Date: 3/8 2:00AM
Game Time: 21:00
Start here, if you haven't already: My Impression
I wrote that impression when I was about ten hours into the game. The next ten hours continued to be good to me. My current party is:
Grape, Female Drake, Warrior, Lvl 10
Scott, Male Drake, Samurai, Lvl 9
Clay, Male Dwarf, Devout, Lvl 9
Pug, Female Halfling, Thief, Lvl 9
Moe, Male Elf, Wizard, Lvl 10
Fool, Male Celestian, Cleric, Lvl 9
Of the six, three are set starter characters and three are students I made myself. My party is awesome enough now that I want to dump Moe and make my own Wizard for no other reason than the fact that I can't stand looking at the name "Moe" any longer. Also, I really want an Evoker - its the summoning class - to call forth some friendly monsters in battle. I keep finding places in the game to learn summons, but I have no Evoker to utilize them.
And no matter how you build your party, that will always be a concern: what can you live without? Although the game gives you six party members, you really can't have everything. There are front row fighting, back row fighting, healing, magic attack, summoning, support, and thief classes, with hybrid classes covering most logical skill combinations. You must have two or three guys who can survive in the front -- the 3rd member in the front row doesn't get targeted nearly as often as the first two, so you can live with him being a bit squishy -- and you must have a way to deal non-physical damage, and you must have someone with thievery skills, and you must have a healer. The rest is a treat, and you can form whatever party you like.
Drakes have a useful, unlimited Breath attack that is great against monsters resistant to physical attacks. They have high affinity with each other, so I have two Drakes to suck up most of my damage. The Samurai class learns some neat skills later. The Devout is a white mage who can kick your butt. He's beefy enough to stand in the front line, regens MP, heals like a madman, and currently dishes out about as much damage as the Samurai. Dwarves are best for this class, in my opinion. Gotta have a Thief of some sort, and Halflings get along better with Drakes and Dwarves than Sprites do. Eventually I want to turn her into a female Ninja to increase her awesomeness. Celestians, being part angel, get along well with everyone, so I made one of those. He is mostly worthless in battle as a Cleric, but he appraises items for free, which is very useful. Then there is Moe the Wizard. I have to get rid of him. I hate his name. I hate Atlus for giving him that name. Plus, elves don't get along with dwarves. I think I'll replace him with an Erdgeist - an earth spirit race - because Erdgeists get along with everyone and have good magic casting stats. The downside is that they are puny and die easily.
So that's my party planning in a nutshell. You can change classes anytime, so I think I'll make my worthless Cleric into an Evoker soon.
As for game progress, I'm currently running around the game's "paths" (which are dungeons) to delve into the "labyrinths" (also dungeons) deep inside each one. I have to kill the bosses I find there and report back to the school's principal so he can send my squad of students on a new deadly task. And I thought my school years were rough.
I don't usually pimp out game sites, but this is really awesome: Atlus USA's Class of Heroes site
. Check out the comics and the fake newsletters if nothing else. It's funny stuff and gets you stoked about the game. I wish more game publishers did that.
Date: 3/13 2:30PM
Game Time: 30:30
Grape, Female Drake, Ranger, Lvl 4
Scott, Male Drake, Alchemist, Lvl 3
Clay, Male Dwarf, Monk, Lvl 4
Pug, Female Halfling, Warrior, Lvl 4
Fool, Male Celestian, Psychicer, Lvl 9
Cream, Female Celestian, Wizard, Lvl 9
Changing job classes lets a character keep his stats, but his maximum HP is halved and he drops to level 1. If you do it infrequently, the punishment is very small. Switching four students' classes at once was sorta stupid though. Moe was benched and replaced with Cream. My thief's stats were horrible aside from Agility and Luck, so I made her a warrior temporarily to beef her up some. Thievery skills are necessary though, so I made my Warrior a Ranger (Rangers have weak thievery abilities). The Ninja was also pretty weak and I want someone who can Appraise items, so I made him an Alchemist. The brutish white mage - the Devout - learned the highest level healing magic possible, so I made him a Monk for now. I want his final class to be a Paladin. Since my last post, I made my Cleric a Psychicer, which is a great class. I might keep him there all game. Once Cream learns all of the black magic spells, which will be soon, I will make her an Evoker so I can play with summons.
