yoshesque · @yoshesque

14th Nov 2014 from TwitLonger

Initial thoughts on Bayonetta 2

I'll start this with a disclaimer in that I've only played through the game twice since it came out and I've still got a lot more time to spend with the game to really get to know it. These are the pretty much just initial impressions.

Overall, Bayonetta 2 a better game. It looks nicer (better colours and no screen-tearing), they got rid of the QTEs and the minigames are far and few between. However, I'm having trouble trying to appreciate the game as a singular entity rather than as a sequel to the first game, because, as a sequel, it's not as good as the original Bayonetta.

My problem with Bayonetta 2 is that it has removed a lot of the higher-level techniques for what seems to be no good reason. Score reduction penalty - effectively gone. A lot of the advanced dodge offset techniques - gone. Jump-cancelling combo strings into new strings - gone. Granted, the last one has a workaround (you can cancel out of animations using Witch Strike and other similar techniques), but at the moment it seems that they've removed these for no reason.

The balance that the first game had throughout the entire system is gone. Remember how dodging attacks properly would net you magic in the first game? That's been changed in the second game so that you only get one orb of magic for every two dodges, regardless of whether the second dodge is Bat Within (which used to get you two orbs). Magic earned through blocking using the Moon of Mahaa-Kalah is also the same. Taunting has been changed as well, with a much lower emphasis on the technique. Taunt offset has been removed due to the change in controller layout, you only get one/two orbs for a short/long taunt, and it only works if you are actually enraging an enemy; it doesn't work on enemies that are already enraged.

As an aside on enraged enemies, their audio/visual cues for attacking completely change. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that their tells completely defy the design methodology that the first game had. That is, that all attacks onscreen were telegraphed with a flash/audio cue, and offscreen attacks had a very clear audio cue before they started the attack (example: the trumpet Affinities from the first game) Now, normal enemies in the first game do this - this is to be expected and is good. Enraged enemies do not consistently do this. The flash disappears and audio cues are either not there or really hard to hear. The audio mixing on the second game is something that I dislike as well. It's easy to pick up when you trigger Panther Within, because the audio for that is the same as the first but sounds oddly muffled, like it's underwater. Compare the two soundclips from the first and the second, and you'll see what I mean. This ties into the enemy audio cues as well. Enemy audio cues are clear when they are accompanied with the visual flash, but other attacks that are pre-empted with a audio cue only are very hard to hear. What's worse is that playing with the sound options doesn't help, as enemy audio cues are tied to the general effects audio track, so you can't increase the volume of these cues. A notable example of this is the trumpet Affinities in the second game. They still do the trumpet attack, but the audio cue isn't there/really hard to hear.

Anyway, to get back to magic, the reason this has been changed is to balance out Umbran Climax. If the magic gain were the same as it were in the first, players would very easily earn magic and push out constant Umbran Climaxes. The problem is that Umbran Climax is pretty much always the best use of your magic. Torture Attacks are so bland in the second game, and although enemies now only drop weapons if killed by a torture attack, their weapons are shit. Note that they even nerfed the original angel weapons in the game. Basically, using enemy weapons isn't worth the effort, due to the strict time requirements and lower damage output they have. This feeds into another problem with Umbran Climax: It's pretty much always the best use of your magic, so why would players elect to use Torture Attacks, accessories that use magic, or even techniques that use magic. It's restricting the player's options purely because it's the superior option each and every time. I'm aware that you can go throughout the entire game and potentially Pure Platinum it without using Umbran Climax, but let's be fair, most players will not do this, ever. Given that platinum time requirements are much stricter in this game, the average player trying to PP the game will not *not* use Umbran Climax.

Another thing is Witch Time. Instead of only being able to trigger Witch Time on certain attacks, the second game allows the player to get Witch Time off of pretty much any attack. The trade-off for this is that most of the time, the amount of Witch Time you get is pretty much useless, particularly on the higher difficulties. In the first game, you would get Witch Time and through dealing sustained damage, you could extend the amount up to six seconds, so Witch Time was variable. In the sequel, it seems to be either 'terribly short, I can't do shit with this' or 'like regular Witch Time in the first game'. Also, perfect parries do not give you extended Witch Time any more... so why would players need to use it when they can just dodge attacks? The problem is that they've designed the game around Witch Time; on higher difficulties, it's the only way you can effectively attack enemies. And holy shit, some enemies are a pain. The human-sized bosses are so dodge and block happy that you can only hurt them in the minuscule amount of Witch Time you can get. Other regular enemies will block your attacks very often and Sloth dodges way too much to be a fun enemy to fight. A lot of people have said that the blocking behaviour is meant to encourage the use of Dodge Offset, but the problem is that if they dodge so much that Offsetted Wicked Weaves only connect maybe once every three tries, then what's the point of Dodge Offset if your combo breaks anyway? Score Reduction Penalty being gone also feeds into this; why would you need to Dodge Offset Wicked Weaves if diminishing returns isn't there? The result of this (dodge and block-happy enemies, reduced Witch Time) is that the game discourages players going combo-crazy on enemies, and what happens is either the player learns to get in enemies faces (only to be blocked once Witch Time runs out) or to keep a distance and peck away at enemies.

I'm still trying to see the bigger picture here. It seems crazy to me that Platinum would put out a game that seemed so unbalanced, so I feel like there's something I'm missing here. It's just, at the moment, even just looking at Bayonetta 2 without regard to the first game, a lot of the balancing doesn't make sense. I really hope I'm wrong, though.

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