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Not your usual hero's journey

First impressions

Running the game is slightly awkward, as you need to install a font as
a system font, and the controls are a little different from usual.
This is all standard for RMXP games, unfortunately.

Our protagonist is a red deer in a hoodie named Renovare. I think
this is a play on "rebirth", or at least "renovate". Given the
themes of the game, this is appropriate.

Renovare lives in a derelict shack, with a desaturated palette of
browns and greys. This drab palette persists through the early
game, in contrast to the usual bright colours of JRPGs and RPG Maker
in particular. This later turns out to be a careful choice that
makes a lot of sense when the colour scheme changes.

You (this game refers to the protagonist in second person within
the menu and dialog) get to equip an Identity rather than a weapon
and armour.

I equip the Beast, changing my sprite to a red hoodie. Each identity
has it's own character sprite, these first three are different colour

Mechanics as metaphor

The random encounters are distorted shadows also in the shape of animals,
though these are nightmarish compared to Your naturalistic form.

In battle they taunt you with messages related to one of your identities,
and the attacks look like identity help texts. This helps you understand
you are fighting Your own demons.

None of Your identities are very effective. Three game overs later
I remember the escape command.
"Not all ways of coping are healthy", perhaps? In any case You will
have to run away from fights most of the time, which is not typical
hero's journey stuff.
(This isn't a typical hero's journey game, but in a way the story is.)

Note that the game offers an "easy mode", which avoids this but reduces
the impact as well.

This is a clever use of game mechanics to reinforce the mood and
storytelling. I like it a lot.
It is definitely not the unbalanced random encounters which it first
appears to be.

Sound and Graphics

The art assets seem to be custom made. It's all competently done,
while this isn't a game to call out for excellent art, it's all good enough.
The background music is subtle on the map and louder in battle.
It has a consistent style and musical direction seems solid.
Sound effects are synth based as typical for RPG maker, but
once again seem to be custom.
As this was described as being the first of several games planned by
this team, having custom assets will enable them to have their own
style and be unshackled to RPG maker XP if they choose to use another
engine in future.

Supporting Cast

For an RPG, your first encounter with another person is quite late,
you'll have to survive a couple of sleepless nights before encountering
another person.
A friend who tries to help but doesn't have the right answers.
A stranger who helps you find an identity that fits better.

There isn't a lot of dialog, but what's there is revealing about Your
state of mind.

Pompi and Finn surely have interesting stories of their own, but this
is not their game. They're very much in a supporting role here.


Before going further, it's necessary to discuss the game's theme.
The itch.io page where I got this game originally had this
in the tags, but rpgmaker.net leaves it for you to discover.

Fiora is a story told mostly in metaphor about a transgender character.

With this knowledge, the opening scenes are revealing.
Your character has prominent antlers, which signals "male" much
as a beard and square jaw would on a human. So a trans woman
or non binary specifically.
(Without outside context, she is a woman. Another character gets the not always that simple identity.)

Your identities:
"Defect: defective" - this surely is the internalization of every "transgender as mental illness" theory
"Renovare: just a man" - ouch. Keeping your head down and blending in. But the phrasing is sharp.
"Beast: my claws cut deep" - To me, this is lashing out at the wrong people. It might be referencing self harm.
Not all ways of coping are healthy.

Mechanically, the beast can fight back a little, but not enough.
Renovare can survive the longest if you're escaping every battle.
And that's the role many people have to play - blend in and hide behind
an identity that doesn't quite fit.
(good use of mechanics as metaphor once again)

Finding Resolve and Killing your Identity (MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW)

Fiora's flower is a metaphor for something. This is a personal story,
but this could map onto something different for different people.
It looks a little like an easy answer. But this is a short game, and
a hero's journey needs a powerful hero.
Perhaps it is about finding a reason to unlock the strength you always
had, perhaps the will to look the world in the eye and say "This is who I am."

When you see your enemy clearly, you get to take a massive step represented
by a small battle. The world is a bright and colourful place again.
Or perhaps it always was, and you were too deep to see it.

Perhaps it will help to understand why if somebody needs to kill their
identity that it is important to respect that. And if you are Renovare,
perhaps you can find hope in this.

If you made it this far: play the game and read the post-credits dev messages.