Faerie Solitaire: Final Thoughts

This has been a very busy time for me, as you might have guessed from my lack of posts. It isn’t really the case that I haven’t had time to play games, but I haven’t had time to play games and blog about them. And so I’ve got about a third of the new achievements in Half-Life 2, which I got off the Stack three years ago when it didn’t have achievements yet, and I’ve gotten maybe a quarter of the way into the latest Gemcraft sequel, Gemcraft Labyrinth, which isn’t on the Stack because I haven’t paid for it. Gemcraft Labyrinth is a game you can play it for free on the web, but certain optional features are locked until you pony up some dough, and the UI pointedly reminds you of this every time you begin or end a level, so it’s likely that I’ll break down and pay at some point.

Still, I can’t ignore the Stack completely, can I? And so I spent a little time this weekend polishing off the game I was closest to completing, Faerie Solitaire. There are still two Challenge levels that I’d like to complete at some point, and I’m missing enough of the fairy pets that I doubt I’ll ever bother to catch ’em all. 1Update: See the icon for the “collect each pet’s adult form” achievement (it’s at the very bottom). That does not describe me right now. (It’s still not clear to me if the eggs that the pets hatch from are granted at random, or if they’re under specific spots in specific levels. The latter would make hunting the last ones down more appealing.)

I don’t really have a lot to say about the game that I haven’t already said. The final levels didn’t reveal anything new or transform gameplay in any unexpected ways, especially considering that I had already purchased all the power-ups. When you finish the last level, you get to passively listen to the hero describe confronting an evil wizard, and then there’s a sequel hook. Which has got me speculating: what would I put in a sequel if it were up to me?

I’d want to elaborate on the game mechanics, obviously. I felt that the gameplay didn’t even really support a game of this length, so definitely I wouldn’t want to keep things the same in a sequel. Probably I’d try to figure out some way to make the layouts more relevant, less prone to devolving into a bunch of independent columns.

I’d want to do more with the pets. At the very least, I’d give them spot animations to make it seem more like you’re collecting creatures rather than portraits of creatures. Also, they’d be more interesting if your choice of current pet had some kind of effect on the game beyond bringing it closer to its adult form. Certain pets could give you bonus gold, for example, or turn additional cards face-up. Even if it’s undesirable for pets to affect the main game this way, they could at least affect the pet system: pets could make it more likely to find specific resources. There’s all sorts of unused potential here.

Finally, I’d want to give the fairies more of a voice in the story. Now, the story of Faerie Solitaire isn’t the most relevant part of the game. It’s pretty much just tacked on. But it’s tacked on poorly. We have all these fairy pets, we have constructions in Fairyland, we have cards with pictures on them, we have fairies as an ostensible unifying theme. I’d want to see this stuff become relevant in the story. In what we have, the story is instead about a journey to defeat an evil wizard, with fairies as a mere MacGuffin, not as characters. Fairies have the potential to guide the hero or trick him, to set quests, give hints, keep secrets, misunderstand your intentions, cast spells that help or hinder the player. Zanzarah, still the best fairy-themed videogame I’ve played, felt a lot more like a story about fairies, even though it didn’t do much more with them than Faerie Solitaire does — the fairies there are mainly treated as tools, not characters, and never really have agendas of their own. But at least it has wild fairies that attack you spontaneously, which makes them seem self-willed.

1 Update: See the icon for the “collect each pet’s adult form” achievement (it’s at the very bottom). That does not describe me right now.

Zanzarah: Victory

Well, I found the Fire Card. Due to the twistiness and irregularity of the maps, there were a couple of largish regions I hadn’t noticed before (or possibly had noticed, then abandoned because it was too early in the game for them, then forgotten about.) You can always tell when a region is unexplored, because it’s still littered with loose coins and other treasures like so many Pac-Man dots. Ironically, the reason I found it is that I gave up on looking for it. I took the plunge and started seriously exploring the Shadow Realm instead — the Shadow Realm that Rafi had advised me not to delve into until I had finished exploring the overworld — and it turns out that the Fire Card isn’t optional. You need it in order to obtain the key to a certain locked door. Once this is your primary immediate objective, the location of the Fire Card gets marked on your map. (Mind you, even knowing where it was, I had some difficulty finding the path to it.)

