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A wonderful tale of life, apathy, red-headed demon children

Vacant Sky Vol 1: Contention (Acts 1+2)

Pros:
Great characters and story
Original concept
Deeply immersive
Very polished in many areas

Cons:
Iffy battle mechanics
Part one is seriously lacking
Lack of polish in other areas

Perhaps it is the original and interesting concept, or maybe the great story and dialogue mixed with varied and unique characters, but it could also be the immersive environments and select choice of music, or even something greater than the sum of it's parts, but something about Vacant Sky: Contention(Acts 1+2) had me engrossed in it's world and really enjoying myself with an rpg maker game for the first time in a long while.


Just the right amount of Bloom

One of the first thing you'll notice about VS(unless you don't have eyes) is it's presentation. Obviously a lot of effort has been put into making the game look as polished and professional looking as possible, and succeeds for the most part. Each area is different and quite memorable, from the large everyday HUD city of Svaneholm to freezing mechanical land devoid of sunlight Viadahn. While there are a few forgettable towns, most stand out on their own right. A problem that is quite evident with the smaller, more forgettable areas is that they tend to have a myriad of graphical issues an hiccups. Clipping, bad transitions, and odd setups make these lesser areas far more awkward to traverse through than one of the grander scale areas.

Act. 1: Seeing as there weren't an battles that took place outside of the story, each area was short and sweet and the area design around it was smooth and functional. But that also means that it's quite linear and there isn't much exploring to be had.

Act. 2: Not only does the world now open up for you to almost fully explore, but you can now battle enemies to your own accord via on screen encounters. But this brings along two problematic situations Act 1 didn't have to deal with. First being that most of the time you are able to encounter enemies is in tight indoor corridors where 9 out of 10 times it is impossible to avoid the enemies, which leads into the second problem. Unless there was something I missed, it is impossible to run away from enemies. I mean there isn't even an option, much less a percentage chance of escape.

This lead to a situation of me being far over leveled because i was stuck in an area for a while and bumping into every single enemy imaginable. Honestly, if the only encounter areas are going to be thin hallways filled with hard to avoid enemies, the game would probably be better off with random encounters.


Fair and Balanced

The battles are handled using a ctb (a la FFX) and often has it's ups and downs depending how you look at it. Each actor's turn is established based on speed, and each action is carried out immediately after being selected. There are also "Reactions" in which a character can be set to act a certain way to attacks (such as counter, defense, or avoid). Between those options, Ascensions and Awakenings(Special Techniques) there is a great range of strategy that goes into almost every single battle.

Act. 1: Glitchy, glitchy, glitchy. Even at points when i was full immersed in the game, the glitches within the battle system really kept pulling my out of the world. Often times, very often times character wouldn't be visible in battle until they are struck. For characters set to the "Dodge" reaction they would avoid the enemies attacks, as well as healing items, or even changing to another reaction( I just ended up setting all characters to "Guard" in the main menu). Many buff and debuff failures abound. Battles you're suppose to lose but it isn't clear at all(to be fair, it's not a glitch, but still irritatingly slow). And with the battles being few and far between, there was basically no way to really train, and battles would often become a difficult chore.

Act. 2: Pretty much fixes everything I just mentioned. At first glance, it may not seem like much has been changed at all, but going back to Act. 1 and looking at it as a whole, I was blown away with how much of an improvement was made. Reactions worked properly and managed the makes battles far more entertaining. Stat buffs worked well and everything just seemed to fit together just right. I may have complained earlier about being trapped in small corridors having to fight waves of enemies for what seemed like was an eternity, but the battles were all enjoyable enough where i didn't want give up on the game out of frustration. If I were to only have one minor complaint is that as you level up and your moves upgrade, the older versions stick around as well. Which means that even after you get "Slash II", "Slash I" sticks around, and since neither cost anything to use, it just ends up wasting some space and a bit of time getting to it. Other than that I found myself really enjoying the battles in Act. 2 far more than i would have imagined.


You can't hear it, but this place sounds amazing!

Where do I even begin with the music? From the looks of the things all the music featured in Vacant Sky is all custom made exclusively for the game and it's easily one of my favorite parts of the game. Each piece of music and distinct and noteworthy. And each tune was strong enough to help bring more forgettable areas(such as Barette and Boris Island) into the spotlight. The main battle theme is quite reminiscent of Lost Odyssey's(and that's certainly not a bad thing) and is a joy to listen to. Tarranon deserves so much credit for each finely crafted melody. There are also a few vocal tracks place primarily at the beginning and end of each Act and while not really being my cup of tea, are finely crafted in as well. Other touches such as some voice acting and good use(better than average) of sound effects really work in the games favor. Not much to say about it, but even less to complain about. Sailerius has been kind enough to post the soundtrack and I encourage everyone to take a listen.


Hey, it happens

Last but certainly not least, the characters and story (for better or worse)are probably the most stand out part of Vacant Sky. The story revolves around Auria, a somewhat apathetic young lady who begins her fantastic journey soon after being shot and killed. After being given a "second chance" at life she finds herself in a distant land, chased by a mysterious (mostly) masked group know as the Virad, meeting up with an assortment of different allies(?), and finding out powerful secrets about herself. And, for the most part, was a pretty entertaining journey to go through.

