Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Streamers May Cry - Devil May Cry 5 Full Spoilercast

Devil May Cry 5 has been out for quite a few weeks now, and by now there's been enough time for most players to complete the story and start on some of the higher difficulties.

With that in mind, I requested a few of my friends, ZeroAsher (Sam) and AShadowLink (Matt), join me for a discussion about the game in its totality.

That's right: This is a full spoiler, comprehensive run down on our combined thoughts every single aspect of Devil May Cry 5. From the story to the casts and the gameplay, everything is fair game.

I apologize for the poor audio mixing for the first part of this recording. Once we were made aware, it was addressed.

Once again, thanks to both Sam and Matt for agreeing to come on despite their busy schedules. I enjoy conversations like this because they help me make sense of all the lingering thoughts in my head.

Though we touched on so many subjects during that 2 hour talk, the one that I keep coming back to in my mind is the brief discussion we had about the style meter. The more I think about it, the more I double-down on the notion that it is one of the smartest mechanics Devil May Cry has ever implemented, and the crux behind so much of it's success.

It allows the designers to make create scenarios that are easy enough such that most players will be able to finish that game on Human (Easy) or Devil Hunter (Normal) without too much challenge. If players keep trying and retrying, even if they need to use Gold Orbs, which the game is very generous with, they will almost definitely be able to make it to the end. However, because that style meter is in place, veteran players are able to challenge themselves to not just win each fight, but to do it as stylishly as possible, aiming for the elusive Smokin' Sexy Style (SSS) rank. And this is important, because the game really wants its players to succeed. It is routing for each and every one of them, and players feel that in the way it treats them.

Aside from the questionably named D for Dismal ranking (which is not too hard to advance beyond), each letter grade is a celebration of how cool the game thinks the player is. As you score a B rank, the game displays the word "Badass" underneath, as if to say "Look at how Badass you are for getting that high in the Style rankings, Player 1". As Matt pointed out, enemies telegraph their attacks in such a way that players should have enough time to react. It feels like the game is warning you, not because it feels bad for you, but because it wants to see what cool trick you have up your sleeve to dodge and/or punish this foe for daring to strike at you.

Someone I also made a note of as I was fighting (and losing) to the end bosses on my first run was that even the hint boxes seem written in such a way as to encourage the player to keep trying. When I restart the final boss in mission 20, the game's hint system says that I already know rushing in blindly won't get me anywhere. However, it also reminds me that if I focus, and pay attention to my opponent's attack pattern, I should be able to figure out when he's open to attack. Rather than insult my failure, it knows that I have the ability to see my adventure through to the end, and implores me to keep trying.

Even as the last boss beats me up, the game encourages me to keep fighting.

This desire to make the player feel awesome and welcome extends to the basic controls. Devil May Cry V has no interest in forcing one to memorize tons of complicated moves and combos. Every melee attack is bound to the same button, but flicking the analog stick in a different direction, or tapping it in a different rhythm is what enables different combo attacks. Gun moves tend to just need to be held down, and there is a dedicated button for each character's special move (Nero's Breakers, V's finishers, and Dante's styles). The controls are deliberately simple because the trick to building up style is learning how to use a variety of moves while not taking damage and keeping up pressure. Why bog the player down with unnecessary bloat in the control scheme when all the game wants to do is make them feel cool?

The series has a reputation for being a challenge, and it is... but only if that's what the player wants. That's the secret. If all one wants to do is get to the end of the game and have a complete story experience, the game is perfectly okay with that. Even if that means dropping the difficulty down to Human, that's okay. On the other hand, the ones who desire a challenge, to push themselves in harder and harder difficulties and climb the ranks, the game is also okay with that. Whatever style of engagement works for you, Devil May Cry wants to be there to deliver on that. It's a deceptive accessible game, and that's part of why I love it so much.

Oh, and the cast are some of the most lovable goofballs you'll ever meet in a video game, but you already knew that.

Update: Sam wrote his own piece on his new boyfriend, V, which you can read here.

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