The rest followed smoothly, due in part to all the time I had spent leveling up fairies while unable to progress. Carrots were also a significant factor. That’s the game’s quick-leveling consumable: where Nethack has Potions of Gain Level, where Pokémon has Rare Candy, Zanzarah has Golden Carrots. It’s actually kind of unusual how they work. Instead of granting an experience level, the carrot makes its recipient one experience point short of leveling. You can then earn this point by picking a fight, even with the most inferior foe. This puts a brake on how fast you can abuse it. You can’t just dump fifty carrots on a fairy to turn it from a wimp to a superman. You’d have to fight fifty fights as well. Perhaps because of this, the designers made the carrots a lot more easily available than their equivalents in other games, letting you simply buy as many as you can afford from certain magic shops. They’re expensive, mind you, but by the end, I had a big stack of cash and not much else to spend it on. (Again, this is partly due to the time spent stuck, but that just amplified the effect.)

In the end, there are a couple of fights with the White Druid, including the one I anticipated where he uses light fairies against you. After that, there’s just the Guard. What I didn’t anticipate, but should have, is that the Guard, being a thing of magitech, is defended by a team made entirely of robotic Metal-type fairies. Fortunately, I had three elements in my team that were strong against Metal: Air, Ice, and Energy (which seemed like a good choice for the fifth slot). And so I beat it first try.

And that’s that. The world of Zanzarah is restored to balance, as tends to happen in fantasy worlds when the right thing dies. Without the Guard, all the portals to the human world are open again, presumably meaning that fairies will start attacking people in the street soon. Mind you, by the end, I was far more often the aggressor than they were. There’s a special item for use in power-leveling, a magic horn that you can use to wake up any nearby sleeping wild fairies. (Encounters tend to occur the first time you step on their unmarked trigger spots, but there’s some sort of delay before you can trigger them again. The horn bypasses the delay.) Pity the poor defeated fairies who have given up on violence and decided to sleep out the rest of the crisis, only to have Amy, the alleged hero, deliberately goad them into attacking her just so she can beat them up again. No wonder the humans got kicked out, if this is how their prophesied heroes behave.

Zanzarah: Ideal Squad

zanzarah-londonSince I have fairies for every single element now, I should probably figure out the ideal combination. See, you can only carry five fairies at a time. Those that aren’t in your inventory at any moment hang out at Amy’s home in London, which is therefore the only place where you can swap different fairies into your inventory. Whenever you go back there, you can see them all fluttering around 1Actually, it’s kind of unsatisfying how they basically just stay in place and turn to face Amy all the time. I’d rather see them flitting hither and thither on their own business, getting into the kitchen supplies, making mischief, etc., providing a colorful contrast to the first-twenty-minutes-of-The-Wizard-of-Oz decor. One wonders what will happen when Amy’s parents get back from wherever they’ve been for the entire game.

zanzarah-gridNow, Shadow Elves tend to favor Dark and Chaos-type fairies, but really, they can be armed with any type. Sometimes unexpected types are found roaming wild as well — for example, there are bits of greenery capable of supporting Nature fairies even in the Realm of Clouds. So an ideal loadout has a combination of fairies that’s strong against every element. There are many combinations that do this, but it’s also a good idea to try to have some redundancy, and to minimize the number of elements that each is weak to. It’s notable that those Dark and Chaos types are weak against a lot more elements than they’re strong against. The designers really want you to favor the “good” types.

