Infinite Dendrogram Ep. 2: Lots of info-dumping

So much info-dumping. Of course, information isn’t a bad thing; some would even say that information is power. But we’ll get to this in a second.

— Ah, here’s the classic scene where nefarious individuals sit in a room and scheme. This time, however, they’re represented as inanimate objects. The guy with the mortarboard must think he’s some sort of genius mastermind. In any case, they’re plotting to “stomp out powerful tians,” i.e. NPCs, so it makes me think that these individuals are probably Masters, i.e. human players. Why they would want to do this is anybody’s guess.

— Even these guys can’t help but marvel at the fact that a “jobless level-0” could defeat a “Demi-Drag-Worm.” What a mouthful. That aside, the bad guys are not wrong. How does a newbie defeat a powerful a monster? Because his Embryo is strong? Then how is that fair? I dunno, that’s the problem with these MMO stories. If this was just a simple fantasy adventure tale, then sure, maybe Ray just has some secret latent talent. But we’re supposed to believe that he’s playing an actual video game that is designed to be, y’know, fun. And it’s not fun when a player randomly gets a super powerful weapon and others don’t. Has the game magically taken on a life of its own? Maybe that’s the case. Maybe that’s why the damn NPCs are so smart…

— We then cut to Ray, his brother, and Nemesis enjoying a veritable feast. This is where we start learning a bunch of new information.

— First, the game can sense when your real life body needs to eat or go to the water closet. That makes sense, I guess. If players die of starvation, they can’t stay subscribed. And nobody wants to shit themselves in the middle of a gaming session… yes, I know some hardcore raiders will pee in a bottle, but that’s an edge case.

— After Ray returns from his real life “duties,” Shu starts talking about evolution styles, the different forms that an Embryo can take, yadda yadda yadda. I’ve two minds about this. First, Nemesis isn’t going to upgrade anytime soon, so can’t this information wait until later? Second, if we must give this information to the viewers now, why not do it in a more interesting way? Maybe a higher level Embryo walks by, so Ray asks Shu a question about it. I’m not saying that this is the only or even the most creative way to share information with the audience, but it’s better than watching a conversation unfold at a table.

— Ray asks why Liliana isn’t a big fan of the brotherly bear, which kicks off a long explanation about how the Kingdom of Altar nearly lost a war against a rival nation simply because high ranking Masters refused to participate. Every story needs exposition. I’m not trying to suggest otherwise. But again, could this information not have been delivered in a better way? Shu mentioned that a lot of Tians died in the war. Maybe we could’ve seen NPCs mourn their lost loved ones. The bear mentions how lots of players have since immigrated. Maybe we could see how quests are going unfinished because of the lack of manpower. Last but not least, maybe we could see how the nation is still reeling from the last war, i.e. a lack of supplies, destroyed farmlands, so on and so forth. My point is a simple one: show, not tell. Sometimes, you gotta tell, but make a little effort.

— The fruits of this conversation is that our protagonist now has a goal: he’s going to make the player rankings so that he can participate in the next war. This leads to the guy picking Paladin as his job. Like with Nemesis, he’s just fast-tracked to greatness for whatever reason.

— Normally, when I think of a paladin, I picture a knight in somewhat heavy armor and a shield in their offhand. Ray uses Nemesis as a great sword and appears to be wearing leather if not cloth armor. But eh, different games have different lore. Maybe paladins here don’t have to look like stereotypical knights.

— Uh oh, goblins. Oh wait, it’s not that anime.

— Paladins in this game still have their archetypal healing magic, which Ray uses to save another fellow player. As a result, we meet Rook and his busty Embryo Babylon. She’s apparently a succubus, so I guess that makes her the Whore of Babylon. Man, if Embryos are partly based on their Masters’ personalities, then what kind of potential perv is Rook?

— Oddly enough, Ray hasn’t partied up with anyone since he worked with his brother to save Liliana’s sister. After having tea with Rook, he simply goes back to grinding solo. He still has Nemesis by his side, but don’t we play these online games for company?

— From the cold opening, we already know that the bad guys have Ray in their cross hairs. So it should come to no surprise when someone starts attacking Ray out of nowhere with… uh, something that looks like it came straight out of the Alien franchise?

— Ray and Nemesis are quickly overwhelmed, and as a result, he is booted out of the game for twenty-four hours. I bitched about this last week, but I still find this an amazingly bizarre mechanic for a game. If I pay good money for a service, being locked out just doesn’t sit right with me. I assume that you can’t create alt characters or accounts, because that would’ve been my first instinct. I’d either jump right back in or ask for refund.

— Plus, how come a level-0 Ray could defeat a giant monster all by his lonesome, but he looked so helpless here? He didn’t even put up a fight.

— When Ray logs back in, he finds a despondent Nemesis. She’s disappointed in her inability to protect him. Okay, well, he’s level 12 or 13? Like… a weapon’s a weapon.

— Eh, I guess this is all for characterization. Normally, she’s a bit high maintenance, but when the chips are down, the story wants to show us that she really cares about him or something.

— Speaking of which, MMOs with open world PVP usually have safe low level areas so that newbies don’t get ganked until they are strong enough. I remember playing on PVP servers in MMOs like Aion or Rift, and I didn’t have to fear for my life until about level 20 or something. But if you watch anime about MMOs, it would seem as though player-killers are allowed to slit your throat the second that you step outside the starter city.

— Also, open world PVP is fun when the fights are fair. But in my experience, you either face 1) a high level jerk picking on low levels or 2) a roaming gank squad picking on solo players. This is human nature, though. People want security, so they won’t fight fair. I went through a phase where I did enjoy PVP, but these days, I just feel like it’s more trouble than its worth. The amount of time that I lose trying to deal with gankers could be better spent doing practically anything else.

— Unable to grind safely outside the royal kingdom, Ray drags Nemesis to a dungeon which is apparently devoid of player killers. Unfortunately, our somewhat tsundere sword is predictably scared of ghosts and all things that go spook in the night.

— This is where the episode really loses me. Luckily, we’re near the end. Ray bumps into Figaro, a high ranking Master. They have a relatively short chat, and… well, that’s it. The most we truly learn is that there are battle arenas where death doesn’t incur a penalty. Okay then. We next see Ray polishing his sword (and not in a fun way), which signifies that they are done grinding for the day. That’s how you end the episode? What was even the climax this week? His death at the hands of the PKer? I dunno, the pacing seems off.

— If I had to compare this to Shield Heroine, it’s slight more interesting? But on the other hand, Kaede is slightly more fun to follow than Ray. Story wise, neither of them are too compelling at the moment. The stakes are slightly higher here, but barely.

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