completing that given task, after going through its challenges and persevering them. I for one wouldn’t want to risk freezing myself just to climb up a mountain peak but I respect the people who do so. Ultimately many people find games as a form of entertainment where challenge keeps them playing or entertained just as much as people who find games as a form of gateway drug to relax from everyday stress.

          • Joanna

            This! And just to add: stating that machines operate outside of logic is the strangest statement I have ever heard. Sure, to claim a program has no intelligence is fine, but to claim you cannot derive information from it is outlandish. By the very fact that it is operating via patterns means there is some underlying ‘information’ to grasp, some logical form in it’s movement (i.e. – when monster A does x, y shall happen). What is illogical is choas, randomness and programs are the furthest from that.

        • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

          Screw this game! Persona 3 Portable is too difficult, screw playing games on modes other than easy, I keep getting killed in one hit, I just, just want to cry, I dont want to restart the game and I just cant move on, ARUGH! The first block was fun and challenging, but now the second block in tartarus…its too much!If felghana is more difficult than P3P…then Ill just pass on it too, I cant do this!

    • http://myfigurecollection.net/collection/ashgail Ashgail

      Haha welcome to old school gaming, my friend! ^_^

      About the getting frustrated part, it’s more like a hit and miss… RPGs nowadays are quite easy in general, compared to RPG’s from the 90′s and stuff, so it’s not surprising you think memorising patterns are frustrating. But seriously, if you’ve beat them, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world because you owned the bosses with skill and not some random luck.

      If Demon’s Souls had meh difficulty, people won’t really notice it because it’s just some generic action game. Also, like Laura stated above, Sephiroth is quite a brutal hidden boss in KHII. Killing Sephiroth in 2 hits and mashing the triangle button just wouldn’t make him the fearsome Sephiroth anymore, would it? :D

      I believe the word that you’re looking is ‘challenging’ instead of ‘staggeringly difficult’. There’s a difference between a challenging game and a frustrating game ^_^

    • RPGRocker

      Ys is, in some ways, an anti-RPG. While character development and story are not what define an RPG (leveling is), RPGs today have become synonymous with ‘good stories’ and ‘deep plotlines’ and are often criticized when they don’t have them. It’s best to think of Oath in Felghana as an action platformer with a leveling system, rather than as today’s concept of an ‘RPG’.

      This isn’t to say that Oath in Felghana doesn’t have a bad story. In fact, I (and many others) found it to be quite good. There’s definitely a “save the world” theme present, and it gets quite climactic towards the end. The plot twist is fantastic, as well.

      But, to answer your question, will the story be compelling enough to keep you playing? By itself, no. It’s the gameplay and the music that will keep you coming back for more.

      • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

        The gameplay is that addicting and compelling, even though it is seemingly difficult?

        • https://twitter.com/#!/Ojsinnerz Firo_Prochainezo

          Why do you think over 1 million people bought Demon’s Souls? Why do you think I played Vanquish on Hard mode? How come DMC3 sold so well, despite that the Normal difficulty was actually Japan’s Hard difficulty? (Special edition fixed that, but still)

          Because if the gameplay is fun and challenging, it’s all it needs to be a good game. If the game is easy, there is no excitement. There’s no sense of pride, a sense of adrenaline rush, or anything. You just beat it without any trouble whatsoever. Not saying a game without challenge isn’t a good game, (SMG is creative and FUN) but I’m saying that difficulty plays a huge part of games.

          Instead of trying to take the easy way out, try to find a solution around it and enjoy the difficulty a game offers. Playing from a lower difficulty is fine, but always playing at the lowest difficulty isn’t a good thing.

          • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

            That statement may be true to you but it means nothing for people who just want to have as many games finished under their belt as they possibly can like me.

          • Joanna

            I can respect that. I usually play on normal and only do a hard run if I actually liked the game a lot. However, the point Firo was trying to make and what I understood him/her to be saying was that it is not “crazy” for people to like hard games. After all, TS seems to be shocked that difficult gameplay can be compelling.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nicolai-Grude/1117146030 Nicolai Grude

      You’ve never played an STG have you?

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    So, dont keep us in suspense, did Adol steal Elena from Dogie? xD

    I wanna play this game, i love XSEED for doing this with the YS series

  • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

    This game is kinda like what a Megaman RPG should be like.

  • http://www.carpefulgur.com SpaceDrake

    Absolutely cannot wait for this. I’ve got it on reserve and I’ll probably be playing it all week. It’s been too long since a game really tried to kick my butt and I’ll love every second of it.

    • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

      +1 for the awesome Recettear avatar.

  • Feynman

    Ys Seven, and now Oath in Felghana. Next up, Ys I & II Chronicles and Sora no Kiseki!

    Keep ‘em coming, Xseed!

  • Gestahl

    Thanks for the write-up, Laura.

    I think I will be skipping this one, I hate difficult games.

    • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

      I hate difficult games but I still love Ys. Just play on easy mode.

      • Gestahl

        Hmmmm, you sound convincing. :) Okay, I’ll order a Premium Edition as soon as it’s available on Play-Asia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jstack Jon Stachewicz

    “Once its HP was down to approximately 500, it would start using a new attack where it would throw Adol up into the air and he would get pummeled with five 60-damage attacks that would more likely hit than not. In other words, either I had to learn to avoid getting picked up in the first place or almost surely die (again).”

    >_> You can use the Earth dash to break those stalagmites as you’re falling down.

  • mikanko

    Can you turn the voices off?

  • Guest

    Why couldn’t they keep the graphics consistent with the last game

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