If there is one aspect that I can both love and hate about games, it is grinding. The love or hate will usually depend on the game and the manner in which The Grind is presented to the player. It doesn't even matter if I like the game, because the entity that is The Grind is one that, at times, feels wholly separate from some games, while in others, it feels like it is the experience, the game, itself.
Basically? If there is one aspect that I can both love and hate about games, it is grinding.
There are good and bad kinds of grinding, and to some, The Grind that is good to me might seem bad, while the opposite might be true if I were to look at the grinding they get off to in their spare time. Remember to wash up!
Take Disgaea. There's something strangely satisfying about taking a character, raising to level 9999, and then promptly resetting it to level 1 to start the process over again. Maybe I'll even change it from a Warrior into a Nekomata and let it get in touch with its feminine side for a while. Maybe it was a naughty character and so I'll turn it into a Prinny instead. There's a lot of fun to be had with Disgaea's brand of grinding.
In Neptunia Re;Birth 1, the game lets you "hack" into the system, letting you use system memory to raise or even decrease enemy difficulty and EXP yield, allowing you to customize your experience. This did ultimately mean I destroyed the challenge of the game early on once I got the hang of this system, but it became one I got absorbed in playing with. It was a nice touch, and it's a shame it seems to be sticking only to the handheld Neptunia titles.
There are other games where I've found The Grind to be fairly enjoyable. Action games, such as Dynasty Warriors, where you can "feel" the results of your grinding firsthand are more of a double-edged sword for me, but there is a certain point where it's really satisfying... right before your grinding then results in making it impossible for a challenge to come your way ever again.
On the other hand... Then there are the bad grinds. The sort of grinds that make me use phrases like The Grind instead of just grinding, and the sort of grinds that get a blog that was started in November dragged out into the next year, in part because the game attached to the inspiration of said blog got dropped as a result of The Grind it brought on to the one writing it.
Some of you guys may remember my mentioning how I'd really been enjoying Persona Q. To a point, this was true! I was really enjoying it once I finally picked it up. In fact, I would still say I enjoy it, and I do poke at it every so often still, but I've yet to beat it even now.
I know many have criticized it and the other Persona spinoffs, but personally, I hope Atlus keeps 'em coming once Persona 5 drops. It's a topic I intend to cover in another blog (in fact I started it months ago), but suffice to say, I really do not even begin to see the problem here. So yeah. Bring 'em on, and get me my Persona 3 Sapphire Version on Vita too while you're at it, huh?
So yeah, point is, I like these, and more on topic, I was really enjoying Persona Q. It reminded me of what I enjoyed about DRPGs again, which was a genre that, ironically, I was only turned on to in the first place by the first Persona game. Which is majorly underrated, by the way.
Unfortunately... As I continued playing, I found an unfortunate amount of time in Persona Q going into grinding. Not the grinding you'd expect, like my characters or Persona, either. That came naturally enough, and it was enjoyable when I encountered foes too strong for me.
Besides, the difficulty is supposed to be part of a DRPG, at least on some level, right?
The Grind I am referring to of Persona Q is one that eventually just started to feel like it was padding. Numbers. Do this thing so many times, get me this many thing, pay me this much. There are grinds like this in plenty of games, be they within the games themselves, or just out of its walls in the form of trophies.
What I'm saying here is Margaret is a goddamn con artist.
Theo is my only salvation among these three.
... Not for that reason though! Not that there's anything wrong that if he is for you or anything.
Persona Q's Compendium is one such example of what I consider to be a Bad Grind.
This issue may even extend to the main games and their compendiums, but in those, you're working on a timer and have to plan things out accordingly. There's at least some sense of urgency and how you take action, especially if you're playing one of the versions with difficulty options and taking advantage of those.
You feel as though your actions mean something, and you want to make your choices count.
In Persona Q, there is no timer or restrictions. There is no real reason for obscenely priced Personas in a game, and worse still, there are five times as many people using them. This is especially problematic down the line, because honestly, this is the first time I seriously cared so much about fusing Personas!
You wouldn't think having that level of customization and control in a Persona game would mean much, but Persona Q pulled it off really well... which is, unfortunately, the root of the problem with the compendium.
Because of how expensive Personas in the compendium were, and because you'll naturally not want to have your party at a complete and total disadvantage when you're going in, what this system leads to is hours of going into a dungeon, going up to the closest rare gathering spot, getting your stuff from it, leaving, and repeating.
It begins to take the fun out of the game. It's something you have to do, really, but the game is pretty clearly made for fusing Personas and giving your party members ones to use. Yet even just keeping them with Personas around their level can bankrupt you if you're not careful.
So what do you get? A fairly mindless process wherein you enter a dungeon, walk a few steps, run away from a fight (if one pops up), tap A a few times, leave the dungeon, and repeat. For far more time than possible.
Perhaps there were better ways. Perhaps you were supposed to just not do that and constantly be using Personas at five or more (usually more) levels lower than your party.
You know what though?
Despite all that, it really was pretty satisfying to finally be able to fuse that Persona I'd been fantasizing about having the whole time. You'll definitely be glad to be done, but it'll sure be worth it. Until you need the next one anyway.
Of course, this is only one example. There are plenty like it. Fetch quests that want an absurd amount of something obtained or killed, for example. Who likes those? What do you really get from them? Maybe that one really expensive piece of equipment that looks ugly and is quickly outclassed by something you can forge yourself for much less money that you find ten minutes later?
Perhaps "padding" isn't quite the right word for it, but suffice to say, they come in all shapes and sizes, those Grinds.
No matter what, though, I think in the end, you'll be glad it's over when you're done. In some cases, there may be some shame attached to them. You're never going to naturally kill 100,000,000,000 Pikachu in Viridian Forest at night only on Sundays, but you can bet if there were a special reward or a trophy for it, there would be people spending literal days trying to get it.
And man, if it's for a trophy, there will probably be some for sure, especially if you've ruined a game you used to love for yourself and you're never able to look at it or the series in the same way again as a result, and will henceforth swear off trophies forever, as they're just time killing bits of data and nothing more that you can't even show anyone at best and the source of all evil after Nintendo and Square Enix and Sony and regionlocking and content going without localization at worst.
... Not that I'm talking from experience or anything.
I'm sure you guys have all experienced moments in games like this, with impossible or pointless seeming grinds that you just would rather not have to take part in. Was it for a platinum trophy? A rare armor set? An upgraded weapon? By all means, tell me about it! Let's share in our pain together.