There are a couple more constraints beyond that. Magic cards, needed to overcome terrain obstacles, can only be used by a fairy of the appropriate element. So if you need to clear thorn bushes, you need a Nature fairy with you, and if you need to smash boulders, you need a Stone-type. Once a bush or boulder is gone, however, it stays gone, so the need for nature and stone is temporary. The Air card lets you ride updrafts, but doing so doesn’t alter the terrain at all, so an Air fairy will likely be in my final pack. Presumably the Fire card also won’t wreak any permanent changes when I find it, but its utility is limited to a single area, the lava caves, while those updrafts are found all over the place, and are sometimes the only way to cross chasms to where you need to go.

So, my final team will have an Air fairy in it. Probably a Light fairy as well, because of the preponderance of Dark and Chaos types in the Shadow Realm, and because there’s only one element that Light is weak against: Psi. Also for that reason I’ll need a Psi fairy. I haven’t had to fight many Light-types yet, but I’m willing to bet that the White Druid has some and that I’ll need to beat him before this is over. That leaves two slots, and the only potential foes not covered are Nature, Air, and Energy. An Ice fairy covers all those gaps, leaving me one slot free for a back-up fairy. Or for whatever I’m trying to power-level at any given moment in order to evolve it and complete my Fairédex (which, despite what I’ve said before, does seem to be completable — some of the “unique” fairies aren’t really.)

1 Actually, it’s kind of unsatisfying how they basically just stay in place and turn to face Amy all the time. I’d rather see them flitting hither and thither on their own business, getting into the kitchen supplies, making mischief, etc.

Zanzarah: Short session

My last session was short and uneventful. I made a more thorough exploration of a couple of locations, and I managed to level up a couple of my fairies, and that’s it. It strikes me that this is not a bad way to play RPGs — a little bit of incremental progress now and then, as time allows — but that I haven’t been doing it lately, because of this blog. If I’m committed to writing about each session until I finish the game, I feel every session has to yield something worth writing about. But how many insights can a game like this provoke? Thus, I try to save up my Stack gaming for longer sessions, and on days when I can’t do that, I just play games that are already off the stack, or demos, or free web-based stuff. (Moneysieze has been a particular obsession of mine lately, and I should probably write something about it at some point.)

Thus, to the extent that this blog was meant to be a way to encourage me to finish up older games, it has failed. It is sometimes actually discouraging me from playing them. I’m not sure what to do about this. A modification of the Oath might be in order, or maybe just a shift in attitude.

Zanzarah: Stuckage

If it weren’t for that little fink Rafi, I’d still be making progress in this game.

Rafi is the first inhabitant of Zanzarah you meet, and if you keep visiting him (which is optional), he functions as an advisor, telling you at each turn of the plot what your current main objective is. There’s usually an equivalent piece of feedback in the form of an exclamation mark on the place you need to visit next in your in-game world map, but that doesn’t tell you why you need to go there. Rafi does.

Ever since I started playing again, Rafi has had just two pieces of advice. The more important one is that I must go to the Shadowlands to confront the White Druid’s Guard. (It seems to be common knowledge that the Guard resides in the realms of Shadow. Why didn’t anyone remember this when the Shadow Elves came? Zanzarans are a little dopey, I guess.) But also, Rafi tells me to explore everything else first, and, in particular, to try to find the Fire Card, which will allow me to explore the game’s lava caves without dying.

It seems like good advice. A fire-themed dungeon is exactly what I need to round out my roster of fairies, as I have only one Fire-type at the moment. The problem is that I have no idea where this card is. My only clue is that it was owned by the Dwarves at one point, but they lost it. Supposedly I can find it by exploring the land’s secrets, but I’ve pretty much run out of secrets to explore.

My stance here is kind of unreasonable, really. If I find I need a Fire fairy, I do in fact already have one. And it’s not like venturing into the Shadows will prevent me from coming back to the fire areas later. There’s a teleport-to-checkpoints system that’s pretty basic to the game, and it’s always worked in the few sallies below I’ve made so far. But Rafi, blast him, has ideas about what order I should do things in, and I’m really not inclined to argue with the guy. Doing things out of order in a CRPG generally just means abnormally high difficulty for a while, followed by abnormal lack of difficulty when you go back.