As far as dungeon progress goes, I have nothing to report. It's a bit suprising to see that 10 hours have passed since my last update. Time is flying while I play this game. I can now access all of the dungeons in the world except for one, and am still tasked with getting to the bottom of them and killing the bosses there.
One thing I am already wondering about is what overall score to give it. I do have a bias toward dungeon crawlers like this. In the last couple of years I have played EO1, EO2, Shining in the Darkness, and now Class of Heroes, and I enjoyed all of them. Sadly, the genre is too dead to really declare that Class of Heroes is Average, Below Average, Excellent, etc. as compared to other tile-based, first-person crawlers. You know quickly if a game is better, worse, or right on par with the other games you've been playing, and CoH is definitely better than what I've been playing lately, but I'm undecided on how to translate it into an RPGamer score. If I met you on the street, I'd say "If you enjoy dungeon crawlers with a Wizardry format, buy it." Of course, if you are a fan of the format, you should already have it pre-ordered. The only other game I've reviewed that I spent a good while pondering the overall score for was Dragon Quest V DS, and I'm still not sure giving it a 3.5 instead of a 4 was correct. Really, I was hoping CoH would either drag or become awesome (preferrably become awesome), since that would help a lot with the scoring. Instead, the gameplay has been solid and consistent the entire time. That's good for me as a player, but going to make things tricky as a reviewer.
Date: 3/19 10:00AM
Game Time: 41:06
Grape, Female Drake, Valkyrie, Lvl 10
Scott, Male Drake, Alchemist, Lvl 11
Clay, Male Dwarf, Monk, Lvl 12
Pug, Female Halfling, Thief, Lvl 11
Fool, Male Celestian, Psychicer, Lvl 14
Cream, Female Celestian, Wizard, Lvl 15
Having a Ranger be my 'thief' was a disaster. She kept springing traps and giving me game overs. Over the course of 40 hours, I've probably died around 10 times, and I'd guess that 5 of those times came from springing traps on treasure chests. Whoever sets these traps in Class of Heroes isn't screwing around. So I made Pug a Thief again, and might keep her that for the rest of the game, and made Grape into a Valkyrie so she'd learn some white magic spells. I plan on making Cream an Evoker sometime soon so I can play with summons. Other than that, my classes might be set.
I was going to make my Monk into a Paladin, but I noticed that level up stat gains are highly influenced by a student's current statistics relative to her current level. If you have a level 10 Thief and change her major to a Warrior, she drops to level 1, however her stats stay the same. As she levels back up, her stats won't increase much for the first several levels. Her new class will tweak them - in this case, Strength might go up slightly and Agility might go down slighty - but she won't gain stats quickly like she did the first time she leveled up as a Thief. When she hits a certain level, though, her stats will start increasing like normal again.
It's a good system. It keeps you from abusing class changes without really punishing you. Sadly, it means the Thief I changed to a Warrior didn't beef up much at all, which was why I changed her major in the first place, but I like the way the system works. It's unlike the accursed Valhalla Knights 2's system, which forced you to level up characters in several different jobs to get more precious stat points, and being unlike VK2 is always a good thing in my book.
As far as progress goes, again I'm shocked that it's been 10 hours since my last post here. I've bumped off a couple more labyrinth bosses in that time, but haven't made a lot of forward progress. I did some side quests, and Atlus's localization of them is hilarious. I'll just say that they involved an Undead Boss wearing a varsity school jacket teaming with a troll who is obsessed with kitty ears. I'd still call Izuna 2 Atlus USA's best humorous localization, but CoH has forced me to stifle laughter on the train a few times.
