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Reflex Challenge: Press Z to read review!

I don’t have much of an intro blurb here: I wanted to do a review for the December Review challenge and I’d noticed Journeyman buzzing on the front page, so it was chosen to be my unfortunate victim.

I’ll freely admit that this isn’t my usual type of game (what with the collecting and the crafting and the recipes and the OY VEY~), but from what I have played that’s similar (Minecraft, Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing come to mind), I figured I’d enjoy it! Unfortunately, I didn’t really like it that much. I do think, however, that’s there’s enough raw potential in here to craft into a solid game.

Well then, let’s dig in!

Gameplay:

I’m gonna tackle this in pieces, because I have a lot of material to cover here, and I don’t want to leave anything out!

Harvesting:

Harvesting in Journeyman is pretty simple: you interact with an event, and a little timing minigame pops up. You press Z when the cursor lines up with a target in the centre of the screen, and BOOM, you’re in business, item harvested. Some harvesting events require you to have an axe, a fishing pole, or a pickaxe before you can attempt them.

Sounds cute and fun, right? Well, it is...the first time.

Unfortunately, this is the only minigame used when harvesting, and it gets very old, very fast. Not only that, but it’s unnecessarily frustrating for the player when they’re, say, trying to pick something up off the ground, miss the target, and lose their chance at nabbing the item. Oh yeah, also, if you're swapping between fishing and woodcutting, you need to change your equipment around. Every single time.


Get used to this.


I think these issues are easily fixable, though! For one, remove the need to change equipment whenever you need a tool to harvest something like fish, firewood, ore, etc. There’s really no need for this, and it only serves to frustrate the player and add in an extra step to what should otherwise be a quick and painless experience, especially since it uses the weapon slot.

As far as the minigame goes, I recall reading that the game dev found this type of minigame fun and addicting. Now, this can be true, but when it’s used for every single event ever, it gets to be a little too much! Aspects of a game are fun in moderation, but when you have too much of a good thing, it becomes monotonous and decidedly not fun. I’d recommend removing the minigame from most events, and only keeping it for a few, such as fishing. I could see the timing mini game working for that! Flower picking...? Not so much.

Crafting:

I don’t really have much to say about this, so I’ll just leave it as yup, crafting. It’s a thing, you do a lot of it, it functions correctly and isn’t broken. The interfaces are pretty easy to read and navigate, so that’s a plus!

Oh, right – it was a little annoying how, when I was trying to mix me some potions, I had to mix them all individually. Really, I just wanted to make a buttload of potions so I wouldn’t die the second I stepped outside, and having to plug the same ingredients in 10+ times got really irritating. If there is a way to, say, automatically mix the max amount of THINGS~ and I missed it, you should probably leave a little note or something in the Alchemy menu (or any other systems that use the same menu).

Combat/Exploration:

This was frustrating for a few reasons.

First of all, battles ripped me into tiny pieces. I’m mentioning this first as it was what eventually made me give up playing.


Fuck these wolves, oh GOD


The combat in this game is keyboard-smashingly difficult and in no way optional, even though the game dev advertised that it would be. This sucked a lot of my potential enjoyment out of the game! For starters, Gordon was so slow and fragile in battle, it took the weakest enemies literally 1-2 turns to smush him into ground beef. Now, I’m all for punishingly hard battles, but I do think every game needs to give the player the opportunity to get used to combat before shit gets real! I think the best thing to do here is to make the battles on the world map easy as pie, so the player can punch monsters in the face, get some starter items and easily travel between locations. This also has to potential to lull the player into a false sense of security, so when they finally DO enter a more difficult location...well. Shit gets real.

My other issue with combat was... well, lemme just quote Max McGee for a sec:

author=Max McGee
* Monsters outside will fucking eat you.
+Craft some armor and weapons.
+Craft some other stuff and sell it to get some armor and weapons.
* Even with armor and weapons they fucked you up.
+Craft better armor and weapons.
+Craft some healing potions or food to fix yourself.
+Craft some spells to toast monsters or heal yourself.
+Craft some other stuff to buy one of the above.


At first glance, this seems like pretty good game flow, right?

Nope.

See, to get to the supplies to make better weapons, healing potions, spells and what not, you need to fight monsters or go places where there are monsters that will eat your face. I had what I’m fairly certain is the best equipment I could get before I headed out of town for the first time, and I STILL got my ass handed to me. It made for a pretty frustrating experience!

I think changing how monsters are handled would improve this game immensely. This includes altering combat (I really don’t think field map monsters should be sticking you full of harmful status effects before you have access to effective healing items and skills, but that’s just me), and also changing how encounters are approached! If I remember right, someone suggested coming up with a way to trick and trap monsters. I think this is a fabulous idea, and I know sneaking around and luring monsters into traps and picking through their corpses for loose change would be fabulously fun to me.

