Thursday, April 26, 2018

GAMES: "Fate/Accel Zero Order" ~ Well Begun Is Half Done

Ha, which idiot made me believe that just because I got to the end of the story in Fate/Accel Zero Order I'd be remotely done with what needs doing.

Oh, right. That's my fault.

Having reached what's essentially the end of the Fate/Accel Zero Order story, I've made off with my very own four-star Iri, found out who the new Avenger and Assassin are, and watched all my faves disappear into gold sparkles while that one piano tune plays. You know the one.

And then, of course, I discovered that I'm nowhere near done, and there's actually quite a bit left to do if I want to have Iri be at all functional at higher levels or make off with the massive repository of level-up goodies in the event shop.

It's a given. I'm a dummy. But with the story proper over, I can reflect on it a bit more. And with one Elemental Iri down and three to go, I'm pretty much into Grind Mode anyway. So...

A Little Fate/Zero Knowledge Does Help

Don't get me wrong, there's some good explanation. And throughout the front end of the story, you can get by and learn a lot as you go. But as you start to approach the end, with the entrance of Waver Velvet and more impact placed on Iri's role, a little foreknowledge does start to go a long way.

Fortunately, the things you "need" to know are mainly to bring impact to emotional moments, and won't prevent you from interacting entirely. And they're not completely unaddressed. But El-Melloi's rapid-fire explanation of who (and what) Irisviel is really benefits from kind of having a little background.

It's more of a "check Wikipedia" background than anything else, though. And beyond that? Entertaining regardless.

Gen Urobochi Likes Guilt-Driven Time Travel

So teeeeechnically Fate/Accel Zero Order isn't "time travel," because in the world of FGO it's a "what-if"-based Singularity that's bubbled off and will disappear once it's resolved. But It Might As Well Be Time Travel, so whatever, to be honest.

Using El-Melloi as a guest Servant is already a good idea, simply because he can be Mr. Exposition and because his Noble Phantasm is really helpful when you get hit by a ton of Assassins. But from a plot standpoint, this is kind of his story. Or rather, he's literally gone and made it his story when he's just supposed to be helping you tie up loose ends and get the Grail and get gone.

Theoretically, he is perfectly aware that what happens in this Singularity does not affect his past. Remember, it's not really time travel, so in a Life on Mars kind of way, his actions affect nothing.

The situation is more than a little reminiscent of Madoka Magica, one of Urobochi's especially well-known works. But in this situation, El-Melloi is far less in control than Homura, and that's probably a good thing. Because while El-Melloi does start his quest with the mind of a tactician, he ends it with the heart of a survivor. The battle is won, but in a way that would have left scars and repercussions had this been the true past.

Would El-Melloi have done the same thing had this been reality? We may never know. He carries the spirit of Zhuge Liang and is a master of tactical maneuvering. But when faced with his younger self and his memories of Iskandar... it does seem a bit like anything goes.

Grinding Is Still Grinding

For better or for worse, any event that involves receiving special cards or items is gonna be a grind. Especially ones like Fate/Accel Zero Order and Garden of Order, where progress is measured by number of missions completed. So. You know. You will have to sit around and kill 50 homunculi to get to the next section of the story.

The art of storytelling around grinding is to make it not seem like you're grinding. And you can do that either by arranging story elements and requirements in such a way that the grind is interspersed and natural, or you can set it up so each grind is relevant to the next chapter. Fate/Accel Zero Order did a bit of both. And, for what it's worth, there's no really graceful way to do either. It is what it is.

It wasn't quite as maddening as with Garden of Order (which I dropped as soon as I got all of Shiki's ascension mats), though I'm sure that's going to change with this second half. For this -- where you're hunting down more versions of the boss you just defeated, as well as doing EX-level versions of previous quests, they lampshade the whole mess. And it's like. A big honking lampshade, even by FGO standards.

It's livable. It's not quite as unwieldy as the aftermath of other events. But it's there, in all its glory.

I can see the various FGO events improving in execution as the game goes on. And this is with the awareness that we're about two years behind Japan, so who knows what their events are like now. (People on the Japanese server, that's who. But you get me.) Even with the occasional hiccup in execution, it's nice to see that the event methods are steadily changing. And that Fate/Accel Zero Order is an evolution even from Garden of Order, despite them being similar in format. It's reassuring to see that finding a workable form doesn't mean the creators will just sit back and let it play out.

At least, not yet. Who knows? I could be setting myself up for a big case of crow-eating once summer rolls around. Regardless, I'm happy with the direction the game is going, and I look forward to seeing what endgame on this particular event nets me.

If you'd like to add me on FGO, my number is 175,652,592. Add me for spicy Support Servants and Craft Essences.

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