Zanzarah: Diligence

I have a couple of corrections to my last post. The Guard (not Guardian) is specifically the thing that keeps humans out of Zanzarah. Its malfunctioning is the reason that the elements are out of balance. The White Druid knows this, but was trying to keep it secret, because he knows that if anyone else knew, they’d try to turn it off, and he thinks that insane fairies are a small price to pay for keeping Zanzarah protected from grubby humans and their chain stores and jazz music. Well, it’s not like he has to endure the consequences personally. He lives in the clouds. (This is one of those moments where I sincerely wonder if the authors intended the symbolism or if it’s just a happy coincidence.) And the missing dwarf king, Quinlin, who was framed for the whole tribulation? Held captive by the Druid, to keep him from talking. Quinlin knows all about the Guard, because he helped build it.

Now, you’re reading that recap as a neat little chunk of text. For me, recovering the information involved revisiting a bunch of locations, some infested with wild fairies. Fortunately, I’m at a stage of the game where I wanted to revisit places anyway. I have a bunch of fairies that need to level, and a bunch of tools for opening up secret areas that I couldn’t get to the first time round. This is part of how this sort of game extends play time, and how much you enjoy it depends on how much you enjoy executing this kind of diligent thoroughness.

In fact, I’ll go a step farther than that and say that exercising diligence is probably a big part of the reason that people find CRPGs enjoyable. Or, at any rate, the reason that the sort of person who finds CRPGs enjoyable finds them enjoyable. Not everyone does. But tastes differ. I’ve seen it claimed that, by and large, the activities people enjoy are the ones that exercise the skill they’re good at. This seemed possibly backwards to me — isn’t it that people become good at the things they enjoy doing, because they’re so much more motivated to practice them than the things they don’t enjoy? Regardless, there’s a correlation between skills and pleasure. Solving puzzles is a skill, and there are entire genres of puzzle-game for the people who are good at it. Tactical decision-making, precise timing, quick reflexes 1Does it make sense to separate timing from reflexes in this list? I think it does. Reflexes are what you need in a two-player fighting game, to react to the opponent’s moves the instant they’re launched. Timing is what you need in a Mario-style platformer: everything is deterministic, and the same sequence of moves performed in the same way will work every time, provided you can execute them just right. , spotting visual patterns: all skills with games to appeal to them. Diligence is a skill. But it’s not a skill that requires a great deal of brainpower or physical coordination, and for that reason games that appeal to it are denigrated by those who enjoy exercising those skills more.

1 Does it make sense to separate timing from reflexes in this list? I think it does. Reflexes are what you need in a two-player fighting game, to react to the opponent’s moves the instant they’re launched. Timing is what you need in a Mario-style platformer: everything is deterministic, and the same sequence of moves performed in the same way will work every time, provided you can execute them just right.

Zanzarah: Nearing the end?

So, let’s get back to this. I think I’m approaching the end, partly because I’m running out of new fairy elements to acquire, but mainly because Rafi, the helpful goblin NPC who you can always talk to to find out what you’re supposed to do next in order to advance the plot, basically told me that at this point I should finish up any side-quests I’d been putting off. It’s been a while since I played, so I think it’s a good idea to refresh my memory about the plot. I am by now fuzzy on many of the details, and writing down everything I remember will help me to clarify what I need to re-learn.

