CRITICAL HIT! (NOW PLAYING LAKRIA LEGENDS!)

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author=halibabica
However, I'm still going to write an unrated review and draw a picture for it.


Cool I will wait for it. I was playing this game too but I guess I will stop until the next update...
I guess here's as good a place as any to inform people that given how embarrassed I am of SSS I've scrapped the project for good.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
Aww, that's disappointing to hear. You shouldn't give up on a project just 'cuz it had a few issues. I have way more embarrassing stuff in my own portfolio already, and nothing that was wrong with yours was beyond fixing.

Take a break from it if you're feeling demotivated, but I wouldn't say you should give up at all.
unity
You're magical to me.
12203
author=halibabica
Aww, that's disappointing to hear. You shouldn't give up on a project just 'cuz it had a few issues. I have way more embarrassing stuff in my own portfolio already, and nothing that was wrong with yours was beyond fixing.

Take a break from it if you're feeling demotivated, but I wouldn't say you should give up at all.


I completely agree with halibabica! Heck, you've gotten people in this thread interested in playing and at least one person was playing along with halibabica. It's fine for a game to have some bugs and issues. I certainly think you shouldn't throw it all away.
I appreciate the encouraging words, but this is something I have mulled over. It was too ambitious of a project for me. So I'm pretty set in my decision.

Anyway, so not to derail this thread I do have something that's waiting to be submitted that you could review. It is a lot more polished and is finished. I'm just waiting on a beta tester to help me with some balancing issues.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
Well, I'm sorry to hear you're set on it. Knowing your limitations is a good thing, and maybe a full-blown RPG with four story routes is too much to take on, but SSS had plenty going for it imo and I hope you don't abandon it for good. Even if only one route is all you could manage, it's not like that wouldn't be fine. It's also not like you couldn't put it on hiatus for however long you need. My own Pokémon Hunter 4 has been on hiatus for...has it been a decade? And I still plan on getting back to it someday.

Anyway, it wouldn't be fair to the other games waiting in line if I let you swap in something else, so I'll still be reviewing what I played, and you may still be able to apply the critique to future endeavors as well.

And yes, you still get a picture, too.

With any luck, I'll have time to write the review this coming week. Oddly enough, I feel like this dialogue sums it up fairly well.
That's understandable, sorry. But thanks for your input on SSS, though.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
I can't post this as an official review with the download removed, but here it is anyway!

Steel Spirit SaGa is a SaGa Frontier fangame that acts as a sequel to SaGa Frontier 2. No prior knowledge of the series is needed to play it, so no worries there. It plays like a traditional RPG, but has some other interesting features as well. Unfortunately, the demo has been taken down because of some bugs, and it’s unknown if it will ever be put back up. Alas, that won’t stop me from sharing my experience with it.

Let’s Talk About Graphics!

It has a simple retro RPG aesthetic that could score some nostalgia points for the 16-bit era. The game is colorful and presents itself well. It doesn’t go overboard with effects or overlays, and while maps are well-decorated, they tend to flow smoothly. It’s easy to navigate around the details it includes. I’m unfamiliar with the source material, but everything looks nice and nothing really feels out of place. On the outside, it all looks pretty darn good. I’d also like to mention I appreciate that the title screen artwork is randomized. It’s a cool touch.

Let’s Talk About Audio!

I don’t know where the soundtrack comes from, but I recognized one of the songs from Hero’s Realm (which I’m sure came from somewhere else). The tracks chosen for each area fit them well and none of them felt odd or out of place. The sound effects use a bit of RTP and some other things too. I didn’t have any complaints in this area; nothing stood out in a negative way, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Let’s Talk About Story!

I know literally nothing about SaGa Frontier, but I had no trouble understanding the story of this game, so I think that’s a big plus. Right off the bat, you get your choice of four routes to follow, but only one of them has any content prepared, so it’s only what could’ve been. Each scenario (and subsequent chapter) has an intro text roll that looks mighty impressive and serves as a bit of narration about what’s happened and what’s to come.

On the route I could start, I played as Zach, a boy who was born with no Anima. This is some mystic quality that all humans seem to have in some capacity. Basically, it lets you use magic, which means that Zach can’t. This is discovered when he’s a young boy, and he’s kicked out of his village due to a prophecy that one such as him would bring ruin. He learns to survive on his own, and fast forward many years, he’s the bodyguard of a princess for the King of Kynoch, a town that isn’t so judgmental about Zach’s condition. That’s where the game picks up, and the writing is pretty decent. It contains the occasional typo, but the dialogue feels interesting and sincere. The game doesn’t use face graphics, but little emotes occasionally pop up, and you can typically read the speaker’s feelings in their text. To me, it came across well enough, and I enjoyed the characterization.