I worried that the game might drag some, but the time I'm spending on it is still flying by.
Date: 3/23 11:45AM
Game Time: 57:23
Grape, Female Drake, Valkyrie, Lvl 20
Scott, Male Drake, Alchemist, Lvl 19
Clay, Male Dwarf, Monk, Lvl 21
Pug, Female Halfling, Thief, Lvl 22
Fool, Male Celestian, Psychicer, Lvl 22
Cream, Female Celestian, Evoker, Lvl 19
I hit a point recently where I realized there are still many things about this game that I don't know. I don't know how exactly Affinity affects statistics. I don't know what determines which statistics increase when a character levels up. I have no clue what Stamina does, and have only seen it change once. About everything else I've figured out.
After I started trying to figure these things out, I found a way to see a character's base stats, which are much lower than the stats on the status screen. I assume the difference comes from the affinity bonus. Problem solved there.
I have two drakes in my party. One has been in majors which are purely physical fighters, so I'd expect her strength and vitality to be higher than the other drake, who spent time in weaker classes and is currently the slightly squishy Alchemist. This is not the case though; their stats are identical. So it seems that stat increases rely solely on race, not major. The two celestians sorta confirm this. Their stats are not the same, but the differences don't line up with the different classes they have used either.
It's not a big deal, and doesn't affect the game's playability; I just want to make sure I report it right in the review. I'd hate to casually mention that character growth depends on race, major, or both, then be wrong, and right now I'm not confident on that enough to report on it in the review.
I like my current party a lot. The dopey thing is that I have two celestians - who have high Faith and should be used for white magic - but neither of them knows any white magic spells. Whatever. They all kick butt and I don't need a white mage. The dwarf knows a bunch of healing spells from when he was a white mage earlier, and that's all I need. Really, 4 of the 6 classes I am using are support classes, but Class of Heroes is very generous when it comes to which weapons the support classes can wield. The Alchemist can use about every weapon in the game. The Psychicer has the best physical attack abilities of the mage classes. An unusual - and very good - thing about Class of Heroes is that even though there are many classes, all of them are worth using. The only downside is that you won't know a class's abilities in full until you try it out.
I am in the last dungeon on the map. I'm either a couple of hours from beating the game, or there's going to be some surprise that adds more places to explore. The scary thing is that the level cap is 99, but I'm only at level 20. Also, I've only seen about half of the items in the game.
Date: 4/4 4:20PM
Game Time: 75:10
Grape, Female Drake, Valkyrie, Lvl 27
Scott, Male Drake, Alchemist, Lvl 25
Clay, Male Dwarf, Samurai, Lvl 13
Pug, Female Halfling, Thief, Lvl 29
Fool, Male Celestian, Psychicer, Lvl 28
Cream, Female Celestian, Evoker, Lvl 27
So, lots of news since the last update. Class of Heroes was pushed back two months because of a bug in the game. As Macstorm wrote at the time, I was the person who found the bug for Atlus. Good thing they sent out review copies early, huh? They reacted quickly, asking for details about the bug and also for me to e-mail them my save files. When they confirmed it was real, they halted production and had to push the release date back two months. It's bittersweet - I'm glad to have helped them, but it stinks that it cost them two months. Kids, localizing games is much harder than it looks! Read some of the Publisher Powwow
answers if you don't believe me.
Through the RPGamer PR Lord, Macstorm, I have talked to publishers a few times when playing early review copies of games. I found a typo in FF4DS and let him know, although I never heard back from SE whether it helped them or not. I didn't buy the retail version of the game, so for all I know the typo is still there. I had Atlus send me a chart for Izuna 2 that was going to be in the instruction manual, and having it made the game much more fun. Sadly, the only contact I've had with XSEED was for Valhalla Knights 2, when I asked them a more respectful version of "Is this game supposed to be so crappy?"
