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Grind or Not to Grind?

by on April 20, 2014
 

Having finally obtained a PS Vita and gained the ability to play PSP games, I have been able to try out the Disgaea series, something I have wanted to get into due to my love of other SRPGs like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. Having played for a few hours and after running into many difficult fights, I have noticed that the game is incredibly keen for players to grind. I mean, in a game where the level cap is 9999 and you can grind up weapons, armour and healing items to that level as well, you might as well package the game with a pepper mill and some wheat for the amount of time you’ll be spent grinding.

Don’t get me wrong, the combat in the game is fun and the attacks are incredibly silly but having such hardcore level grinding be integral to your game seems a bit excessive. Also, the fact that it doesn’t add anything really interesting to the core game, besides your characters’ dealing ridiculous amounts of damage, it just smacks of lazy design to pad out your game.

Disgaea Screenshot

This may take you upwards of 50 hours. For one character of many. Oh boy.

Bravely Default was another offender of being grind heavy in the endgame (which I won’t spoil) but it involves you repeating content 3 times to complete the game, with you having to go through the process about 6 times in order to get the best weapons and get the ‘true’ ending. In spite of the fact that Bravely Default gives you the option to set the random encounter rate, you still have to go through this grind gauntlet in order to complete the game. What’s even worse is the fact that the game is fully aware of this and comments on it, as some kind of ‘self-referential joke’. It’s not fun game, it’s just tedious.

I’m not opposed to a bit of level grinding in some cases, where you actually feel stronger for doing it and it provides you with enough power to continue playing for a longer stint before you have to grind again. The problem when your game is based around a constant grind, where hours upon hours of dull battles are needed in order to pass a section or beat a boss. That is one reason I can’t get into the Monster Hunter franchise, no matter how many people recommend it to me, is due to the same cycle of ‘find monster, kill monster, find out you need to kill monster x more times to get weapon y just to kill monster z’ and so on.

When you have to put an unkillable enemy to stop people level grinding, like in Tales of Destiny 2 which sends an unstoppable boss to kill you if you are caught autobattling for 20 minutes, maybe it’s time to look at the design of your game again. If you have to put in an invincible boss to deter people from grinding, you should maybe either get rid of the autobattle feature or check your difficulty curve as you are doing something wrong.

grind

Accurate representation of the device that some JRPGs should be played on.

It is not like it is impossible to create a satisfying RPG which does not require level grinding. The Stick of Truth proved it quite well by having a consistent difficulty curve which allowed all players, no matter if they did all the sidequests or not, to complete the game without spending hours upon hours grinding to get to the next level.

So, keep the grind to a minimum. Like putting pepper to put on food, use a sprinkling here and there and use it to suit the game in question, rather than making it an overpowering majority of your game experience. Otherwise, like a meal covered in pepper, it becomes bland, irritating and hard to finish.

Well, I must return to Disgaea. Only 9985 levels to go. Yay.


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