Usually, I go by the “don’t dismiss a game as bad until you’re ___ hours in” line of thought. While most great games should capture you from the start, there are some that have a slow and rocky start before getting to the juice and meat. This time, I’ve learnt that the opposite holds too true as well. Conception taught me that I shouldn’t claim a game is good so early on. Well, to be honest, Conception was good for the first 20-30 hours that I played, and in my first impressions post I found the game to be fun and challenging. However, after beating that second boss that utterly creamed me the first time around, the game went downhill. Or more like, the mechanics were doomed to fail but I didn’t realize it until 20+ hours of gameplay.
First off, aside from 5 unlockable classes (4 of which I’ve unlocked right now), the ones that you start with are all you get. And each class learns an average of 5 skills, so after levelling a child of each class to around lvl 25-30, there really is nothing to see. No new skills, class tiers, nothing. With long dungeon crawler that actually managed to keep my interest, they all had something in common: something to look forward to from fighting and levelling up. In Etrian Odyssey, you had a huge skill tree for each class with a wide arsenal of skills to learn and upgrade using skill points gained by levelling up. It is worth it to level up and obtain more skills or upgrade your current skills, and with subclassing in EO3, your options become very interesting and customizable. In the Persona games (also applicable to main SMT games) , your demons/Personae don’t learn as many skills, but in return there are a shitload of them and you can fuse them to make better demons that inherit skills, leading to lots of fun in both getting new demons and making them inherit skills, along with seeing them learn their own unique skills. ZHP is actually a special case, but that game had addicting dungeons with loads of options and the whole store levels thing is really cool. Conception has no rewards other than stats when you level up beyond level ~30, and there aren’t that many classes or customization options for the children, who are intended to be constantly changed and thrown away like demons. There isn’t much of a reward for levelling up.
For a dungeon crawler, the dungeons in Conception sure are boring. I was fine with going through them the first time. It was pretty basic, but also understandable since that was the first dungeon. I went through the second dungeon too, and that was fun. But as I cleared the dungeons of the 12 horoscopes one by one, I realized that all the dungeons are the exact same. Aside from different wallpapers, the random dungeons have very bland designs and never get interesting or challenging at all. They’re very good for putting people to sleep.
The above two points would be somewhat bearable, until I figured out the third problem. Level-scaling. The enemies will scale according to the MC’s and his childrens’ levels. The bosses have a minimum level so if they are completely raping you, grinding is fine. But past a certain point, the will level up as you level up. The problem? They don’t begin scaling as you get to their level. They begin scaling when you get to like 20 levels before their base level. The bosses may stay at level 52 when you’re level 20 or 30, but they will level to level 60 as you approach level 40. Aside from the first boss, the rest are to be fought at your own pace, in any order you want. I hate level-scaling enemies, and what makes it worse is that they clearly put it there so they can reuse the same monsters (with a select few exceptions that are unique to each season) in every dungeon and don’t have to work so hard on designing more monsters. Palette swaps are already numerous to begin with, but they’re even lazier that simply using more recolors. Enemy A will appear in the Spring dungeon floors 1-5. A palette swap of Enemy A will appear in floors 6-10. Yet another palette swap will swarm you in floors 11-15 (regardless of which branch you chose; the last 5 floors will of each dungeon in the same season will have the same monsters). Then the original Enemy A will be in the Summer dungeon floors 1-5, scaled to your new level. The same recolors reappear on the same floors in each dungeon. It’s highly annoying, shows the designers’ laziness, and makes crawling through every single dungeon the same. The enemies level scale, but they don’t learn new skills and don’t become any more challenging for the MC to fight. All that increases are their stats. With that said, there was absolutely no point in making enemies level-scale. So they included an annoying mechanic simply because their were too lazy to design stronger monsters.
The battle system was fun at first, but the lack of new skills for both allies and enemies means that after a certain (early) point, the battles become the exact same every time. It had so much potential, but that potential is meaningless when you fight every battle the exact same way. Battle animations are also slow, but the handy fast-forward button makes up for that. The game also has bad loading times and lag if you don’t install data. How do I know? The install data occasionally malfunctions and requires to be reinstalled. What the fuck. This is the first time I’ve had problems with install data. The game also has other features that aren’t very well-implemented. The shop is useless because the stuff you can find in the dungeons will be much better than what you can buy at your current point in the local store. Your weapons from chests (and boy there are a lot of item chests in this game) will overpower whatever stuff you can buy from the store. There’s a feature where sending off a child to become independent will level up the town map, unlocking/upgrading 3 different shops. However, the town can only go up to level 10 and each shop will go to a max of level 3. Did I mention there’s only 3 shops, and one of them sells stuff that you can find in abundance in a peaceful dungeon stroll? There goes another one of my motivations to level up my children. The quests are also generic fetch/monster extermination quests, but some of the fetch quests are annoying and require items found randomly in dungeon chests. Lame quests aren’t as much of a bother to me as my other complaints, but it does add fuel to the fire.
So yeah, 55 hours into Conception, and I can safely say that this is a pretty bad dungeon crawler. At this point, I’m at the final dungeon, and I’m only continuing because I like the girls and want to get some of their endings. My initial opinion of the game was that the dungeon crawling is good but the galge mechanics are barebones. Now that I’ve played beyond what I would usually tolerate from a bad game, my thoughts are reversed. This is a poorly designed dungeon crawler that puts you to sleep, but the girls are cute and interesting, so it makes a decent galge. Let’s see if my will is strong enough for me to continue the game.