I finished Class of Heroes on the train ride to work several days ago. The bug was secluded in one part of the game, and once I passed that point it was smooth sailing. One thing I love about dungeon crawlers like this is what a great value they are. Someone tearing through the game and not playing around with the different majors or weapon synthesis can probably finish it in 50 hours. If you really enjoy it, though, and want to see everything, there is easily over 80 hours of content here. After I beat the game, several side quests opened up along with a few new dungeons, a new school, and tougher enemies that drop better equipment. I know that "finishing" a game traditionally happens when the credits scroll, but like Etrian Odyssey, Class of Heroes displays the credits and then opens up a lot more content.
Needless to say, I've kept playing since then. The game's stronger weapons all have strict race and class requirements. It's sort of a mid-game surprise, since you might find out that the Drake Thief you've been using can't use powerful weapons because he is a thief, and can't use faster weapons because he is a Drake, so his selection will be limited and he might be stuck with something crummy. There've been a few times that I bought an awesome weapon at a shop, went to equip it, then realized I was an idiot and forgot to check the race restrictions first, and no one in my party could use it.
This doesn't make any of your beloved characters useless, but it does mean you might need to switch your majors around, or at the very least pay close attention to what weapons you are buying and creating. Case in point, my poor, adorable Dwarf Monk has been lagging for a while. I'm just not finding any good Monk equipment. A side quest gave me an awesome, powerful, nifty, amazing samurai sword that no one in my party could use, so I made my cute Dwarf Monk into a Dwarf Samurai. Also cool is that he now knows spells from all three magic groups. He learned white magic as a Devout, psychic magic as a Monk, and is now learning black magic. Plus, he kicks butt with the new sword. Early experience levels come fast enough and the penalty for changing classes is small enough that I can do this without ruining him or slowing down my party at all.
Date: 5/26 11:30AM
Game Time: 98:00
I don't have the game on me right now, so I can't put up my final party. I didn't change their classes any more; the only updates would be to their levels.
I haven't updated here in a long while. I continued playing Class of Heroes for a few more weeks, then put it to rest at the start of May. After pulling out Class of Heroes and replacing it with Star Ocean 1, I started realizing the full extent of how much I enjoyed Class of Heroes. I have two, four hour train rides each week for work, during which I've been playing PSP games. Yesterday on the train, I put my PSP on the floor like usual, then fell asleep. I slept off and on for the entire ride without turning on the PSP. This has been a common occurrence ever since I switched to SO1. While I was playing Class of Heroes, I rarely, if ever, slept on the train. So here's an easy ranking of three things from most fun to least fun:
1) Class of Heroes
3) Star Ocean 1 PSP
Clearly, Class of Heroes is more fun than sleeping, and I like sleeping a lot.
In case you're too lazy to scroll up and do some fast math, I played CoH for about 30 hours after finishing the game. 30 hours of postgame content! That's nuts. I didn't even finish it all, either. If I didn't have a PSP backlog, I'd probably still be playing it. I only forced myself to stop because if I spend over 100 hours on one game, I'll never get around to the stack of PSP games on the floor of my apartment. Yeah, my backlog overgrew my shelf and has started piling on the floor.
So what can I say about it before the review gets posted? I doubt Atlus will put "Class of Heroes - more fun than sleeping!" in any of its e-mails to the faithful, but $40 for a 1st person, tile-based dungeon crawler that doesn't try to ream you (Dark Spire! Etrian Odyssey!) and doesn't treat you like a child (Shining in the Darkness!) while providing over 100 hours of content is, well, a very good deal. Let's face it: Etrian Odyssey was a blast and my favorite DS game to date, but I'd never recommend it to anyone but a fellow gaming masochist. Class of Heroes is a game you can recommend as a solid way to test the Wizardry waters without feeling like you were dropped naked into Class V rapids.
Actually, I'll stop there. Gotta same some comparisons and analogies for the review, ya know?
The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.