Monday, 14 October 2019

13/10/19 - 反送中(2)

一直想再次寫寫反送中的東西,奈何過去兩個月一直在打風花雪月和忙其他東西。本來想買的牧場物語也沒空玩了,不過如果復刻度高的話大概還是會喊著真香買下去吧?

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反送中運動已經快持續了四個月。期間政府濫用暴力程上升程度與市民團結與勇於反抗的程度也是肉眼可見的。

六月,兩場百萬人大遊行夾一場立法會抗議。我們稱讚市民的和平理性,說警察(當時還是)有需要的時候還是可以很專業的嘛。我的日記裡居然說起公共運輸系統上來了,現在回看還真有點諷剌。

七月。立法會進擊,警察(刻意)退守,示威者保持最低限度的理性;我們擔心那手推車破門的一幕會為市民所唾棄,我們讚揚那些不破壞立法會紀念品和付錢拿汽水的示威者。立法會的宣言為世界所記住,五大訴求,從此上路。

當然,G20的完結意味著對家暫時不用再顧面子,可以盡情盡力讓事件在十一月選舉前完結。也許大家都沒料到整個運動會持續到現在。

屯門、九龍、沙田、上水。抗爭不再限於港島,居民也開始意識到警察的暴力隨時都可以臨到自己頭上。敢於反抗,不必為甚麼崇高的政治經濟理想,可能只是在守護自己土生土長那片社區而已。流水抗爭,遍地開花。

七二一,元朗警暴。我們在那一刻徹底看清警方已經化為人面獸心的維穩機器。前幾天才出獄的民運人士才說過警方親自為黑社會做briefing--不過不用等到現在,當天警察刻意的拖延救援與光頭李sir的挑釁嘴臉同樣被市民所記住。不用諸多辯解,他們的行為早就證明一切。警黑合作,既是警黑,也是黑警。黑社會混進去做警察在十七年前就演過,只不過今次他們兩個身份都光明正大地顯出來了。

不過警黑好像還是有點難看,那就乾脆黑警算了。

八月,大三罷。阻塞鐵路與襲擊付國豪一度成為誘使市民內鬥分化的最大危機,不過對家再次證明不怕神一般的對手,只怕豬一般的隊友。八一一的遊行以悲劇的形式結束:葵芳的室內催淚彈、太古的行刑式掃射、還有最重要的少女爆眼。在科學鐵證前瞪大眼說大話的黑警,迅速將全港的人心凝聚到一起。和你飛的北大嶼山公路長征與接放學人龍,與八一八的遊行便是團結的證明。

第三次的百萬遊行也許出乎政府意料之外。百萬級的遊行任他們請再多外援也沒法用同樣方法驅散的,那就只好從源頭開始用武力嚇退市民,於是就有了八三一事件。

反對通知書下大批市民仍冒著風險上街,警方則用了底突襲加上太子站的無差別攻擊,手法之低賤前所未見。一個個以前留下歡樂回憶的市中心鬧區,現在遺留下來的只有香港人的鮮血,和市民所放的白花祭品。直到今時今日,我們也沒法說得清到底當天有沒有打死人。我只知道,從這天開始香港的自殺人數開始急速爬升。

九月,抗爭並沒有因為作為前線的學生開學而衰退,相反這是另一條戰線的開始。校內的抗爭將更多人連結到一起。老師-學生-舊生-家長之間的連結超越一般的同溫層,將市民的訴求最大化地廣傳出去。

條例正式撤回,美國全速通過香港民主及人權法案,示威遍及全港十八區。當我們以為看見那怕一點曙光時,政府又以行動告訴市民它們才是手執生殺大權的一方、而示威者只是「yellow object」且「have no stakes in the society」。

九二九,全球聲援大遊行,印尼女記者遭射爆眼。
十月一,中五少年險被射殺,隨即被控暴動罪。
十月四,反蒙面法。一年前世紀風暴山竹也請不出來的緊急法,原來可以如此兒戲地用上。

這只是整個抗爭行動的「主線」。正所謂遍地開花,不單是示威遍地開花,而是將意識傳遍整個香港。超越地區的連儂牆、超越年齡層的銀髮族遊行、超越職業和資產階級的專業人士集會--如此強烈連結(connect)在一起的人心,在暴政的壓逼下只會越來越團結。

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這幾個月來瀏覽器總留住了一個有關「俠之大者,為國為民」的分頁,大概是重看金庸時留下的記錄。

有時我會問自己,到底在這場抗爭裡面,誰才是「俠」?香港有會像郭靖那樣死守襄陽城的「大俠」嗎?還是路見不平、拔刀相助的「遊俠」?