As you may recall, the realm of Zanzarah was menaced by some great unknown evil, which produced an invasion by Shadow Elves 1Not Dark Elves, as I had previously stated. A trivial distinction, perhaps, but there’s at least one possibly-symbolic difference of connotation: a shadow has to be cast by something, and is ultimately produced by light. , hostile wild fairies, and roadblocks of various sorts such as large rocks and thorn bushes. (In grand Zelda tradition, plot-crucial battles often yield the tool necessary to overcome one type of obstacle.) A prophecy told of a human hero that would rectify things, so Rafi went and arbitrarily brought Amy into Zanzarah, apparently figuring that one human is as good as another. After some acts of heroism in the Elf and Goblin territories, she was advised to consult with the powerful White Druid, who no one had seen in some time. The White Druid turned out to be in the Realm of Clouds, a floating land of marble ruins, home only to wild air-type fairies and some Shadow Elves that had got there somehow.

The White Druid appears to be human. (Apart from Amy, he’s the only person in Zanzarah who’s more than four feet tall.) This is strange, because there are quite explicitly no humans in the land of Zanzarah. There used to be humans, but they were supposedly all driven out ages ago for acting like dicks. Perhaps the other Zanzarans don’t know he’s human? Like I said, he’s been isolated in the Cloud Realm for some time.

The White Druid showed me an arena where there was a Shadow Elf boss fight. The pre-battle banter implied that the Shadow Elves were in league with the dwarves, and the loot included a staff known to belong to the dwarf ruler. Already this seemed suspicious to me, but the news got out quickly (I’m not sure how), and there was an immediate call among the public to punish the traitorous dwarf king and probably expel his entire race, just like they did to the humans. The dwarves, of course, pleaded with the prophecied hero to help them prove their innocence, and shortly afterward Rafi expressed the opinion that the White Druid himself framed them.

Now, here’s the bit that I’m particularly fuzzy on: There’s an entity called the Guardian. It may be the end boss, the Sauron to the White Druid’s Saruman. Apparently it was created to protect Zanzarah, but it’s gone haywire, and is the real source of all the problems. In particular, it decided that maintaining the status quo requires preventing the prophecy of the human hero from coming true, and created all those roadblocks specifically to retard Amy’s progress. So it’s one of those self-fulfilling things, because these safeguards against the Prophecy are the only reason Amy’s there in the first place. To make it even more circular, the Prophecy was apparently invented specifically to give Rafi an excuse to keep in contact with the Human world just in case something went wrong with the Guardian. Or something like that.

If the Guardian is in fact the end boss, it’s not clear to me whether it has fairies under its control or whether I’d be fighting it directly. The latter would be kind of strange, because the game has no combat mechanics for anything other than fairy duels, and the few pictures I’ve seen of the Guardian so far make it look more like some kind of weird clockwork apparatus. But then, the fairies themselves have been getting stranger and more monstrous at this point. The abandoned dwarven workshops have artificial robotic fairies, which can be captured like any wild fairy, and then upgraded; after two upgrades, you have a robotic fairy torso on the body of a metal scorpion. In the more advanced forest areas, there’s a new Nature-type that’s half-whelk, half-jabberwock. It gave me quite a start when I first saw it.

1 Not Dark Elves, as I had previously stated. A trivial distinction, perhaps, but there’s at least one possibly-symbolic difference of connotation: a shadow has to be cast by something, and is ultimately produced by light.

Zanzarah: Spell Mechanics

So, in my last post about Zanzarah, I described a situation where I had to fight a team of Dark and Chaos fairies simultaneously. I had fairies that are strong against Dark and fairies that are strong against Chaos, but nothing that’s strong against both at once. In theory, I could use a Water fairy to take out the few Dark ones 1Or one. There seems to be some randomization in the battle; the last time I tried it, only one was Dark. This didn’t help. and then swap in a Nature or Air fairy to take care of the rest, but since Chaos is strong against Water, this generally just meant my fairy would die before it could make an impact. Ideally I needed a Light fairy, but there weren’t any available. (And yes, I spent some time revisiting old haunts just in case there was something I had neglected.) So I finally did the next-best thing: I equipped a Water fairy with an offensive Light spell 2Not only are you allowed to purchase spells that you can’t use yet, it’s generally a good idea to do so. That way, when you suddenly get your first fairy in a new element, you can immediately hook it up with better stuff., capable of killing any of these foes with one or two blasts. The Chaos fairies could still damage it, but they could no longer do so faster than it could damage them.

