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Regdren

Ring of Red playthrough: Combined arms with walking war machines.

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Ring of Red is a tactics game released for the PS2 in 2000 for in Japan and 2001 abroad. It has an alternate history setting that has Japan's creative process all over it. Why else would there be giant walking war machines in World War 2? But mecha aside, the ideas are very interesting to me and have a certain feel of truth and plausibility to them. It's about Japan as a divided country and all the problems that come with it. Remember East and West Germany? In Ring of Red, Japan never surrendered in WW2 so it was invaded and split in a very similar way. We have North Japan and South Japan and you'd better believe that things are messy. It's the 1960s and everything is bad, which makes it a perfect setting for a war game. Let's take a look.

As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.

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I'm planning to link a video every couple of days. I need to edit things a fair bit to make things run smoothly but I think it's worth the effort.

Alright, in missions 1 and 2 we had access to about half of the gameplay. Here we get the other half: soldiers! That's right, Ring of Red is about supporting your heavy (and light) war machines with people on the ground. It's the only mecha game I've seen that takes this sort of thing seriously and I think it adds a lot to the overall atmosphere. Your hotshot pilots alone are not going to win this one!

Mission 3 is the first place in the game where all of the basic mechanics are in place. We have soldiers as well as all of the main AFW types. This is where the player is supposed to learn how squads work and make some mistakes before the enemy starts to bring really nasty things to the field. And mission accomplished, I guess. At the time of recording I hadn't played the game in quite a while. If Dean Takeshi is correct about unskilled gameplay being authentic, my play in mission 3 is about as authentic as the game can be without a Game Over. Still, I'd like to think that I learned my lesson.

 

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Today we'll see what a decent anti-solider setup can do. Kinsato's machine is great for this but with the right squads any machine can fill that role. I'll try to assign the right squads in the next map. We also have night battles! Surprisingly, night battles can easily work in the player's favor. Many enemies don't have illumination shots to counter the night time accuracy penalty, so if you plan well you can easily get a big advantage in damage.

Augestein, that was pretty much my reaction too when I found out about Ring of Red. What impressed me the most was that it was a game about mecha where infantry plays a vital role rather than being essentially decoration. The setting and various game mechanics seem pretty creative too. A down side is that battles can drag on a bit and watching the troop skills play over and over can get repetitive. That's why I speed them up in my videos.

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Looking back on it, mission 3 was fairly complex in its design and an odd choice for the first "real" map of the game. 3 and 4 could have easily be switched for a smoother progression in difficulty. I will give map 3 credit though, it clearly and sternly showed some of the problems in my sloppy squad setup. I'd like to think that my formation in stage 4 is a fair deal better. You be the judge.

 

These videos have proven time-consuming to make due to the editing involved. Doing live voice commentary is much, much faster to put together and upload, but I have some things in mind for the future that don't really lend themselves well to that style. Plus I don't think I'd be able to talk steadily through a game like this and keep my comments interesting.

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It's not going to take long to figure out some of the drawbacks of Ring of Red. I love a lot of the ideas, but let's face facts: as I mentioned before, missions can drag quite a lot. There is in-mission saving; Ring of Red uses a quicksave method which deletes the quicksave upon loading it. While this is a tried and true tactics staple, I can easily see someone becoming frustrated after losing two hours into a mission.

I haven't really talked much about green squads so I'll do it here. They are secret squads that depend on you doing less straightforward things in a map. Sometimes it's capturing an objective instead of wiping out a whole map, sometimes it's triggering conversations between characters, sometimes it's defeating an enemy with a specific character. The game doesn't say what you need to do to get these squads which annoys me a fair bit. One thing that green squads all have in common is that they bend the rules of the squad type. They have strange strengths and weaknesses. Such as Kurita squad. It's a shooter squad with no ground skills that's god-awful at loading your AFW, a skill which shooters usually handle well. However, they carry a crazy number of special long range shells with them. I love that sort of thing so you should expect me to use those kinds of squads a lot in my playthrough. I'll try to make note of them whenever I can.

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It didn't occur to me until yesterday that carefully splitting the team to take side objectives before the enemy ruins them feels a little bit like Fire Emblem. Especially with the emphasis of not taking any losses because CONSEQUENCES. That's just about the only similarity between the two game types but maybe it's notable anyway.

Coming up is a mission split. the amount of time taken to finish mission 5 determines what the next 3 or 4 missions will look like, as well as who joins our forces next. Unfortunately the EXP bonus for finishing quickly still applies, so one path is more optimal than the other. I would have preferred some other way to determine the split...oh well.