我記得六七月時,不時會看到一些路邊的茶餐廳幫助示威者:讓他們進來免費吃飯,幫他們換裝成一般市民,讓他們從後門逃走。從後門繞到大街上,迎面而來的是整條小巴車隊,招手著他們上車。當時就有人稱讚他們是「俠」,讚他們互不相識又見義勇為,可謂香港人的典範。

不過這種論調,在抗爭後期就不見了。原因很簡單,大家的取向已經歸位。每一位同路人不論是否站在街頭前線,都會在自己貢獻範圍以內盡本分成為抗爭的支柱。
用歌詞來形容的話就是「同舟人 誓相隨 無畏亦無懼」--獅子山下的價值建基於大家都一窮二白的年代,對現代社會已不適用,所以現在被「榮光」所代。不過反過來想一想,當香港人甘願拋棄他們最重視的利益而擁抱獅子山精神時,政府還有甚麼可以將人心收回來呢?

答案是有的--那就是將扭曲的價值觀修正回來,重新塑造一個去赤化、以香港人為本、為市民所監督的政府架構。這是超越五大訴求,但是比五大訴求更為接近問題根源的變革。連日的警暴下市民已經徹底唾棄這個將槍枝指向百姓的政府。唯有讓他們相信,這四個月的惡夢以後絕無機會再次發生,這場抗爭才有結束的盼望。除此以外,別無他法。

五年前的運動,我們已經失去太多。反送中抗爭再次失敗的後果將會是絕望的。然而我們這次集天時地利人知--中美貿易戰和新冷戰格局的天時、香港前殖民地位的地利、全民connect的人和--該退縮隱忍還是挺身硬抗,不是很清楚嗎?

香港人,加油。
香港人,反抗。

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

On Three Houses (2): Serious gameplay




Maddening accomplished, with NG of course. It took me about 100 hours, and the file shows 85 hours. That means I spent 15 hours retrying the courses. I took a very conservative approach both on the battlefield and in the academy exhausting all resources every step. I know I can go a lot faster but I didn't want to because I do not want to take the risk of retrying the whole game when I get stuck.

This, is my thought about the game from the perspective of maddening playthrough, the true difficulty for Fire Emblem fans.

- Story and plots - 

I chose Golden Deer this time as my final route for the game. It really is a "true end" to me -- not only that the story is complete, informative and less painful, the final fight is also a grand one -- that is the only final stage where you do not fight layer by layer but as a whole. You are also pressurized by the frontline enemies at turn one. The collaboration among the distant artillery units are terrifying. The boss is tiny yet hard to deal with. Not to mention the opera styled BGM -- everything is perfectly set to be the final fight.

After playing all four routes the overall plot is pretty clear. Crimson flower route need some further refine on its own, which will probably happen in update 3. The other routes are pretty complete.

Some may look for further information about the distant past...I hoped for the same but you know, these kind of supplement information is never enough. Perhaps they will publish a fanbook in the future?

- Team and formation - 

Due to limited resources I only recruited Doro, Sylvain, Mercedes and Ingrid this run. Doro became my dancer, Sylvain is a free recruit as well as a powerful axe wyvern (although everyone went to shoot arrows anyway), and Ingrid should be a dexterous falcon knight...except that her strength growth is horribly low in my run that she never became more than a chipping unit. Mercedes for her fortify, of course.

With the 4 recruits that completes my team of 12+1 for the final fight, where I usually drop Leonie because her dexterity never get to the point where she can steadily kill. For most battles in front where you can only use 10 units, the 3 lowest leveled units will follow the healers as adjuncts and absorb exp points from them.

I tried to exhaust the healing capabilities a bit. Marianne, Lys, Doro, Mercedes and even Lorenz and Byleth are overleveled due to constant healing. That also left the rest of the units enough opponents to kill. At the end, the mages are around level 60+, Lorenz and Byleth are around level 55, and the physical units are about the recommended level (42-44).

- Tactics - 

Everyone use bows and curved shots. Fliers may use close range weapons but really they just utilize curved bows and the canto ability to hit back and forth. In maddening you cannot really afford to go deep into the danger radius because everything doubles you, even with weapon breaker disadvantage.

But what hurts the most (other than Lys bomber) is the two 5-range units: Ignatz and Lorenz. Ignatz's hit+20 inherited skill allow us to build him in a super offensive way so that he can crit at will while still having a reliable accuracy even against assassins. Lorenz meanwhile, can fire up to 40-50 spells 5 grids away. This is perfect when you want to take down a particular unit in the opponent formation that will trigger the rest. 5 range attack also penetrates most walls so that allows you to do lots of unintended attacks.

In the Shamblala map, my team got stuck in the left-bottom corner when the 3 or 4 titans were trying to go through the gates. I stopped them by placing Raphael (but he still get critted twice for 15x2 at a crit rate of 15%) and ingrid up front, but these two are not good enough to handle 400 HP+ titans. What I did is to use curved shots to break a barrier on the titans, then Ignatz-Doro combo will produce 200+ damage on their own, every turn.

I did the same for Lorenz and even Marianne (as a holy knight), but Marianne is more like a magical tank - she easily take doubles with the white magic that heals upon damaging the opponent.