Now, for most fairies, this would be impossible. Most fairies can only use spells of their own element. It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, though. Every spell description has up to three colored spots on it, with the color indicating an element, and the number of spots indicating what we can think of as the spell’s level. The UI for assigning spells likewise puts a number of colored spots under each spell slot, indicating what that slot can take. (That number can be zero, indicating that the slot is not yet usable.) At least one of these spots will always be the fairy’s element, but sometimes the second and/or third slot will be a different color, or even rainbow-colored, indicating that it will accomodate any element. (It took me a while to figure this out, because the rainbow really looks mostly green.) So, for example, the water fairy I used in this battle had a slot with one blue (Water) slot and two rainbow slots, so I could equip it with a level-3 Water spell or a level-2 spell of any sort whatsoever. Some spells even require this sort of thing, as they contain spots of two different colors.

Spells and spell slots come in two sorts: attack spells (indicated by circular spots), which are activated in combat with the left mouse button, and passive spells (square spots), which are either always active, or trigger automatically under some condition (usually getting hit). At any moment, a fairy can have at most one attack spell and one passive spell in use, but it can have a secondary bank prepared (also containing an attack spell and a passive spell) and switch to that bank during combat. (This is something I haven’t really taken advantage of, but I suspect I’ll need to as the battles grow longer.) Thus, each fairy has four spell slots. Typically, a fairy will start with a capacity of just one level-one attack spell, and gain extra spots as its level increases. But the progression is different from species to species: a particular sort might grow its passive slots faster than its attack slots, or get to level 3 in bank 1 while bank 2 is still unavailable, or get rainbow spots in compensation for gaining them slower.

The interesting thing about this is what happens when a fairy changes type. In Pokémon, evolving your creatures was pretty much entirely positive, except that the evolved form would usually level more slowly, a penalty that Zanzarah seems to have preserved. But in Zanzarah, the spell slot progression can change completely when a fairy evolves. For example, the trick that I used with the water fairy? I can’t do it any more. It gained enough experience from that one battle to evolve into a new form, one that doesn’t have any rainbow slots. Suddenly, the “cancel evolution” option seems like it could be worthwhile sometimes.

Fortunately, as anticipated, I acquired a Light fairy in the immediate aftermath of that battle, and thus had another outlet for Light spells.

Unfortunately, I had to immediately trade it away to progress in the story. So it goes.

1 Or one. There seems to be some randomization in the battle; the last time I tried it, only one was Dark. This didn’t help.
2 Not only are you allowed to purchase spells that you can’t use yet, it’s generally a good idea to do so. That way, when you suddenly get your first fairy in a new element, you can immediately hook it up with better stuff.

Zanzarah: Elements

In Zanzarah, elemental powers are key. Every fairy belongs to one element, and every element is strong against some other elements, weak against others, and indifferent to the rest. (Canonical example: water is strong against fire. Someday I’d like to see a game that reverses that just to mess with us.) A fairy can easily beat an opponent that’s twice its experience level if it’s a kind that it’s strong against, and will probably gain an experience level for doing so without the assistance of other fairies. And since gaining a level restores a fairy’s health and partially restores its mana, this is a good way to make extended explorations without spending a lot on restoratives. I can imagine catching fresh low-level fairies specifically to take advantage of this.