Act.1: Very straight forward adventure(which works in it's favor and sometimes against it). During the first act the game is surprisingly fast pace, and the action is swift and intense. This makes for a very suspenseful and dynamic venture. There's always something to run from and always some threat that needs to be avoided. But, what this really ends up hurting is the characters themselves. For pretty much the entire act I had really no investment or interesting and the majority of characters in the party. Auria just came off as uninterested and bored, which made any emotions towards her pretty null. Not to mention all of the side characters, with the exceptions of the Virad and Rayonne, came off as stagnant and emotionless. Which also happens to really hurt the action and suspense because of it. The story and background felt like a blur as well, not that it was confusing, just that it was a drawback of disinterest.

Act. 2: As I've said before it opens up the world very well, but more importantly, it opens up the characters. After a certain event at the end of Act. 1 Auria finally seems to start giving a damn about what's happening around her and to her. Even the most uninteresting characters are really brought forth and given something to do. The biggest culprit, Seri, is given more dimension than i could have imagined, and actually gives me a reason to be interested in what she does. Added to the main cast are 3 new additions, each(with the sole exception of a guy so uninteresting I didn't even bother remembering his name) give Act.2 a great variety of personalities that really stand up in their own way. The story is split into three major sections, with a mix of plot building cut-scenes in between. While takes a away that certain feeling of tension and dread, what is really put in is sense of wonder and excitement for each turn and plot twist that happens next. The quality of writing really took a step up.

The Nitpicker's Corner:
-The way(in Act 2. Barette) the map never fades in when exiting a building was sort of cool but ended up getting on my nerves after a while.
-Some of Auria's one-liners came off as a little cheesy
-If I had to have one tiny, little, minuscule complaint about the music, I would say the a lot of the loop times one the music are a bit jarring. It doesn't have the least bit effect on the game as a whole, but it's just something I noticed.
-Menu can be cumbersome at times.
-They way status effects are shown are hard to see and can be very confusing.

The Antipicker's Corner:
+Most, if not all the animations in the game were very profession and were really a spectacle to look see.
+Lots of good NPC's to talk to, often saying things you wouldn't expect.
+The transfer file system is great, and really made if feel like the first play-through made a difference.
+More Pizza Shops than water.

As I've said before, Vacant Sky Vol.1: Contention is honestly the most fun I've had with an RPGMaker in a long time, but I can't say everyone will feel the same way. But I suggest everyone give it a shot and judge for yourselves. I would actually be inclined to give it a higher score, but Act.1 really drags things down and should definitely be looked at for improvement. All I can say is if "Angel of Justice" makes as big of a leap as "Halo Locks" did from "Shadow and Ashes", we're in for one incredible game.

Posts

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I didn't mean you had to add in a full dungeon but stuff like the red-hair cutscene, some may lead to trouble and a fight, others may just be a little bit of character development. Just a little bit more to do in each town to make it so you're not just going from place to place the whole time.

As for the run option, I would still prefer it being a skill, but any sort of option would bring a smile to my face. It's not that the battles aren't bad, it's just that they can be so draining, especially if you're lost @_@.
Having a retry system is always nice in my opinion, but the only battle i remember having to retry in Act1 was the final boss, and that was annoying because you have start back all the way in Barette.

One minor thing i noticed while playing through the first part again is that Auria's face while talking to certain npc's would sometimes show up and sometimes wouldn't and it seemed pretty random. Just something to look into.

But i obviously still like it as a whole, just anything(except the nonlinearity) you did in Act2, try to bring some of that to Act1 and you'll have a much better start to what is looking to be an amazing series.
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
Thanks for the suggestions!

1. I'm actually adding a consumable item that lets you escape from battle in Act III. I'll retroactively add it into Act II with the packaged version.

2. I'll try to put in an optional dungeon somewhere along the way.

3. Yeah, I'm planning to completely redo the writing in Act I when I revise it. It even makes me cringe when I play through it.

4. One feature from Act III that will make Act I far more stomachable is the ability to retry lost battles without having to sit through cutscenes again.
Right, there are some things that come to mind that I'd like to see if you want to do some revisions.

1. I would cry tears of joy if there was perhaps a learnable technique for Auria that lets you escape from battle(using some mp if you will) I know that's only applicable to the second game but it would be comforting to have.

2. Maybe i missed a few, but some optional battles in the first part would be nice, like running into more thieves along the way or something, just if the play chooses. There were a few secret scenes her and there but could always do with a bit more.

3. Perhaps a bit more interesting and important dialogue between characters in general. Take in some of the mannerisms and traits more obvious in Act2 and show them a bit more and Act1 when you can. It seemed like most of the in town dialogue between characters was just pertaining to plot or explicitly said how they felt. Just add a bit more dimension to it.

4. And yes please add in some of the patches and bug fixes from Act2, that would definitely make it all the better :)
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
comment=29540
I'm determined to play these after act iii is released.
But I'm a bit confused... are acts i-iii together part 1 of a trilogy? Or do the acts represent each individual part of the trilogy?

Yes, you're right. Vacant Sky is planned to be the first game in a trilogy. I know the naming is kind of confusing.
I'm determined to play these after act iii is released.
But I'm a bit confused... are acts i-iii together part 1 of a trilogy? Or do the acts represent each individual part of the trilogy?
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
Thanks a lot for playing and for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed the game. It sucks that Act I drags down the enjoyment of the game as a whole. I'm thinking about revising it after Act III has been released. Do you have any specific suggestions for fixing it? Would introducing the bugfixes and balances from Act II help significantly?

Although I don't think Act III will be as much of a jump as Act II was, I'm confident that it'll bring a lot of welcome changes to the table. I'm aware that a couple of the Act II characters (Vanquish being the prime offender) didn't get a chance to really stand out yet, and that's something I made sure to fix. Do you have any other suggestions for Act III, especially in the area of gameplay and battle?
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