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Integrity

maniac mode is really not very good

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so i've been chunking through maniac mode on a lark the last week or so, and the thing that's majorly struck me about it is that, completely divorced from the actual mechanics of path to radiance (which, aside from the minutes of inaction to watch animations, is a mechanically solid game), maniac mode completely fails to be ...well, maniac mode. for clarity, i just finished the chapter 17 gauntlet (which is its own topic, honestly) so it's possible this is something that Hits Its Stride in the 20s, but i sincerely doubt it at this point.

 

i also want to say the argument i am not trying to make is 'wow fe9 maniac mode just really isn't that hard! what a garbage hard mode!!'. there's absolutely nothing wrong with a game cleaving towards the easy, and i'll point out the ways in which maniac mode fails to be hard despite its own attempts, but the problems i have with it are a lot deeper.

 

the first, the biggest really, thing is the absolute number of enemies the game launches at you. holy shit. this is subjective, since i'm gotta go fast all the time every time, but if i had this on disc i would never have finished the early-teen chapters just due to sheer weight of enemies i have to watch move around and attack glacially. the problem of that, though, is that even though there's gently gimped xp on maniac mode, and you're completing chapters slower and thus getting less bexp to pump your dudes up, there are way more guys than are needed to make up for that. i'm in chapter 18 now, and i can deploy a completely promoted crew - and i've spent precisely four and a half levels worth of bexp so far, banking the rest. marcia is going to promote shortly, as will tormod, followed by rolf. ilyana has only seen flex and bench appearances, and she's sitting in her low teens just from the kills she could poach as my lowest priority dude to feed kills to. mia got four levels of kills before i dropped her for underperforming. i benched boyd for three chapters because he was getting too huge too fast.

 

this leads into how maniac mode really fails at being a hard mode, in my opinion. the early game is absolutely punishing, which isn't unique at all for fire emblem top difficulty modes - see fe11 h5, the horrible fe12 prologue on lunatic, etc. you can genuinely pick about any game after 9's top difficulty level and it fits the mold of Punishing Early Game. the major difference is that these games have punishing early games, which generally smooth out as you build a squad for a midgame consisting of intelligent squadbuilding, in order to prepare yourself for a difficulty ramp as you surge towards the endgame. this isn't a perfect map, but it works generally for at least 10/11/12/13, which are the ones on my head at the moment. the difficulty is that maniac mode has seemed to throw that entire map off course. i won't say this is the only way to make a difficult strategy game - hell, the Punishing Early Game But It Gets Easier The More You Work On Your Squad approach is fucking tired and i'd love to see a different form of difficulty ever - but it completely whiffs the latter half, and not in the 'it's always a struggle' way. going into the pre-teen chapters, finally escaping a razor margins early game i actually very much enjoyed (with some caveats that are nitpicks i'm leaving out here), boyd was already becoming an immortal titan who i could launch at any flank full of enemies and reasonably expect him to come out on top, just like path to radiance hard or even normal mode. the game doesn't actually create a unique challenge by activating maniac mode, it simply cranks the difficulty of the early game and, paradoxically, makes it relatively easier to build the squad as long as you can survive the horrible knife-fight of the early game.

 

i haven't used savestates at all to do this. i bring this up not to brag - i do enough boasting about how fuckin great i am at video games all the time anyway - but rather to point out a pattern in my resets. ever since chapter 10, the chapter you pick up lethe and mordecai (unrelated: i forgot how unsatisfying laguz are to both use and fight in this game), i have reset precisely twice because one of my titans died. in 17-1, i assumed the enemy group at the end of the map wouldn't move, because the game does an excellent job conditioning you for that; they moved, and the halberdier crit oscar on a 23% and he died. in 17-3, i put boyd to tank a bunch of mages, didn't notice that rhys couldn't get to him to cast ward, said yolo, almost got away with it, and there was a sage among them, and boyd died. every single other reset i've taken has been because i didn't mark an enemy, they made it through my lines, and one of the squishies i decided to deploy just for fun died. i think we can all agree 'ike left rolf in range of an enemy in chapter 10 and rolf died' is not the fault of maniac mode. i reset astrid's chapter eight times - five of those were because astrid was onerounded by someone (unrelated, holy shit, astrid starts bad on maniac), two of those were because ravens flitted around my guys and ate rhys or ilyana or something (i reacted by shoving a dracoshield into jill and sending her into the waves to occupy the birds), and one was actually hilarious - on the second-to-last turn, i ran ilyana up to shoot one of the fleeing raven thieves, missed him, and ended turn; he responded by flying around ilyana, boyd, and gatrie, and seizing the boat, gaming me over. what a shit map, honestly. anyway, point is, the restarts i'm taking are almost entirely because i'm taking tiny men into battles they're not prepared for because i want to train them up.