The elements are: Nature (plants), Stone, Water, Air, Psi, Ice, Dark, Energy (electric), Chaos, Flame, Light, and Metal. That’s not quite the same as the Pokémon element list, but there’s a substantial overlap. You can often tell what elements you’ll encounter from the terrain — for example, snowy mountain peaks abound in Stone and Ice types — but the type is pretty much an arbitrary designation with no effect on gameplay. There are exceptions, though, where attacks have special effects. For example, there are Ice attacks that temporarily slow or freeze the opponent (in addition to doing damage), and a Psychic spell that teleports its target to a random spot on the battlefield. Now, unlike in Pokémon, attacks are not specific to particular species of fairy; any attack can be bought from a spell merchant and equipped on any fairy that’s the right element and is powerful enough to use it. So I could use these special effects if I wanted to, but they never really seem worthwhile. The freeze attack would be nice, but it can only be cast five times before refueling, and that’s often insufficient for even a single fight. The teleportation attack seems outright harmful to the caster: it takes an opponent that’s in your sights and removes it. So, for me, these specials are pretty much only done by the opponent. My own fairies are just damage-dealers in different flavors.

I don’t have fairies of all the elements at my disposal yet. One really frustrating thing the game does repeatedly is withhold an element from you until you’ve managed to beat a bunch of fairies that it would be really useful against. The most recent example I’ve encountered (and haven’t overcome yet) is a Dark Elf guarding a crucial item with a team of Dark and Chaos fairies, which, unfairly, all attack you at the same time. (Although you can switch fairies mid-combat, you can have only one out at a time. Dark Elves have apparently learned to overcome this restriction.) Now, I have creatures that are strong against Dark and I have creatures that are strong against Chaos, but to survive that kind of onslaught, what you really want is something that’s strong against both. Only one element qualifies: Light. It’s possible that there’s a Light fairy hidden somewhere that I haven’t found, but more likely that I’ll gain access to my first immediately after the fight is over.

Zanzarah: Catching ’em All

The plot of Zanzarah is pretty standard fantasy-game fare: a shadow has fallen upon the land, a prophesied hero must set it right. No one knows quite what the source of the evil is, but it’s harassing the cities with posses of fairy-wielding Dark Elves (portrayed here as light-skinned but wearing dark outfits), and apparently is also responsible for getting the wild fairies so agitated. Normally they’d be peacefully flitting about and laughing and sipping nectar from flowers and replacing human children with changelings and so forth, not attacking people on the road. (Although I have to wonder if my captive fairies have something to do with that. You’re not allowed out into the wild until you have a fairy of your own, so it’s impossible to tell how they’d behave towards someone who wasn’t enslaving their people.) So your goal is to fulfill the prophecy and stop all that.

But there is of course a second goal, an implicit one: catching ’em all. One of the basic UI overlays, along with the inventory and the map, is the Pokédex-like “Fairy Book”. Since this is a PC game instead of a Gameboy game, it can fit every type of fairy on the screen at once as a nice grid of icons, with empty boxes for the ones you don’t have. Those boxes just beg to be filled in. Best of all, since this is a single-player game, it should be feasible! None of this nonsense of trying to find trading partners and failing because the game is nearly a decade old. Every species that exists can be found and caught, or evolved from something that can be found and caught.

So it’s a bit of a shame that they messed it up. Unlike Pokémon, where every pokémon species you’ve handled goes into your Pokédex permanently, the Fairy Book only lists those species you have currently. If you evolve one of your fairies into a more powerful form, it leaves a hole in the grid where its old form was. Well, okay, you caught it once, you can catch it again if it really matters to you. Except that in some cases you can’t. There exist unique fairies. I have an “energy”-type (electric) fairy that supposedly there are only two of in the world. It evolves through at least three forms. There’s an NPC that offers a unique fairy in trade for something I haven’t got yet. Once you get it, you’re apparently expected to trade it away to another NPC. And yeah, once you’ve had and lost these things, you know that you’ve had them. But that’s not as satisfying as watching the grid in the Fairy Book fill up.

Game designers don’t always correctly anticipate how people will react to or use their designs. For elements they consider minor, even playtesting doesn’t necessarily help. I’m assuming that there are other players who shared my reaction to the fairy grid, but the designers were probably thinking of it as a reference guide to your current options, rather than as a score card. This is the sort of problem I’d expect to see addressed in a sequel, if there were any chance of one.

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