(My previous practice was never to post an entry about a game until I’d finished it. This was a good idea during those days that I had a lot of free time and could finish the average RPG in a week. I haven’t been in that state for four years.)
My brother warned me that according to reviews, the first eight hours or so of Suikoden V were quite draggy. When I thought about it, that should be expected. I’ve played Suikoden 1-4 of course, and in all those games, a largish part of the beginning involved the setup where your young hero (or heroes as in Suikoden 3) would be thrust in the middle of a conflict that would eventually result in a quest to gather 108 Stars of Destiny.
I’m about 5 hours into Suikoden V, and I have to say: It’s draggier than usual. I think it’s because most of the first five hours are heavily scripted, mostly scenes with minor interactions designed to lay out all the backstory and history and political intrigue and whatnot. It’s been five hours, and I still have no idea what the main conflict is gonna be… granted it looks like there’s gonna be some civil unrest at some point, but we have no idea yet who’s going to be on which side, etc. In Suikoden I, I’m pretty sure you were appointed the head of the Liberation Army long before the five-hour point! In Suikoden II, you were kicked out of your homes within two hours. In Suikoden V, it feels like five hours and four weeks of game time later, you’re still running errands to ensure your sister’s engagement to a scheming noble goes through. Hopefully it starts to pick up soon.
One of the things I noticed this time around: I don’t like that thing in console RPGs where you have to wander around town until you run into the exact area where a scene will move the story forward. It was fine in Dragon Quest VIII (the last console RPG I played), but here it’s ridiculous… mostly because the cities here seem huge! Granted, I’ve only seen Sol-Falena and Stormfist, but both of those cities were large, multi-area maps. There were some sequences where you literally had to systematically traverse the whole town to find the next scene that triggers the story. Maybe I’m just spoiled because I’ve been playing Baldur’s Gate 2 lately. That game has a huge city too, but you couldn’t walk half a screen through the city without some quest or event thrown at you.
Anyway, yeah. They need to get to the “Okay, I got an HQ and I’m gonna collect 108 stars” point faster, that’s where all the gameplay is anyway. I think the start of the game suffers from the fact there’s a lot of back story to cover: the discord between factions in the Senate, the struggle for the throne two generations prior, the invasion from Armes eight years ago, the wrath of Arshtat two years ago, how a barbarian managed to win the Sacred Games and thus marry into the royal family, etc. I suppose that all this back story is needed *before* the meat of the game gets underway, otherwise they could have just sprinkled it in liberally through the game…