A little after the first dungeon, Zach is confronted by the King for running off with his daughter when it was her idea to go adventuring. At first, it seems like Zach will be put in prison or worse, when the princess manages to convince her father that it was a misunderstanding. This was a prime chance for some cheap overdone drama to happen, and it was very refreshing to see it turn out differently. I was also surprised by Zach himself. He’s very polite in his interactions with the princess and is shown to be a responsible guy, but it’s later revealed that he’s mostly motivated by payment and acts only out of a sense of duty to his employers. But what do you expect from a man who was disowned by his family/village as a lad?

Some characters are more generic than others, but for the most part, the ones I met felt distinct and believable enough for the story to be enjoyable. The tale follows Zach and his exploits as a war begins to brew. Presumably, he’d get tangled up in it along with whatever other misfits find their way into his band, but the demo only went so far, and I was asked by the creator to stop playing after some technical difficulties interfered with my hero party. It felt like it was going places, so that was a little disappointing.

Let’s Talk About Gameplay!

It’s a traditional RPG, so you should know what to expect here; world map exploration, treasure hunting, monster fighting, puzzle solving, the usual bit. Sadly, this is probably the game’s weakest aspect. It’s all fine in theory, but in practice, it leaves something to be desired.

First up, this is a game where you have to hold shift to run. This feature is disabled in the child section of Zach’s route, so at first, I didn’t know it was an option at all. When I discovered later I could do it, I was elated not to be walking at a snail’s pace everywhere. However, something about the system used to implement this is rather buggy. There are times when you’ll be dashing along and walk right overtop an exit warp, forcing you to let go of shift and walk back onto it to advance between maps. There are occasions where you may exit a map holding the key and have your walk speed permanently increased (awesome!) but it fixes itself after a while (boo). I never had an instance of it exceeding intended speed, so at least there’s that. It also seems to lag at times, which is very weird. Something about the system needs refined, as the exit warp issue is justification enough. Personally, I’d just use shift to walk.

Map exploration is easy enough, as I said about flow earlier. However, navigating between maps can be a little problematic, and not just because you might walk over a warp. Maps will often have you facing a different direction when you enter them, and sometimes it’s the opposite way you entered the map from. In general, you should always be going the same direction you were previously traveling when moving between maps. It’s jarring any other way, and annoying if you accidentally warp right back out again because you never let go of the key. Similarly, in towns, there are buildings you can enter from the side. These doorways are unintuitive and there are places I missed because I didn’t have enough indication. Otherwise, the mapping itself is decent. Maps are kept pretty small, which is nice since you won’t get lost in them, and anything you need to access is never far out of reach (unless it’s a puzzle switch in another room or something).

Combat is easy and very straightforward. This is mostly because the party members have very few options at their disposal. Zach has no magic, so swinging his sword is all he can really do. However, his lack of Anima means he’s practically immune to the magic of others, so he has no problem facing down enemies of that sort. While he can’t do anything fancy...neither can his party members, really. Most of them only have one or two things they can do, and they’re usually healing or minor buffs. There’s not much strategy to speak of. You can try to outfit your characters with weapons/armor that are advantageous for the area (most equipment pieces have elements imbued in them), but that’s about it. The combat has potential to get more complex, but it starts out simple and didn’t get far by the time I stopped. Apart from that, one interesting mechanic is that your heroes’ stats may spontaneously rise during a fight. I’m not sure what triggers these boosts, but they make for a fun surprise.

Puzzle solving is fairly easy too, but the game has some variety for them. One dungeon is a prison where you have to navigate around the guards without them noticing you. Others have you searching for switches or levers to progress. One town has a hunt for a mob boss, and you have to talk to various locals to track him down. The first puzzle involved placing tablets in the correct order, but it was optional, and I couldn’t solve it. I think I missed a tablet somewhere. While most of what I saw was fairly basic, I could see that the game was pacing itself and there were potentially more ideas on the way.

In terms of functionality, there are some bugs I ran into that would definitely need fixed. Most of the serious ones were story related, with plot flags or the hero party getting crossed-up. At one point, one of your members is meant to be arrested and imprisoned, but she’s still in your group after the event. Once rescued, she says she’s going home and you intend to go your own way, but she doesn’t leave you then, either. This causes later party members to be unable to join because the group is full, and this was around when the dev said I should stop since it was all screwed up. Others I ran into were restarting the 2nd chapter by taking a boat from the same location I had the first time it happened. The game has a custom menu that you can open during events, which can cause problems like the hero appearing on the chapter intro scroll, or the scrolling text disappearing. Luckily, that sorts itself out after a fixed amount of time. There was also a town with diagonal stairs that the hero would walk up automatically, but attempting to move during the animation would let you travel through walls. Then there was the time I climbed a ladder and got stuck facing upward permanently. I know these sound bad, but they’re all easy things to fix, so I can forgive them in a demo like this.

Let’s Wrap This Up...

