Monday, April 2, 2018

Notes on Trails in the Sky FC's Pacing

I finished the first Trails in the Sky game yesterday. It's a 2004 PSP RPG by Falcom (that's also available on Steam). I played it on-and-off for a little under six months, then blazed through the back-half of the game in about four days. I loved it a whole lot.

Most of the game is perfect in a pretty straightforward way. The pacing is the only part that was challenging about it for me. It's very slow, especially at the start, for reasons that aren't immediately apparent. My friends warned me about the pacing, which helped get me into the right head-space before starting. 

I listed some of my not-directly-spoilery off-the-cuff thoughts on the pacing immediately coming off the game. Hopefully they'll help you the way my friends helped me!

Pacing Notes

1) The main plot is in the background for most of the game. Don't play it expecting a Final Fantasy-style roller coaster. 

2) It's divided into a handful of chapters, each of which has a strong driving conflict that mostly resolves at the chapter's conclusion.

3) The prologue is an exception and lacks a driving conflict. It's the least engaging part of the game. I kept playing because I found the characters and aesthetic charming.

4) If you also find the writing and style charming, I think it's worth playing the game up through the chapter two finale to see if it grabs you. That's when I got invested in seeing the rest of the story through.

5) The finale is very good. I don't think it'd be rewarding for folks that disliked the rest of the game up to that point though. If you're not having a good time by the end of the second chapter, it might not be a game for you.

6) The story is constructed intentionally. While it's slow-paced, there's zero wheel-spinning. The game ultimately rewards your trust and investment.

7) The story ends with a gut-punch cliff-hanger and a literal trailer for the sequel. However, the cliff-hanger happens after all the main plot threads resolve. While it prevents FC from functioning as a stand-alone story, it doesn't feel cheap.

8) I really want to play the sequel.