 

the corollary here is pretty obvious - if i wasn't self-handicapping by bringing Fucking Rolf on these midgame missions (rolf is actually better on maniac than hard, by the way, it's kinda weird), for instance, if i were playing fe9mm as a draft rather than fe9hm, there ....really would not be a gameplay difference at all. the enemy numbers are bigger, slowing the game down significantly, but the approach is the same. path to radiance's core problem of creating immortal titans and throwing them at a practically unlimited number of enemies is the same. the game is the same, it's just slower and has a massively more difficult first about nine chapters, rather than having a massively more difficult first about nine chapters that level out as you go.

 

i'm obviously going to kick through the rest of this as a point of pride since i've beaten most every difficulty of all of the fire emblems i recognize, but i'm starting to solidify these Takes that maniac mode, honestly, just really isn't very good. what about you? for you who played through maniac, what was your take on the specifically maniac mode changes? what's the deal with that?

Edited by Integrity

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Yeah that's FE9's Maniac mode in a nutshell. Your units still become really good because growth rates in general are decent in the game and the mode is just all about numbers, too many of them. Keep going and come back to rant about "Clash!" after you've pushed through it lol.

After you beat the game, you're going to be sick of enemy Paladins and their incredibly high defensive stats that only slow things down even more.

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12 minutes ago, Dr. Tarrasque said:

After you beat the game, you're going to be sick of enemy Paladins and their incredibly high defensive stats that only slow things down even more.

i'm literally already sick of it after just chapter 17, with its occasional random paladins who nobody except stefan doubles and everyone 2-3hkos fuck

Edited by Integrity

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Yeah, unpromoted units suck forever. The promotion usually grants the necessary benchmarks to double and take some hits. If a couple of your units can tank, the few weaker ones that have to be trained can usually hide behind them.

Spreading out a large team of many unpromoted units and leveling them all at the same time ends bad. It is better to focus on one unit at once.

I usually horde all the bexp for Oscar and promote him in the middle of chapter 9. Eases things a lot. It is also possible to rush Marcia to promotion, especially if you stealth chapter 10. Getting the desert BEXP and chilling in all but the last part of chapter 17 should allow almost everyone to reach promotion. Obviously, Forges are necessary to 2HKO and hit with ease. Though it is difficult to ORKO Paladins, Warriors and Wyvernlords regulary. Still possible!

Clash is just bad, as there is almost no terrain that would usually regulate the stream of enemy units.

 

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I beated Maniac Mode some years ago

 

It only gets different from HM from Ch18 onwards since 90% enemies are promoted (I still remember the godawful weak generic axe cavaliers on that bridge chapter in HM lmao)

But honestly, it only gets harder on the last few chapters, mostly Endgame with enemies all having capped stats and some even mastery skills.

And even then. It's still pretty meh, i'm currently Ironmanning it, i'm on Ch19 and it's just piss easy. Ike and Oscar break the game in half with EarthxEarth bonuses. +45 Avoid is completely busted and gamebreaking and that alone makes them gods even in Maniac. I am not able to get them killed even if i wanted to, everyone has pitiful 10-20% hit rates against them and as much deal about 6dmg. To top it all both Oscar and Ike have Sol/Aether so they're never dying. Earth affinity alone breaks the game entirely. I lost Rhys at Chapter4, and sacrificed Mordecai and Devdan at 17-4. 

 

I'll be honest. FE6 Normal Mode Ironman was a lot harder and fun than this. Earth affinity is just too broken. +45Avo is pretty much the same as +22Spd. Just who at IS thought this was balanced or a good idea at all? 

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On 12/23/2020 at 9:45 AM, Aircalipoor said:

Yeah, unpromoted units suck forever. The promotion usually grants the necessary benchmarks to double and take some hits. If a couple of your units can tank, the few weaker ones that have to be trained can usually hide behind them.

Spreading out a large team of many unpromoted units and leveling them all at the same time ends bad. It is better to focus on one unit at once.

I usually horde all the bexp for Oscar and promote him in the middle of chapter 9. Eases things a lot. It is also possible to rush Marcia to promotion, especially if you stealth chapter 10. Getting the desert BEXP and chilling in all but the last part of chapter 17 should allow almost everyone to reach promotion. Obviously, Forges are necessary to 2HKO and hit with ease. Though it is difficult to ORKO Paladins, Warriors and Wyvernlords regulary. Still possible!

