Warning: This one turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. Grab yourself a soda and imagine some famous British-voiced personality reading it to you. Maybe that will help.
Dear Square Enix, QA Department:
First of all, let me say that I am glad you have chosen me to beta test your latest RPG The Last Remnant on my XBOX 360, before you plan on releasing it onto the PC and possibly even the PS3. I'm glad that you gave me a 50% discount before telling me I had to pay for the privilege. I even appreciate that as a pre-order bonus you threw in three battle formations that I've rarely used in the first disc and probably won't use at all now that I'm partially through the second.
But as a proud de facto
beta tester of your game on the 360, I'm wondering if you couldn't perhaps send some sort of patch our way to upgrade us to the version you plan to release with the PC game? And while we're at it, perhaps I could enlighten you to some other areas that still need attention? Keep in mind, this following is just my opinion, but I think you should take a look at some of these areas:
1) The story feels generic at best and downright annoying at worst. A teenage boy with bluish hair somehow becomes an instant expert in all forms of weaponry, potion making and magic despite being paired with older generals with much more battlefield experience. Maybe it's the script, or maybe it's Johnny Yong Bosch, but every time Rush Sykes opens his mouth I want to reach through the screen and punch him in the face. How does this kid become the hero of the story? Well, once he runs into the Marquis David of Athlum, the conversation goes something like this:
Rush: "Hey Dave, can you help me find my sis?"
David: "Sure, and I'll lend you my generals while we're at it."
I know you want to get to the meat of the story quickly so the player can start fighting, so how about this: cut the kid out of the story, or at least make him a sidequest character. Why not center the story around David's attempts to battle the evil that threatens his people instead? Granted, the voice acting could use some work, but he's young and faces a heavy burden without sounding like a whiny spoiled brat. People can actually kind of empathize with this guy. I realize this request might be a little difficult to fulfill at this stage, but it's something to keep in mind for the next game you make.
2) I don't really understand your combat system. I get the part that as people use more magical attacks or physical attacks with certain weapons, they will slowly specialize in and learn special attacks with them. However, in most RPGs, you actually get to pick and choose what you perceive to be the right action. In this game, we are only allowed to choose lists of attacks or actions, and the things planted on those lists seem to be pretty arbitrary? Why is it that in some cases when I need one unit to heal, that one person uses a healing action and the rest of the unit just stands still even if they have enough AP to launch a normal attack? Why not allow them to split off and combine with other units in order to speed up the process, or even guard the healer?
This brings me to another point I mentioned before, that the formation stuff seems pretty useless as well. Yes, things like Mystic Wall and Catapult formation sound good, but considering that the enemy can attack any single individual it likes within the unit what's the point of forming a wall of strong physical guys in front and placing a healer behind them? If the enemy has some sort of counter to the formation, then this should be explained instead of hidden somewhere in the code.
And before I move on, I have mixed feelings about the fighting itself. After all the actions are chosen, the player can just sit back and watch. Sure, there's an occasional quick-time event to keep the player on their toes, but eventually it's mere cake to get a perfect button press almost every time.
3) The inventory system. It starts out decently enough, convincing you to try upgrading and forging new materials instead of blowing cash on brand new weaponry. The item creation starts out nicely. However, I picked up this blade about 3/4 of the way through the first disc, the "Olibanum", and since then I haven't had to worry about using another sword again. Okay, there's a secondary sword, but that's been occupied by a high-class scimitar and I haven't had to switch that out since equipping it earlier.
Normally, I'd be handing down all these weapons that are useless to me and give them to my army so that they could use them. Simple, no? Instead, I find that I only have control over Rush's inventory, and have to wait until the AI decides the other characters want something I'm holding or sell it for a miniscule amount. Maybe you could give the players who want more customization the option of equipping the rest of their army? It would help give the game more of a FF Tactics feel, and that's a good thing.
4) Why did you decide to handcuff our armies early on? The Marquis of Athlum has hundreds, maybe thousands of troops at his command, not to mention a giant freaking laser cannon that can be deployed virtually anywhere (even in underground areas!). So why is it that by the time you reach the second disc you can barely field more than 15 people at a time? And why is it that only 4 of those 15 can be unique "Leader" units? Some kind of magically-enforced Affirmative Action policy, or is David just that cheap? You could put more people than that in battle in the original Ogre Battle games, fer crissake!
I hear you took a step in the right direction by removing the restrictions on "Leader" unit numbers and slightly upped the difficulty to compensate in the PC version. I assume you'll do the right thing and give us the option of doing the same in the 360 version, right? Considering I paid for the privilege of being your loyal beta tester for this game, it would be a nice gesture.
Of course, I do realize that putting even more combatants on the field would really put a strain on the hardware, which leads to my next point...
5) Did you really need to use the Unreal 3 engine for this game? Really? I know, it's cutting-edge technology, it makes all the grass and the gold fringe on David's clothes look pretty and it helps you put ragdoll physics in the game, and all that good stuff...but do you really need it? It would make sense if the game gave you direct control over the PCs, like in Oblivion or Mass Effect, but in this game each attack repeats its own animation against each enemy. The ragdoll effect makes no sense when each enemy seems to die the exact same way from the exact same attack, and the only difference is how they crumple over in pain.
Okay, I'll grant that if you didn't use the U3 engine someone who gets paid to review this game might've chided you for having bland textures and uninspired graphics. But if you could take that time and effort from the graphics and use it to make the game mechanics work better and the framerate run above "old, constipated power-walker" 50% of the time, it would be a net gain.
Look, I'm not going to get into the other little nitpicks: The rare sidequest monsters where you have to enter the same dungeon many, many times just to fight one of them. The unique stat everyone has that appears to have no bearing on their actions (how does the "Crybaby" stat help? What does it even affect?) The stupid plot twist where one character with an interesting personality is killed and replaced by a doppleganger with less personality...
Still, looking at these things, it's obvious that you need to go back and tweak your game a little before you release any new versions of it. Cut the kid out of the story, give the player more control over his own characters (or at least the option to do so), and work on that framerate issue. You know where to find me. read