Lys and Byleth, can of course kill enemies at will, but I tend not to use them unless it's necessary. I enjoyed defeating the opponent without using these two too much. Although I defeated almost every non-generic characters by Lys (except for Nemesis), including Death Knights of course.

- Difficulty -

Maddening is for those who carve for a challenge -- the sentence accurately described the difficulty of maddening. It is challenging. It requires you to think and execute carefully every step, as well as hoping for reasonable luck in order to proceed.

Regardless of your endgame plans, the gameplay is similar for everyone at least in the first 6 chapters where you only have 1 battle points and very limited activity points. These chapters are really tricky and every reinforcement will catch you off guard.

I started to get frustrated on the second encounter with death knight. I used to finish the stage nice and slow but we have a 25 turn restriction this time. That forces you do be aggressive against opponents that are far stronger than you. Mages on avo floor is really a pain when your entire team missed hitting them. But this stage is also the time when Ignatz started to shine. His 4-range shots accurately clears the DK room and prevents the bloodleash.

After that everything changed because I know have 2 battle points. I started taking bandits after bandits, and finally I can clear the main quests in an easier way.

But not the reunion at dawn.

I didn't train Byleth seriously before time-skip, so that stage took me forever even with enough speed...It's Claude's gambit saved me, but I would be more pleased if he didn't take me out to do the battle with just 2 units.

In general, the exp mod forces you to really focus on units that barely forms a team. Further exp penalty causes most physical units to be of level similar to the recommened one, and at that level, fighting is really challenging due to hit rate and speed. It's more painful in the beginning because opponents having no specific classes means they are better than you all-roundedly. Later in the game the enemies are diversified meaning that you can kill them with proper tactics.

The two extra skills - pass and poison strike are good additionals to the difficulty. They require some extra thoughts to deal with in a reasonable way. Pass forces you to create compact formation retaining a correct distance from the opponent. It is less of a threat late in the game because you can utilize gambits and fliers to avoid having a solid frontline, so being able to pass do not create any harm. Poison strike on the other hand is still a threat late in the game, because that means you cannot tank infinitely many units by a single armor unit anymore. You will need to be careful when placing your tank by such.

- Mechanics in higher difficulty -

Looking back on what I said after playing normal and hard, it's time to review whether these comments hold anymore in maddening.

1) Weapon triangle: weapon breaker skills is essentially a weak weapon triangle, so weak to the point that does not affect your choice of weapons. Think about how you deal with those endgame physical units:

Sword - thieves and assassins. Due to their pass skills, you are forced to hold your line and kill them using multiple units. Lance units with swordbreaker may increase the accuracy a bit, but at close range mage and archers would work better.

Lance - well, where are all the cavalry units?

Axe - those are simply free kills. With enough dexterity most units are capable of dealing with them.

With everyone using their bows more than any other close range weapons, the discrepancies among the three weapons are weaker than ever.

2) Class meta: The class meta shifted further to distant attackers since you get doubled for every close combat, and dexterous units does not create enough damage (like my poor Ingrid). Ineffective classes remains ineffective, except for mage knights equipped with extra range tools. But for the rest like war master and dark mages...we just can't afford to choose those.

3) Maddening+: so...what should we expect in the fourth difficulty? There is no further news about this difficulty yet. Something looks like that appears in the fourth DLC but it's a side quest. Stat boosts on the enemy as well as the exp penalty is already harsh enough so that it's hard to expect further modification on this part.

Instead, changes should be made on the finest details -- so that players would optimizes themselves to the finest as well. These may include:
- a different AI that takes a mixed strategy between being stationary and aggressive, cares more on formation and harder to be baited
- restriction to physic and fortify uses
- reduce level cap to 50

After playing all 4 routes, I believe 50 is sufficient for everyone. We can modify the exp curve - lift the penalty below the recommended level and increase the penalty above the recommended level. By removing the unpenalized exp gain from dance and healing, the game become less grindy -- we can do less auxiliary battles and fish less (although Flayn would be sad), but you can utilize a team up to a certain level in the main quest without much effort. And that "certain level" is the intended strength of the team in which the developer wants you to clear the stage with.

But well, I am not going to do the highest difficulty if it ever comes out, with New Game. And not even New Game+, because it has taken too much time from me. I would rather play harvest moon in October. If I come back for Three Houses again, it is probably for Sauna, new stories and new characters...

- Elements missed -

I may not write anything further about the game (because it would have to be something related to the plots, but I am not ready to sort out the whole story. So I would like to conclude my review with a list of traditional FE elements that is missed in three houses:

- weapon triangle, of course.
- fixed but more diversified grow path
- advanced class with less movement restriction
- more talk options and ability to talk/recruit enemies
- villages and villagers
- pair up and rescue options
- ...

I know some of them does not fir into this game, but still I am hoping for something similar in the next franchise.