Monday, September 29, 2014

Long Live The Queen!

Yesterday I went looking through my list of unplayed Steam games looking for something I could play left handed. Long Live The Queen is a life simulator game and I figured that was going to have no fast clicking required so I gave it a shot. There is certainly nothing real time at all in the game, so it was good on that front. But was it good on the fun to play front?

Short answer: Yes. Very much so. It runs pretty typical for a life simulator; each week you get to make 3 choices and your character evolved based on those choices. Throw in 'random' events to direct what choices you 'should' be making each week and you're set.

The game feels relatively short. There are only around 40 weeks in the game and only 2 of your choices each week actually increase your stats. So you only get 80 chances to level up. Contrast to my first introduction to the genre, Princess Maker 2, where you played 6 years with 3 choices each month so you got 216 chances to level up. PM2 had a fatigue mechanic so you'd have to spend some of those 216 chances on the 'rest' action so it isn't quite that extreme. But it also let you go on a dungeon crawl with some of your actions. PM2 certainly felt longer, but LLtQ still has a lot of substance. It helps that the story of the game is pretty interesting with a lot of medieval style political intrigue going around. There are also a lot of skills...

There are four primary types of skills (social, intellectual, physical, and mystical) with 14 categories of skills within those types. Each category has 3 skills. Each week you get to pick two skills to level up (it can be the same skill twice) and you spend 5 days earning skill points in those categories. Each day you earn a base of 2 points which is then modified by the type and category modifiers listed on the screen at the start of the week. So if I wanted to earn points in ciphering I'd earn a total of 7.1 skill points with my current setup. On the other hand if I wanted to get better at dancing I'd get a whopping 22.9 points. One of those is a much bigger number than the other one!

There are 3 ways to change the rate of skill point acquisition. One is based on your dominant mood which is determined by where you sit on 4 different axises. (Angry/Afraid, Cheerful/Depressed, Willful/Yielding, Pressured/Lonely) Your current mood gives you +1 to 2 or 3 categories of skills and anywhere from -1 to -3 to a larger list of categories. Right now I'm afraid and that makes it easier for me to skill up agility and faith skills and harder to skill up royal demeanor, weapons, intrigue, and military skills.

The second way is by learning skills from that skill category. 1% of the points earned in a given skill get applied as a bonus to future learning in that category. Including prior learning done for the same skill!

The third way is by learning skill from that overall skill type. .1% of the points earned in a type carry over to other skills of the same type. Again, learning a given skill will increase the rate at which you learn the same skill.

After playing the game a few times you start learning when certain events are going to happen and what skills you might need to succeed at the event. (You might get ambushed by bandits at one point, for example. You need a high amount of reflexes+archery skill to dodge an incoming arrow. Otherwise you get shot and need a high amount of battlefield medicine or you'll kill yourself trying to remove the arrow. Even if you pass that skill check you need a high amount of composure or meditation or you alert the bandits that you're still alive and get shot more times. Fail and it's game over; you're dead.) So you know what you need to do, but you want to get the +1 bonus because when you need to get 70 points in something you'd much rather start off earning those points 15 at a time than 5 or 10 at a time. Especially with the bubble forward mechanic since the additional amount earned is a percentage of the initial amount earned! This means you need to manage your mood properly to shift between different moods with different category bonuses. (Which is what your third action each week goes towards... You do something on the weekend to modify your mood.)

One question I've been having is if I'm better off focusing on one category in a week or if I should spread things out. The reason it's a question for me is the bubble forward bonuses only apply to the next week so the second thing you choose this week isn't impacted by the first thing you choose. If you only want to spend 2 weeks on 2 skills in different categories you're certainly better off splitting it up, but is that true when you're working towards a specific goal like getting at least 25 in herbs, 25 in poison, and 60 in battlefield medicine while also picking up conversation skills? If you're putting 8 weeks into conversation and 8 weeks into medicine should you split things up?

If you do 4 weeks of just conversation followed by 4 weeks of just medicine you end up with 141.3 points earned in each category. This gets you 30 in herbs, 33.3 in poison, and 78 in battlefield medicine which meets our criteria. Note that taking out half of the last week only gets us 57.5 points in battlefield medicine which means we haven't hit the 60 we want.

If you split things up and do 8 weeks of a mix then you end up with 145.8 points in each category. This gets you 30.8 points in herbs, 34.3 points in poison, and 80.7 points in battlefield medicine. Note that skipping the last week only gets us 58.9 points in battlefield medicine so we don't get to drop a week.

But what if we learned some intellectual skills in the past? Having as little as a .058 bonus makes it so 7 weeks puts us at 60 points in battlefield medicine. That means having earned 58 points in any other skills, which if you do it when they're worth 15 points per week is only 4 weeks worth of learning. That's easy! But it you have a .132 bonus you get it done in 7 clumped actions, which is only 3.5 weeks of actual time.

From playing it feels like skills only care if they hit a multiple of 10 (you get a little message describing what you've learned at each 10 points) and while it's definitely more efficient to learn 2 skills from different types each week if you can often that extra efficiency won't matter at all. Every now and then it will be critical. Finding two different skills you want to work on that have the big +1 mood bonus can be tricky, so it does feel like it will sometimes be optimal to focus on a single skill and will sometimes be optimal to spread things out. Spreading out should be the default case unless you're in a hurry to get something specific learned on a deadline or if you need to shift moods and will lose your bonus too fast. I like that this is how it shook out.

The game has some checklists with 39 achievements, 11 ways to die, and 24 ending fragments to 'collect'. I like collecting things so this game has some replayability for me for sure. I've already earned my Steam cards but I'll be going back for more... I've even started writing down when events happen and what my stats are for each success/failure so I can try to work out an optimal path... Of course I say that but on my last playthrough (where I took that screenshot) I didn't make it to the end of the game because I'd boxed my skills into a corner and couldn't get through an event without dying. I figured out now what I could have done... I needed to agree to marry some guy early on in the game so that after my fleet lost a battle I could run away to live with him when my castle came under attack (I wasn't strong enough magically to kill the enemy king off in a dual). Live and learn!

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