Clash is just bad, as there is almost no terrain that would usually regulate the stream of enemy units.

but that's the thing; the game isn't too hard. i literally had a big thing in the op about how this isn't about the difficulty of maniac mode, lmao. i'm playing about as unoptimally as i can for shits and giggles, and it just isn't difficult nearly as much as it is tedious.

 

i know how to do all of the things that you're saying, and i deliberately didn't, because i assumed that that would trivialize the mode and make it unfun as hell for me; despite doing none of them, the mode is still devolving into 'path of radiance, except everything takes way longer'.

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12 hours ago, Integrity said:

but that's the thing; the game isn't too hard. i literally had a big thing in the op about how this isn't about the difficulty of maniac mode, lmao. i'm playing about as unoptimally as i can for shits and giggles, and it just isn't difficult nearly as much as it is tedious.

Seems in line with playing on hard mode with suboptimal choices. PoR tends to become slower, but not really more difficult, if you use shitty units over its juggernauts. Hell, I did a Titania-less run a couple months ago and the toughest part was to keep her out of combat in chapter 4 because the AI sometimes works in mysterious ways.

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I REALLY don't get it. POR is one of the few Fire Emblem games that doesn't have a childish story, which is great!

My only quarrel with POR and its sequel for Wii is that it simply don't pose a challenge! Therefore the game isn't fun. Now you guys are saying that a harder mode is NOT a good idea? I mean, I'm about to restart my whole progress in the game now that I know of the existence of a Maniac mode that for some incredibly stupid reason was not in the US version. I  fail to see how making an easy game harder is bad.

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4 hours ago, Ligon Flarius said:

My only quarrel with POR and its sequel for Wii is that it simply don't pose a challenge! Therefore the game isn't fun. Now you guys are saying that a harder mode is NOT a good idea? I mean, I'm about to restart my whole progress in the game now that I know of the existence of a Maniac mode that for some incredibly stupid reason was not in the US version. I  fail to see how making an easy game harder is bad.

Bold: Which Fire Emblem games have you played? Because I would NOT be using "don't pose a challenge" to refer to Radiant Dawn.

Anyways, making a game harder is something that needs to be done carefully, because there is such a thing as going too far... (See: Radiant Dawn itself, and most games after it)

Edited by Shadow Mir

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I can't relate to that at all. Granted, I played MM back in 2012, but I recall vividly how it outright forced you to use Titania to do all the heavy lifting, while something like HM is actually very doable and hardly stressful (comparable to FE8 HM and FE13's HM), and Titania is hardly and truly needed. The enemies earlygame take like 4-5 hits to take down, and nobody doubles them (save Oscar with like +1 Spd/Str, or something). Even Ike has some trouble dodging axes, since they have 50s Hitrates on him. Lances can get the better out of him if he doesn't get good levels, and I've seen it happen.

I didn't beat it, but I did also reach up to Ch.17. I was pretty content with it so far, and it felt a lot more satisfying and rewarding than things like HM. I also really liked Mordecai, since he's really tanky, mobile and hits hard, and your other units are not quite there yet.

Edited by ♠Soul♠

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19 hours ago, Shadow Mir said:

Bold: Which Fire Emblem games have you played? Because I would NOT be using "don't pose a challenge" to refer to Radiant Dawn.

Anyways, making a game harder is something that needs to be done carefully, because there is such a thing as going too far... (See: Radiant Dawn itself, and most games after it)

So, I played Radiant Dawn 1st of all, in the Hard mode in the US version on my brother's Wii. Found it mildly hard in the beginning and quite easy by the end, since you have a plethora of very OP characters at your disposal.

My 2nd game was Path of Radiance, But I never finished it. 2 unfinished playthroughs in the US (Hard) and now just started a MM in the Japanese version, which I'm enjoying.

I've also played 2 FE games on gameboy, but don't remember their names, and recently, I played a little of Awakening and Fates.
The Lunatic mode in Awakening is really unplayable. It's exceedingly hard and any troops you have except for the stroger ones will die in 1 turn in contact with the enemy.

Now, the same Lunatic mode in FE Fates seems actually playable.

To sum up: the hardest mode in Awakening has gone too far and isn't fun at all to play. All the other Fire Emblems that I've played are kind of easy, Path of Radiance being the easiest (on late game it felt really like a boring cakewalk, which kills the game for me), and Radiant Dawn (which I've beaten, but will play again with a romhack to make it more challenging) being the 2nd easiest.

