Start to Finish – Let’s Play Skies of Arcadia, Episode 8

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“It’s important to watch other people die.” -Matt Bowyer, 2018

Zodiarchetypes – Let’s Play Children of Zodiarcs, Chapter 0

Hello everyone and welcome to Start to Finish! I am your host Matt Bowyer, and this is Episode 1 of a new written Let’s Play for Children of Zodiarcs. This was a Kickstarter game that launched its campaign in January of 2016 and released on July 18th, 2017. In the interest of full disclosure, I backed this! I backed this at the level where I could get a cool portrait of me done in the game’s art style, which I have and use as my Twitter icon, and now I’m going to make you all look at it because I think it’s super rad.

Bowyer

GAZE UPON THEIR WORK, MORTALS, AND DESPAIR

I mean, I do that most every morning in the mirror.

So what is Children of Zodiarcs, you ask? It’s billed at a story-based tactical RPG in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics, which is a game that I like so much I’ve purchased it twice and have put at least two hundred hours into it, and I even finished it once! Mostly I built up my jobs and recruited a ton of people and had a great time running around doing random battles. My friend Nate also loved this game, and my standout memory from watching him play was that he did so much level and job-grinding that he unlocked samurai like two chapters before he could acquire any actual samurai weapons.

We’re very good at the games, is what I’m saying.

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Let’s get started.

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No lie, I thought this was, like, a bulldog when I saw it. He’s got his mouth open, he’s got big happy eyes, his ears are on the side, a little fluff on his head… the thing on the right is a bandana. HAPPY ZODIARC DOG

What is a Zodiarc?

It’s a dog, clearly. lookitthezodogiarc

To some, a technological miracle, a source of limitless energy, a pathway to hidden knowledge… To others, an infinitely corrupting influence, an alien parasite, a weapon.

The Zodiarcs were gifts of the Heralds, who came to Lumus over a thousand years ago from a dark and dying world.

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An age that ended in a terrible war.

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Over the centuries, fragments of the past were uncovered, including the history of the mysterious Zodiarcs. Wise men found Zodiarc Relics and, in time, rediscovered their purpose.

A new Zodiarc Age had begun.

One, I love this museum-style archaeological breakdown of what came before. It’s like the First Civilization glyph stuff in Assassin’s Creed, which is actually the opposite of museums. Two, I love how quick this goes! R.A. Salvatore hasn’t kicked the door down to tell me all about Amalur until my eyes glaze over, and believe me, I’m grateful for that.

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Instead, we’re going to break into his house and take his story bible.

Inside, a door flies open to admit two guards, who are briefly horizontal at great velocity.

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The cause promptly reveals himself.

Victory Condition: Ransack the Noble’s tower. Defeat Condition: Be defeated.

I often look to avoid defeat by avoiding defeat. You play to win the game!

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And then it’s Final Fantasy Tactics. I’m going to move to one of those blue spaces and then murder whatever’s next to me. It’s cool. BUT HOW WILL THE MURDER HAPPEN

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With CARDS

This is CoZ’s first hook, and it’s one that I like! The abilities I can use are cards that I choose from, and each character will have their own deck of abilities. It immediately reminds me of something we did in Final Fantasy Omega, my old tabletop RPG. My wife was new to RPGs, so having a big list of things she could do in any given battle intimidated her and made her feel like she couldn’t act quickly or efficiently enough. So she sat down one night and worked on a set of index cards for all of her abilities, listing out their name and how to use them, but also why she’d use them and what sort of situations warranted them. So if the party was up against one single strong enemy, she’d grab the cards she marked for Boss Fights, and if he sprouted a bunch of assistants like a middle manager staff meeting broke out, she’d grab the cards she’d marked as group abilities and then consider those too. It was a great way for her to learn a system that’s not always very friendly to newcomers, and it also helped me learn more game design on my own. I always wanted to make a game about card-battling, which can go in the list of Games Matt Wants to Run. That list is pretty ridiculous by now.

Anyway children of zodiarcs um

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Aaaaand I’m in love.

So each ability has dice associated with it. Custom dice! If you cup your hand over your ear you can hear Fantasy Flight Games firing up their 3D printer. When you play a card, you roll the dice! The dice boost your ability in various ways, adding to the base effect determined by the card. Each die has its own sides, and those sides mean different things. A Netrunner credit symbol (they call them ‘shards’ here) boosts damage by 1. A heart icon heals the hero by 5 HP.

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Also I hold a button down and then actually fling the dice around, and they ping off the walls of the screen and it’s just a lovely time. I can re-roll two dice each time I make a roll, and you can see when I highlight a die that it shows me what the sides are, so I have an idea of what I can get that I haven’t. AND it also tells me what the current roll gets me! Here you can tell I’ve sworded this guy to negative hit points, and if I’ve learned anything from Dungeons & Dragons it’s that negative hit points aren’t a place you want to be.

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Over you go, sir.

AN ENFORCER APPROACHES

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Zirchhoff is not impressed. I’m a little distressed by Zirchhoff’s, um, everything. Zirchhoff isn’t distressed by our Enforcer’s armor, but he does think he needs to do something about it. How can we get through armor that demolishes our attack?

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Why, with a special ability! This is Skewer, and along with being a really fun word to say in a sing-songy manner – try it on your friends! – it’s our first fancy ability, with a new type of die. Along with my normal four dice, I also roll two blue dice, with two blank faces and four star icons. If I roll a star on those dice, I halve the enemy’s defense. If I don’t, it’s just a standard attack.

Again, I’m in love! Do you know how much creativity this adds? I’m like three turns into a tactical RPG and I’m thinking about starting up a new RPG. Do you want to be in an RPG with me? Get in touch. I’m not even joking.

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Hitting an enemy from behind also prevents them from counterattacking, and I’m gonna tetsubo this guy into the ground.

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A man with a portrait appears! As my friend Fade said the other day, as soon as someone with a portrait shows up, you know they’re important.

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See? He gets it.

Guards pour in from behind, and Zirchhoff squares up, ready to tets their ubo, and then:

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Anything remotely approaching a heist makes me sad that I’m not playing Blades in the Dark literally right now.

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We have a rogue! Nahmi darts into frame upstairs, and immediately breaks out her Bluff skill to gain the guard’s trust.

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…nnnnnnnnnnnnnoooooooooooooooo?

The guard shouts that the Ebony Flame is here, and then it’s time for some stabbings!

New Objective: Defeat Chief Justice Ryven.

Well, let’s go do that.

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We defeat the guard handily, and then get distracted by a bookshelf. Ryven’s got the full ’87 Stuff collection! That’s rare, I’m impressed.

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I mean, sometimes it’s fun until being stop getting stabbed in the back. Have you seen me sneak around through necromancer forts in Skyrim? I still have a save game at the top of one of those towers, in stealth, right behind a Master Necromancer so I can reload it and FusRoDah that guy into lower Nirn orbit.

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DICE

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STABS

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“You murdered ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE!”

He must be new.

This is Pester, and some very brief banter tells me that he’s our safecracker, and that we all think incredibly highly of ourselves. We did just do that dude in, so I get it.

Zirchhoff says we know what to do from here – he’ll lead them away, continuing his most boisterous distraction (I assume it’s the way I snuck through that one mission in Dishonored 2, which was running around shooting a gun in the air while screaming “STEEEEAAAAAAALTH”).

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And before I can give him any blue face paint, he’s gone.

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Mmmmmmmm, victory screens.

And that’s a tutorial! Up next: CHAPTER ONE, and also learning who these people are and what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.