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Mission 5 is my second chance to try a hybrid build. This time the base machine is more suited for the job so maybe I'll have better luck this time. I find that two anti-soldier squads are needed to do that job with any effectiveness, so the third gets AFW-killing duty. Enemy AFWs that are stripped of squads are much less dangerous, so I think this ratio will work.

This wild chase gets more absurd by the minute. Cover story or no, I can't believe anyone will think the South Japan government isn't involved in this raid and infiltration. We're not being subtle, and we're using the very latest South Japan war machines. It's a miracle that our "sneaky" beach landing hasn't started a full scale war already!

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Oops, looks like i'm a day late.

The enemy squad setups slide yet another step towards competent. It's not so visible right now but as things progress the AI will do things that I previously thought it not capable of. They're using that smart trick BY ACCIDENT, I'd say to my self in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. What do you mean the tricks I learned in the first two full maps won't carry me through the entire game?!

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One of the things I like in Ring of Red is that it has side objectives which don't snowball nearly as hard as in other games. Collecting all of the squads gives me a lot of setup options i wouldn't have otherwise, but they don't skyrocket my stats to absurd levels. John is stuck at 420 HP and a token patch of armor through the whole game, so I can't afford to no-brain it through later missions no matter how well I do early on.

Next time we're going to see a new member of the force. Jun uses a light-AFW that is much less straightforward than that of Kinsato, and will take some good planning to use properly. I saw what a good plan looks like once, I'm sure that's all I need to come up with something myself.

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Ok, I'm definitely slipping. I have plenty of content to upload, maybe I just need to use Google calendar or something.

Today we have every gamer's favorite scenario: an escort mission!

I think the reason i like green squads so much is that they are unique enough to change the way I approach things without being hideously overpowered. Even the later ones without glaring weaknesses are often built so that I can't take advantage of all their features at once. Really makes me stop to think about how exactly I want my units to behave.

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Although I made fun of it, I wish more escort missions were like this one in Ring of Red. It is exceptionally easy to manage.

Ring of Red's maps are pretty cramped. There's often a road or bridge and moving away from that puts you in terrain that delays turns by a lot. It makes for some tough decisions that I enjoy overall.

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As mission 6 draws to a close, I'd like to thank those who have watched my videos so far. it's really nice to have an audience for this sort of thing.

My brother informs me that the original script was probably supposed to be "Gulag" instead of "Prison Camp", but an overly literal translation made things extra ridiculous. I love funny-bad translations though, so no complaints here.

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It's time to move on to mission seven! The enemy is done with being a mostly-helpless stomping toy and has some dangerous ammunition this time. hopefully the next few videos will show the problems and solutions involved.

Also: is this format of one post per video okay? I noticed that others are more like one post with the full playlist and don't want to annoy people by flooding the update list. Let me know if I'm causing any problems.

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I always liked Ring of Red; rented it way back and ended up getting to keep it when the local video store went out of business. The fights always felt weighty whether it was a close shave, a curb stomp, or a deadlock and lots of tactical options to experiment with. I didn't know that mechanics didn't knock enemy AFWs back when they hit them, I guess that explains why the enemy would sometimes melt and not others.

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Sega Chief: yeah I think that bit with the mechanics was a very nice touch from a design perspective. Their attacks would be a lot less useful if they pushed the enemy out of their effective range. I agree about the weight as well. There's something to be said for slow, clunky war machines and the impact of everything they do.

Speaking of less obvious game mechanics, I just recently found out something about the Recover command. I was playing around with my movement options and discovered that the time penalty seems to be doubled if you execute a recovery after moving. I saw the time to next turn jump by one hour if done standing still, while it jumped to two extra hours after a move. I plan to talk about this more in a future video, but for now I'll just say that I might adjust some of my strategies to account for this.

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I'd like to talk a little bit about game design. Why is one kind of unit sealed off until several maps into the game? The anti-AFW is not what I'd call unbalanced. If it takes a hit to mobility from Wire or damage to the legs then it is pretty much useless. For this reason it relies very heavily on its squads, but the squads with repair and cleanup tend to be fragile. Even if it does manage to close in and deliver a punch the damage doesn't match a full battle with other kinds of AFWs.

