- Spoiler: show
23/10 - Astral Chain (Pt Ultimate)
Second time through this game still retains its character as being fantastic when it's doing what it does well, but is marred by missteps that drag it down in some aspects that stop it from being the best that it could be. Except this time what those things are have shifted around a bit.
Starting the game with all your Legions and abilities unlocked massively improves the earlier portions of the game. All that time I had struggling with the game early on was gone, and the combat works just as well as anywhere else. The step up in challenge feels good as well, at least for most of the game. It also lets you skip over a lot of the more tedious stuff, as the unscored blue case side-missions are already counted from your previous run. So you can get to the good stuff quicker. Through that I also realised that the more annoying scored red cases are mostly relegated to only the second half of the game, so they are at least not quite as pervasive as I thought. Although it does turn out that at least one of the late game red cases requires you to have completed all other cases in the chapter first, so to make sure I didn't miss it I needed to repeat everything again anyway.
So in general the game is still really fun and makes up for a lot of its problems on a replay, and digging in to the post-game challenge missions are fun as well, which I periodically jumped in and out of between playing the main chapters. But then towards the end of the game, things start to get a bit ridiculous.
In the last few chapters you start coming across enemies that hit extremely hard. You start seeing things that are one-hit kills, or very close. These fights are really annoying and feel pretty unfair, as they feel way too punishing for what they are. Especially when they involve you having to replay extended sequences over and over just because there's this one attack right at the end that comes out too quickly to dodge. There are also a couple of other issues that I did notice on my first time through, but didn't didn't seem that significant in the bigger picture, but upon closer inspection can't be ignored. There seems to be no way to turn off the motion controls, which is the major reason why some of those awful side-missions are so bad. Yet the game clearly presents these sections to you as if there are no motion controls at all. Giving you a tutorial for controls that you can't use. The game also has a habit of changing what consumable item you have equipped by itself. So when you reach for the button to heal you'll throw out a grenade or something by accident. There doesn't seem to be any logic to it, like running out of your equipped item and rotating to the next. I think it might be doing it based on you pressing the button and moving the stick at the same time, but the UI prompt that is supposed to come up for that doesn't.
And then there's the final boss. Oh boy, what a load of nonsense. Took me three days just to beat this. I'm not the sort of person who dislikes bosses in general. In fact I'm the complete opposite to that. Bosses are great, and Platinum have done plenty of brilliant bosses in their time. But the bosses in Astral Chain are generally pretty weak, and this one is probably the worst. On this mode, it is just unfair and horrible. Most of its attacks are a one-hit kill, or almost that. They all come out extremely quickly with next to zero wind-up. Frequently too fast to see coming, or can appear and kill you in less time than it takes you to do one of your standard attack animations. And when there is a wind-up the camera sometimes obscures the boss so you can't see what it's doing to time your dodge, despite the fight taking place in an empty void. The camera sometimes can't spin around fast enough to keep up with it teleporting too. Hitboxes are sometimes absurdly huge, much bigger than the attack itself. And even though this isn't connected to the boss directly, it was also annoying that the game doesn't remember you remapping abilities between attempts, so you have to redo them all again each time. But even with all that, I think it could be somewhat forgiven if it wasn't for this one other thing.
You can't use your chain to bind it.
On the final boss of Astral Chain, you can't use the mechanic the game is named after.
Utter madness. All the mechanics of controlling your Legion and positioning yourself on the battlefield that make this game unique just get thrown away for this fight. Just becomes an ultra hard war of attrition, where a lot of it relies on luck of whether the game wants to pull something out to screw you that you can't do anything about. This is probably the new hardest thing I've managed to beat in a game. I suppose I feel good for finally having overcome it, but the experience of doing so was not fun.
I'm still positive on the game overall though. Just that the game is full of very high highs, and unfortunately low lows. Shame that the game has to end with one of the latter.