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18 hours ago, ♠Soul♠ said:

I can't relate to that at all. Granted, I played MM back in 2012, but I recall vividly how it outright forced you to use Titania to do all the heavy lifting, while something like HM is actually very doable and hardly stressful (comparable to FE8 HM and FE13's HM), and Titania is hardly and truly needed. The enemies earlygame take like 4-5 hits to take down, and nobody doubles them (save Oscar with like +1 Spd/Str, or something). Even Ike has some trouble dodging axes, since they have 50s Hitrates on him. Lances can get the better out of him if he doesn't get good levels, and I've seen it happen.

I didn't beat it, but I did also reach up to Ch.17. I was pretty content with it so far, and it felt a lot more satisfying and rewarding than things like HM. I also really liked Mordecai, since he's really tanky, mobile and hits hard, and your other units are not quite there yet.

There's something very weird here. I could totally relate to your description if you were talking about the Lunatic mode in FE Awakening. But well, since I'm playing POR MM (Japan) now, I can tell you from my experience: on the very 1st stages, Boyd, Ike and Oscar are very much usable without risk of death (course, you need to be careful and use vulnerary in some turns).

Ike can 2x attk several enemies, provided that he uses iron and not steel sword. Titania is Super OP and I only use her if I predict that the others will be in trouble next turn if she doesn't act. She will almost always 2x attk and almost always kill any enemy. Boyd can 2x as well sometimes. So I don't know. I believe you in what you say but by all mans this is not the experience I'm having. Could it be 2 different versions of the game?

I'm sure I'm playing MM.

BTW: In Hard mode (US version) Boyd would always kill any enemy, even sword ones, and evade most attacks. He was even better than Titania and that's why I said it was a pointless cakewalk. I just hope MM doesn't get to this again

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2 hours ago, Ligon Flarius said:

So, I played Radiant Dawn 1st of all, in the Hard mode in the US version on my brother's Wii. Found it mildly hard in the beginning and quite easy by the end, since you have a plethora of very OP characters at your disposal.

My 2nd game was Path of Radiance, But I never finished it. 2 unfinished playthroughs in the US (Hard) and now just started a MM in the Japanese version, which I'm enjoying.

I've also played 2 FE games on gameboy, but don't remember their names, and recently, I played a little of Awakening and Fates.
The Lunatic mode in Awakening is really unplayable. It's exceedingly hard and any troops you have except for the stroger ones will die in 1 turn in contact with the enemy.

Now, the same Lunatic mode in FE Fates seems actually playable.

To sum up: the hardest mode in Awakening has gone too far and isn't fun at all to play. All the other Fire Emblems that I've played are kind of easy, Path of Radiance being the easiest (on late game it felt really like a boring cakewalk, which kills the game for me), and Radiant Dawn (which I've beaten, but will play again with a romhack to make it more challenging) being the 2nd easiest.

I don't know about you, but when I think of easy FE games, Sacred Stones and Blazing Blade come to mind, not Radiant Dawn. Enemies in the former two don't grow that much, and thus cannot keep up with the player units, and this isn't helped by both games still frequently using unpromoted units in the lategame. I don't see the need to hack RD to make it harder when part 1 is already ball-bustingly difficult, and even the rest of the game isn't exactly a cakewalk... regardless, while you do get some overpowered characters late, they can't be everywhere at once, needless to say, and considering that part is a lot of routs, I'd want to have other units trained to clear those efficiently, as those overpowered units have a glaring weakness - they cannot counter anything with range (I'd also note that the enemies then are liable to outclass your other units). And the endgame itself has some stumbling blocks that need preparing for to overcome them. All this being said, you missed the point the OP was making, which is that Maniac mode didn't make PoR hard so much as it made it tedious.

Edited by Shadow Mir

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I played POR:MM back in college years ago.  Agreed on the sheer number of enemies somewhat kneecapping the difficulty curve. I remember Jill and Titania being ridiculously useful for high movement and tankiness/attack power.  I will say i had a surprising amount of trickiness keeping Zihark relevant due to moderately low ATK - I was not used to him doing 1x2 damage to overkill-defense generals and actually had to rely on armorslayers+statboosters for once (lol).  I can see somebody feeling like it was hard if they didn't pre-emptively choose a decent team of high-killing-power axe users and mages.

Surprisingly, I think RD:MM (English Hard) did it the right way - it's *brutal* in some ways when you've used the enemy red-pathfinding-boundaries as a crutch and you have to be really good at counting movement squares over weird terrain and not being able to bring your lovingly-trained OP team the whole way through.  Endgame was also a solid challenge but satisfyingly so.

