Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Topic About Persona 5

Hey all,

Today, I wanted to discuss a mechanic of a game that has been making some waves. Before I really get started, I want to say that I'm enjoying Persona 5 so far, I'm about 84 hours in and about to wrap up the final chapter.

I'm not here to talk about the game as a whole, however. I'm here to talk about one mechanic, specifically the monster recruiting mechanic. I'm going to be 100% frank here, I think it's not as good as it could be.

To the uninformed, Persona 5 is a new game from Atlus in which the player controls a group of teenagers who use their new-found powers and friendship to save the day, while staying true to themselves. This game allows players to recruit monsters into their party by communicating with the monster after it has been struck by a critical attack or its weakness while in combat. Once the communication has been initiated, the player must answer 2 questions from the monster correctly. Each question has three possible answers, and the answers are based on the monster personality, which can be viewed before initiating communication, but not during.

I have several problems with this mechanic:
  • A lot of the answers to the questions involve lying to the enemy. In a game whose narrative is about being true to yourself, why do you have to lie to the enemies? Doesn't this oppose one of the points of the narrative?
  • Not being able to view the monster personality during a conversation in order to gauge what kind of answer will most likely be correct, is bad.
  • If the player gets one question right and the other "half right", the monster will randomly either give an item (and run away) or join the party. I dislike random chance in situations like these.
  • Not knowing what kind of answers are correct essentially makes the answers random, and when the player gets these questions randomly wrong, the player may feel cheated. Also, in this case, the optimal way to play IS to guess randomly, removing any agency the player may have in this scenario.
  • The tutorial about monster recruiting isn't exactly helpful: "Gloomy monsters like vague answers." Sometimes, none of the possible answers to a question fit the description, maybe this is a translation issue, but I dislike it nonetheless.
Now, I wouldn't just complain about something and not have a solution of my own. This is just me spitballing, but I think even this would be a better mechanic.

Have the monster say something about their personality over several turns, the player is allowed to either get another personality hint or select the person on their team whose personality best matches the monster (or make an educated guess on the personality type or whatever) to convince the monster to join their team. The player gets extra money or experience for convincing the monster sooner before the maximum turn limit. Think of it like a game of Mastermind. The randomness would be removed and player's would still have to engage with the monster's personality. Maybe if the player has a narrow miss of recruiting the monster, they will get an item instead, but NOT by random chance.

I just made that up, seriously.

To be clear, I'm not against random number generators in games, but I am against them in select situations where player agency is involved. Maybe I'll go over this in a separate post.

Oh well, at least this mechanic as it stands is better than Shin Megami Tensei 4? That game was not as good as everyone said it was.