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PSU Story Mode Completed

The recorded play time was at about 26 hours when I finally completed the story mode. Ethan Waber wins, Magashi and the SEED loses. The End. Or is it? The good Headmaster Nav suggests that perhaps now life really begins. Then, after the end credits roll, there's an audio clip where the main characters come to grips with no longer being the heroes but instead being demoted to sub characters as the Network mode lets everybody be a hero by going semi-MMORPG. Nice touch.

Tonight, I plan to boot up the Network mode and give it a try myself. That should give me some idea about how the other half of the game is like. I'm tempted to go for the $50 for 210 day plan, but I'd be surprised if the game could keep me for 210 days. City of Heroes or EverQuest 2, maybe, but Phantasy Star Universe strikes me as being considerably more rigid in its capacity to be patched and improved. On top of that, I've got Neverwinter Nights 2 coming out this week, and that'll no doubt occupy me for at least a little while.

When it comes to dealing with the standard RPG-ish grind, Phantasy Star Universe has an advantage because the combat is actiony instead of all autoattack fire-and-forget. I find comparisons to the typical Diablo clone to be unfair. Consider Ragarok Online, Priston Story, R.O.S.E., Lineage, RF Online, Archlord, and Hero Online. One thing all those games have in common is the combat is an autoattack affair with maybe a few rudimentary hotkey attacks. This differs from Phantasy Star Universe in that it's much more arcadish - success or failure depends on some extent on your ability to manuever your character to dodge enemy attacks, aim your weapons, and sync up big combos to take down several foes at once. Phantasy Star Online is a very different game than your standard grind, and it's unfortunate people regard it as such because it's natural to try to over categorize things in order to make it easier on our lazy brains.

This said, I think that PSU isn't quite as good in many ways as the original PSO, at least in the story mode I've played offline. (I'd be pleasantly surprised if the online mode had a whole lot more content.) It's hard to put my finger on it exactly, but it seems as though the mobs were a bit more cunning and the environments were a bit more alien. The map flow was improved in PSU, things feel much less boxy than they did in PSO , and so was the general combat system in doing away with the pointless three tier attack and replacing it with energy consumption based special attacks. It's just a pity that they couldn't carry over the same sense of alien uniqueness in the foes. The boss fights in PSO were particularly interesting because they often had whole different executions involved, where PSUs are mostly just chasing around a boss that runs around the map or flies. There was one part of PSO where you're fighting a giant mechanical sewer serpent on a raft, for example. Now that was inspired! There was a lot more dodging neccessity in the game too, or so ti seems, because I was able to soak the damage and survive a lot more in PSU than I remembered from PSO. Less requirement of player attention and focus is not a gameplay improvement, despite lazy gamers insistance otherwise.
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