Finally, there were some issues with lag that hampered my ability to navigate the second town. This would be easily fixed by chopping said town up into pieces or making it a lot smaller. I don’t really see why it needs to be so big, given that there are only a few buildings you can go into. The lag also affected the timing minigame, which got to be super frustrating – having the timing off because of the game randomly speeding up or slowing down was a major turn off.

(And because it’ll probably come up – my computer isn’t especially new, but it’s not freakishly old, either, and can run all but the most event heavy VX games without that much lag.)

Writing:

There’s not really much to say here, as this isn’t a plot heavy game. However, there are quite a few writing related things, so let me quickly address those.

First off, the humor was okay, but it didn’t really hold my interest. I feel like it fell into the trap that a lot of humorous RPG maker games fall into, and that’s resorting to curse words, breaking the fourth wall, Casanova wannabe heroes... you get the idea. I’m not saying these things can’t be done well, but I do feel like they’re overused, and Journeyman didn’t really put a fresh or interesting spin on any of them. This was especially grating in item descriptions – while a couple of them were cute (the rope, in particular, stands out in my mind), I feel like actually describing what the items do or what they can be used for in crafting would be a better use of the space.

The books were... well, I wanted to read them, because I’m sure they were filled with great info, but after button mashing my way through the weapons one, I didn’t want to risk being there for hours! I think an image based and/or easily escapable way of handling the books would improve this a great deal.

The plot was simple, cute, and made sense. It tied into the gameplay, which was great! I didn’t really care so much for the main character, but he doesn’t talk enough for this to be a big deal.

Finally, I guess this fits in here – the pacing of the intro is bad. You have difficulty settings, then the fake loading screen, then the opening credits, then the opening cutscene... it takes entirely too long, and ended up irritating me more than engaging me. I say cut the loading screen and opening credits, and let the player jump right into the thick of it instead of forcing them to sit through a bunch of stuff they don’t need to see to understand what’s going on.

Aesthetics:

The first thing that really comes to mind here is audio. I’m not a fan of the RTP music, but if you’re gonna use them, I say keep it consistent. Either use only RTP tracks, or none at all. Journeyman has an awkward blend of RTP music and songs from elsewhere, and it was very noticeable. As far as sound effects go, the text blipping noise got ridiculously grating after the first five seconds of hearing it. Either change it or get rid of it, because it’s not doing the game any favours. Other than that, there were a lot of RTP sound effects that, again, clashed with the non-RTP sound effects.

For visuals, I was a little disappointed that the original art work wasn’t being used in game at all. I say, if you have original art, use the heck out of it! There weren’t really enough sprites to judge, but they seemed pretty standard RTP fare, and the animations were clean, so no complaints here. I liked the battler graphics, though – they were very cute! (Although, the wolves didn’t really match the rest of the monsters…? That may be the blood dripping in my eyes and paranoia playing tricks on me, though.)

The mapping was okay – it was easily navigable, but there were minor errors here and there, and the second town (as I already mentioned) was too big.

Conclusion:

Overall, I didn’t have fun, and this didn’t end up being my kind of game! Like I said, though, there’s a bundle of potential here and a bunch of great ideas waiting to explode all over the place.

I'm going to leave this unrated for now, because there's so little to go on, but if this was the quality of the finished product, I'd give it 1/5 stars.

I hope this wasn't too discouraging! Keep at it, and I look forward to seeing how this develops, and if I end up liking it next time. :3

Posts

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*Heh, what can I say? I can't help myself in these situations. I'll just cut that out.
User was warned for this post
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
13639
author=Link_2112
All the negative comments are the inevitable fallout of years of disrespectful behavior and quite frankly it's good to see that kind of person brought down a few pegs. There is no need for arrogance on that scale.

I don't think its "immorral" as what you seem to be suggesting. If a bully at school is picking on a little nerd with glasses for no reason, that's immoral and you should stop it. If your peers are picking on a guy who (for years apparently, I haven't been around all that long) has been acting as insultingly immature as this and has JUST TOLD ALL OF US TO GO FUCK OURSELVES, that is not immoral. It's justified. And he is now fair game whether you like it or not. Life isn't all holding hands and sunshine. People are gonna speak their minds when they've been insulted and argue.



This kind of behavior is unprofessional and is not acceptable. If you would like to discuss the merits of this game or this review (as DE and Creation were doing), you may do so. If you are just here to fan the flames, please kindly click the back button.
Deckiller
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.
15597
The behavior on display within this thread is unacceptable in a community that has been trying for quite some time to have higher behavioral standards than most video game-related sites. This goes for several people who have commented. Consequently, this review may end up being locked for an indefinite period. I do appreciate the posts by users like Creation, who maintained a level of calmness and civility throughout the discussion.

Max is at fault for instigating the mud slinging, but several others are equally at fault for taking the bait.

Also, it's the holidays...
Great review, you pretty much echoed my experience on this demo.
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