For some reason, despite having finished my previous post at least a half hour in advance, and having scheduled it through WordPress, it didn’t take, and is a half an hour late. I have just enough OCD to be ridiculously upset about that.

Anyway, I was talking about repeatable mystery.

Previously, I mentioned that Persona 3 with its calendar-based events and Social Link system provided a great non-combat alternative to, erm, combat. There was always a clear goal with Tartarus: reach the top. To do that, you had to get stronger by fighting, and by acquiring, leveling, and fusing new personae.

The non-combat stuff, by comparison, felt rather aimless. While you know you have to spend time with the Social Link characters to advance them, there are occasionally hidden requirements, and not all of them are available from the start – which only makes it worse the persona fusion is also keyed off Social Link levels.

The answer, it would seem, is a tangible, short-term reward scheme for non-combat stuff. Here’s where I talk about Assassin’s Creed 2. Now, I know AC2 wasn’t the first to introduce the idea of reinvesting in shops to upgrade their content (Disgaea did it much earlier, for one), but it is one of the more recent examples I’ve played.

Assassin's Creed II

Not Pictured: Bankers, Artists, Blacksmiths, Courtesans, Mercenaries, Thieves…

In Assassin’s Creed 2, you are placed in charge of developing your little hometown after the first chapter or so, and by choosing which shops to finance, you grow your investment in the town, and collect money as a sort of tribute. You get shop discounts, and you can also unlock a lot of content through the town.

Money becomes superfluous after you acquire all weapons and armor, however. Consumable items don’t cost much by the time you’re wielding the best and most effective equipment, and you don’t even have to repair the best armor you get after completing the assassin tomb side-quest. About this point, it drops off.

I mean, the minigame stops paying off after a point and becomes ridiculous.

Nothing really changes in the town except you gain access to new equipment and more money. You also get points toward “Completion,” but what do those percentage points mean to anyone who isn’t a collector or completionist?

I think with better handling, the town investment concept can be used to create a thriving, non-combat experience for the player to contrast with more personal level advancement. The player can set whatever short- or long-term investment goals in the town and easily reach them. Interacting with shops and characters will help too.

Here, I think the Social Link concept could really shine. Rather than requiring an expenditure of the game’s money, which is needed for purchasing equipment, the player can perform simple tasks – perhaps automated, or described in text as an encounter – to increase their standing with the NPC townsfolk.

That’s Social Links and Town Management to go with your Level Advancement. What else is there to consider, and how does it fit into the picture?

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