The best answer I can come up with is that very early in the game, neither side has the tools to handle an anti-AFW's battle plan. Very few squads have mines or wire early in the game. Pilots don't aim well enough to reliably push an Anti backwards with direct attacks. Anyone not named Kinsato would have a lot of trouble removing an enemy squad before close combat ended the battle. On the enemy side the problem is less severe due to shaky AI, but even then nothing short of a long range engagement from a 4-leg could reliably prevent a punch. That sort of thing could easily drag out a battle and frustrate the player. And if the player got an early anti-AFW, it could easily absorb pretty much any assault with no fear whatsoever. In Mission 8 I intend to show the defensive power of an Anti even against well-equipped opponents.

But we're not at mission 8 yet. Let's look at the next part of mission 7.

I'm kind of unhappy about how different the gameplay is from what all of the characters are saying. According to both sides in-story, we executed an ambush pretty well. However from the direction, proximity, and numbers of enemy reinforcements, it feels more like we got ambushed ourselves.

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We've seen video game enemies do all kinds of impossible things when the game calls for it. This goes way beyond just unique skills that still follow basic rules. We're talking reality-warping, "I'm alive no matter what because the game says so" scale shenanigans. We've seen some of that already in the second map, and we're going to see some of it here too.

Maybe this would be a good place for you viewers to talk about what particular rule-breaking enemies annoyed you the most. I'd love to hear your own experiences, whether in tactics games, racing games, chess simulators, whatever.

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I think that a good tactics game will scare you every now and then. When you learn that your solid formation actually has a flaw, or you didn't pay as much attention to turn order as you should have, or that enemy actually CAN reach you...I'm sure you've been in a situation like that. For me, it's a nice reminder to not be complacent. I think the enemy-as-teacher idea has a lot going for it.

From this point onward updates are going to be slower. I started this series with some video stored up, but I haven't been able to make more at the pace I would like. Hopefully I'll be able to explain in more detail when I do mission 8.

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Today, we have a defense mission! With a VERY special sub-objective that is sure to cause an amazing amount of trouble.

We have a change in format from now on. I like text a lot, mostly because I don't have to fiddle too much with game sound level versus the volume of my own talking. I was worried that I would not have enough to talk about in these videos but so far: not a problem.

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Watch me completely lose my ability to talk due to a move by the AI. come on, it'll be fun!

After playing the game for this long you'd think I had a pretty good idea of what the AI values in its move decisions. But all I know so far is that they really...REALLY hate my medium AFWs. What? A chance to attack my 4-leg at short range? Nah I'd rather attack this medium AFW.

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That feeling when I render the video and only then notice that I didn't speed up all of the skill animations.

Today we have our second boss fight. Kaiho's main threat was that he can take an AFW from full to zero in one fight if handled badly. His weakness is that you can quickly drain most of his max attacks and leave him vulnerable. Minakawa offers a different problem: if you don't stop him immediately, he'll punch you and end the battle without you being able to do anything. At most he will use 2 max attacks in most battles so you can't really run him out of stamina. Not without suffering followups from all the AFWs under his command, at least. his weakness is that same as that of most Anti-AFWs: if you DO manage to tie him down he will suffer a lot of damage without being able to fight back much.

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I have not yet seen an enemy try to escape from a battle except in one of those cut scenes. You know, the kind where a named pilot turns and runs from close combat distance all the way to escape distance on double-crushed legs. So escape as a battle mechanic must have been added solely for the player's benefit. It definitely has to be used wisely. After all, in order to get the bonuses from completing a map quickly, we have to make the best use of every encounter with the enemy. But there are times when it's useful. I feel like a good escape is the kind where I feel I'm getting away with something, rather than just getting away from the battle.

 

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I mention this a few times during the videos, but I think it's worth talking about here as well. Looking back at old footage really helps me to see where my gameplay can improve. This is the sort of thing that didn't really happen before I started recording for Youtube, and it's nice to have this kind of review available. I think Real Time strategy games were the first to include in-built recording to review preevious games, and fighting games followed some time later. I'm wondering if maybe more genres could to with that kind of feature to help discover flaws and patterns in one's own gameplay.

 

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Coming up next: the conclusion of mission 8 and the end of our introduction to the North Japan Loyal Army.

There's always a danger of hyping up an enemy in the storyline but having them be no problem in the gameplay. I think Ring of Red manages to avoid this problem. Most of the enemy squads have 3 skills, their machines are pretty comparable to those of the player (except for the 4-legs), and they are reasonably competent in direct battle. They still suffer from some very odd decisions on the tactical map though. This map also shows the power of Ippei if he is used properly, which I also appreciate. The game doesn't do anything silly like tell you "Move Ippei to this square to shut down the enemy's offense!" Instead the map shape and enemy placement are just designed to encourage such a move. It's still up to the player to figure things out. So, respect for the map designers!

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