The creator has said they intend to scrap this project, as it’s too ambitious for them. I can certainly understand that, but I hope they’re able to return to it someday. What’s there is quite charming, and while it has its bugs and quirks, none of them are things that couldn’t be patched up in one way or another. The narrative was interesting and the gameplay has plenty of room for expansion. The story wouldn’t necessarily need four routes if that proved to be too much work. It just feels like a shame to see it go to waste.

I don’t rate games that are incomplete, but I would’ve given this a...

3/5 “A game with potential that’s held back by a few things.”


Function over form.

-----

Looks like I'll be playing Quest Questers next time. Woot.
unity
You're magical to me.
12203
Good review, I agree with almost everything and the rating. "Almost" because I'd had given at least half point more (I am too generous), but it's true that I played for a short time...
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
For me, functionality is a big part of scoring. Even as a demo, this had too many serious bugs for me to go any higher than 3. If a game isn't working as intended, it won't get too far with me.
author=halibabica
Even as a demo, this had too many serious bugs for me to go any higher than 3.

True, I absolutely agree with this, but... I noticed or found no bugs... so far, I am sure that if I keep playing (and find bugs like the boat in chapter 2) I will change my mind (and probably consider giving a 2,5/3... too bad that the beginning was so promising)! :)

Ok next game then! I played also the next three games, so I am very curious...
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
Hi guys! Sorry I've been quiet lately. I'll be getting back on the game review wagon very soon. The delay was not without cause, for you see...



I can do LPs now. I'll be recording my experiences for posterity as I play these games to the fullest.

This recording of LISA was just a test, though. Quest Questers will be started very soon!
Isrieri
"My father told me this would happen."
6155
I contend that The Road Scholars are the hardest fight in that game.

Trying to fight them with just Terry & Nern is madness. :O
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
What can I say? It's a blind playthrough. It was mighty cruel of them to put a save point on the other side of that dead-end cave. With foreknowledge and better preparation, I could probably take them. Even just a fourth dude to sponge hits would help.

For closure's sake: I'm letting them win. I can still salvage a little less than half my mags and I don't want to waste any more time with them.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
Man, I tried my best to prevent this first step from being completely atrocious, but I guess I underestimated the sensitivity of this mic. It picked up an uncomfortable amount of my breathing, and with the way I recorded it, I can't really do anything about that. Maybe this is what I get for diving straight into a long recording session after a full day of work when I wasn't feeling great to begin with. Ah, well...water under the bridge, I suppose.

I was a bit surprised at how tiring this was to record. I was aiming for around two hours, but stopped 20 minutes early. It seems my laptop can handle the workload, but I guess I'll have to build up some endurance.

I'm currently unable to do any editing, but I'll look into some basic software for it so the episodes aren't so huge. I don't want to cut anything since this is meant for thorough evaluation, but that's no excuse to dump 120 minutes of footage on people every few days.

UPDATE: I have good news!

I found editing software I can use to chop up my recordings. Most of the free ones I tried include watermarks, but I found a specific mode of Windows Movie Maker that fails to add them. So I can now break up these episodes and it hasn't cost me anything. Hooray!

The audio is still terribly wheezy in this initial set, but I tinkered with my mic settings in OBS and spent a good few minutes breathing at my computer to see if it registered. Even the keyboard clacks are barely coming through now, but I guess we'll see how the next recording goes...

In the meantime, here's the first episode of Quest Questers, now at a more digestible length:

halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
I've continued my journey through Quest Questers, and now have a playlist slowly building on my YT channel. Since the quests are mostly bite-sized, I divided up the videos to contain one each. However, the swamp one took a while, so it's in two parts. I scheduled them to go up at noon EST for the next five days. The audio is softer in these videos, but it picked up less of my breathing and keyboard tapping.

With how things are currently going, it looks like I'll only be able to record once a week. Even so, I don't think this particular game will take much longer. I hope you enjoy the show.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
I recorded another session of Quest Questers tonight, and it looks like the next may be the last. I beat the Main Quest and made it halfway through the bonus final dungeon.

The playlist is still updating with new videos daily. I have enough to last through March 2nd now. Nine parts are up and six more are on their way...

unity
You're magical to me.
12203
Sorry for my lack of comments on here. Watching people Let's Play my stuff gives me anxiety for some strange reason so I've been putting it off ^^;; I'll try to get to watching them soon!

Have you been enjoying the game? Did you rescue the princess? :D
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14503
Yes, it's been fun so far! I've barely noticed anything out of place apart from the occasional typo. Since I completed The Main Quest, the princess is saved. That vid won't be up for a few days, though.

Also, don't worry. I'm not here to make a mockery of anything. I sort of proofread as I play, but that's about it. I want to be fair to the content and give it a chance to shine, not tear it apart for humor's sake. These Let's Tries may not be the most entertaining vids ever, but I'm taking them seriously.