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Yeah I literally played Maniac mode a couple years back and even by chapter 10 it just dry humps you in the ass for no reason. Literally never went to that mode ever again 

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I like that money management is more interesting on MM. Otherwise Path of Radiance is just far too slow of a game for me to enjoy dealing with the added enemies.

On 7/31/2021 at 7:50 PM, kradeelav said:

Surprisingly, I think RD:MM (English Hard) did it the right way - it's *brutal* in some ways when you've used the enemy red-pathfinding-boundaries as a crutch and you have to be really good at counting movement squares over weird terrain and not being able to bring your lovingly-trained OP team the whole way through.

Radiant Dawn has a fairly good hard mode except for the thing you mentioned if I'm being honest. It makes the game more difficult in the sense that it's easier to make a mistake, but calculating an enemy's range isn't difficult. It just means that the player is taking more time to calculate basic information rather than planning a strategy based on said information, and I find that the latter is significantly more fun.

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8 minutes ago, samthedigital said:

I like that money management is more interesting on MM. Otherwise Path of Radiance is just far too slow of a game for me to enjoy dealing with the added enemies.

Radiant Dawn has a fairly good hard mode except for the thing you mentioned if I'm being honest. It makes the game more difficult in the sense that it's easier to make a mistake, but calculating an enemy's range isn't difficult. It just means that the player is taking more time to calculate basic information rather than planning a strategy based on said information, and I find that the latter is significantly more fun.

Yeah I feel like basic information is what others tend to do on MM. At least that's what I did in Path of Radiance, I never did MM on Radiant Dawn 

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On 7/31/2021 at 7:50 PM, kradeelav said:

I will say i had a surprising amount of trickiness keeping Zihark relevant due to moderately low ATK - I was not used to him doing 1x2 damage to overkill-defense generals and actually had to rely on armorslayers+statboosters for once (lol).  I can see somebody feeling like it was hard if they didn't pre-emptively choose a decent team of high-killing-power axe users and mages.

Swordmasters suck really, really bad in PoR:MM. They get shafted in every way possible. Besides having the typical SM problems (sword-locked, no 1-2 range besides the single Sonic Sword that you get really late and Tanith puts to better use anyways, being an infantry unit in a game where mounted units are absolutely busted), the Japanese version also completely takes away their crit bonus, and it really shows. Even with armorslayers I'm guessing your Zihark wasn't doing much damage because in this game effective damage is only x2, which means that against generals armorslayers are barely any stronger than a silver sword and in fact a forged silver is stronger than the armorslayer with effective damage. Not saying Zihark is unusable or anything, but I'm not surprised at all that you had a hard time using him.

 

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On 7/31/2021 at 6:50 PM, kradeelav said:

Surprisingly, I think RD:MM (English Hard) did it the right way - it's *brutal* in some ways when you've used the enemy red-pathfinding-boundaries as a crutch and you have to be really good at counting movement squares over weird terrain and not being able to bring your lovingly-trained OP team the whole way through. 

That's part of why I think RD's hard mode is poorly designed - it removed the ability to see enemy movement range just because. It only makes the game more tedious.

5 hours ago, GonzoMD1993 said:

Even with armorslayers I'm guessing your Zihark wasn't doing much damage because in this game effective damage is only x2, which means that against generals armorslayers are barely any stronger than a silver sword and in fact a forged silver is stronger than the armorslayer with effective damage.

Wait, even in the JP version, effective damage was only double the weapon might?

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6 hours ago, Shadow Mir said:

Wait, even in the JP version, effective damage was only double the weapon might?

Yeah, in all the versions of PoR (including JP) effective damage is only x2.

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If I like a game enough I'll at least try out its harder difficulty modes. MGS is my favorite game series so I felt like I had to beat those games on extreme, lol. 

The problem with FE difficulty modes is the same issue I have with difficulty modes in most rpgs. Typically uping the difficulty is just inflating stats. This can be a good challenge but is usually just a test of patience. I played fe13 lunatic (not + ffs) and 16 maddening cuz ... well I dont know why, stupidity? 

Fe9 is my favorite fe so naturally I wanted to get it into my hardest difficulty club but I just couldnt be *assed*. I think with fe13 and 16 those modes were difficult (for the wrong reasons imo) so beating them had this weird proud factor to them... maybe I'm a masochist. 

The problem is fe9 mm is just... a slog. Its not hard, its just a test of patience but in a very different way. The real challenge is staying awake and focused while you just deal with a pile of enemies and their phases lasting like 5 hours. I didnt beat it, its just too tedious imo. 

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