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Not as great as said to be

Ara Fell is a game created by Stephen Anthony, released by Stegosoft Games on June 2, 2016. On one hand, it boasts beautiful maps, a few creative boss battles, a story mode, but on the other, some uninspired dungeons, not so engaging enemies, not quite necessary miscellanous systems, a generic story line, and side quests which do not enhance the story.

The maps of Ara Fell are constructed with care for almost every tiny detail, with the exception of a few places with weirdly-shaped grass or plants. They are usually large for exploration. Many hidden chests and areas containing some sort of special loot can be found. The main character, Lita, has various skills to help with this. Firstly, she can jump small distances. Secondly, she can crawl into narrow openings or crawl under spiderwebs and spear traps. Thirdly, she can hop into water at designated spots. Lastly, magic circles become usable later to turn into a floating orb and fly through the same map, landing in another magic circle. There are also closed bags which can be cut open with a tool.

There are only a few dungeons in Ara Fell, but these take at least an hour to get through each. Their usual theme is using the main character's skills and fighting monsters to collect keys to get through locked doors. The end door is marked by a golden lock opened with the appropriate key, then an end boss is fought. Unfortunately, the dungeons become repetitive by the end. Though more bosses are added, the puzzles remain the same: find a key, open a lock, fight some monster, swim through water, find the next key, jump over a gap, crawl into a passage, etc., then find a gold key and fight the end boss.

The battles in the game are easy and lack strategy. While not meant to be important due to an optional skill called Story Mode, which can kill every enemy for free, each battle can be won with little thinking involved. The second character, Adrian has a skill which always applies the Bleeding status effect to its target. Bleeding, poison, regeneration, or any such effect function in RPG Maker 2003 in such a way that the affected enemy or hero receives damage each time anyone acts, thus the more participants there are in a battle, the faster Bleeding drains HP. If the afflicted is slower than everybody, the damage is even more severe since more acts occur. To make it easier, Adrian can also mark an enemy, halving its defense and intelligence, Seri Kesu's ice spell cuts defense too, and Doren can strengthen everybody or heal. Once you have a full team, you need only apply this one strategy: cause bleeding and apply the mark with Adrian, use an ice spell with Seri Kesu, and strengthen everybody with Doren, then just heal and attack. To make things worse, there are many mobile enemies scattered around and fights cannot be escaped once started, resulting in tedium if you do not have the Story Mode skill.

In connection to battles, some of the boss fights are creative and interesting, but most fail to impress, especially by the end. The first boss, Arger, has himself surrounded with animals he sacrifices to gain strength, if you do not destroy them quickly enough. Another boss, Azariel, fought with Lita and Seri Kesu, binds Seri Kesu, giving you the extra task of freeing her. There is a squid boss as well, which captures party members with its tentacles. The rest is bland. They mainly attack or use a multi-target damage-dealing skill and can be easily taken care of with the strategy mentioned above.

The custom systems in the game, while adding some depth, do not feel necessary at all. There is a level-up system and a crafing system, all made redundant by the Story Mode skill. During each level-up, the player has to select one stat - speed, attack, defense, intelligence, MP - to increase, HP grows automatically. The crafting system, a sub-menu accessed by selecting an item in the inventory, lets the player create potions and equipment from expensive and rare ingredients. While equipment is horrendously expensive, what is needed can be found for free in chests. Some of these are better than what can be crafted. A merchant, Talani, also magically appears in every dungeon and sells potions for cheap. So, there is barely any justification for having a crafting system, even if the player does not decide to play in story mode.

Spoiler alert: the ending will be given away in this paragraph. It is necessary to include, because it is one of the key aspects of the game which influenced my final rating.
Ara Fell has a simple story about beating a power-hungry enemy. In brief, an ordinary girl, Lita LeCotta, finds an ancient elven ring artifact with her friend, Adrian, by accident. She puts it on and inherits its power, attracting the attention of sorceress Seri Kesu and her team. Through a friend, Doren, they are introduced to Seri Kesu and carry on to finding the remaining articts so they can save Ara Fell from falling from the sky. Their adversaries are vampires, whose creation and goals are explained later. One of these vampires, known as Baramon, is revealed to be the main enemy, who wants to rule everything. He is fought and defeated at the end, then Lita's team find out that they misinterpreted the prophecy. Ara Fell is meant to fall, it does, and the player is left with the revelation that the game's title is a pun.

The problem is, defeating a one-dimensional enemy is all there is to this story, the side quests do not add anything, either. They are standard monster-fighting and fetch quests. Nothing would have changed were they excluded from the game.

It is also interesting to note that the old demo, made with the unofficial RPG Maker 2003, labelled RPG Tsukuru 2003 in rpgmaker.net's engine categories, when an official RPG Maker 2003 had not been released, already had all but one of the game's areas. Only the final dungeon was added to the commercial release and some minor changes were made to the story here and there, along with the modified level-up system and crafting systems.

In conclusion, Ara Fell is a mixed bag. The well-made maps, some of the boss battles, and the story mode are its strong suits, while everything else either comes off as generic or makes it dissatisfying to play: the dungeons get boring over time, the battles can be won using the same strategy over and over again, the custom systems are not justified to have, the story makes you feel there should have been more to it, and the side quests do not help with this either. Personally, I loved Ara Fell when I first played it, when it was only a RPG Tsukuru 2003 demo, but the story finished for the commercial release ruined it for me. Alas, it did not remain a demo...

Scoring
Maps ***** 5/5
Dungeons and Exploration *** 3/5
Battles ** 2/5
Systems ** 2/5
Story * 1/5
Side quests * 1/5


2.5/5 stars

Posts

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Personally, I loved Ara Fell when I first played it, when it was only a RPG Tsukuru 2003 demo, but the story finished for the commercial release ruined it for me. Alas, it did not remain a demo...

..I'm not sure what to make of those closing comments. The writing, battles, and pretty much every element of the game was a vast improvement over the 2004-2005 demo.
While I can understand your opinion, FarkasUrdung, I think you seem to have absurdly high expectations. Surely there isn't a well-polished RPG Maker (2003) JRPG comparable to Ara Fell that you would rate higher than 2.5 out of 5 stars, is there?

Also, it seems to me you haven't played/watched the free DLC epilogue yet that was released just a few days ago.

If I had to address something I didn't like with regard to Ara Fell, it would be the handling of the "getting stronger progression". A RPG Maker (2003) JRPG that is designed to be completed around level 30 and systematically prevents the player from buying stronger equipment (unless exploiting an earlier version bug like I did to get an infinite amount of money) doesn't satisfy my lust for getting stronger.

Note that this is just my personal taste. Since every other area of Ara Fell shows a lot of quality and effort, I can't take such a low score seriously. Maybe the game just wasn't for you. Let's move on.
author=Euphoniac
While I can understand your opinion, FarkasUrdung, I think you seem to have absurdly high expectations. Surely there isn't a well-polished RPG Maker (2003) JRPG comparable to Ara Fell that you would rate higher than 2.5 out of 5 stars, is there?

author=Euphoniac
I can't take such a low score seriously. Maybe the game just wasn't for you. Let's move on.

I would appreciate it if you hadn't scolded me for having an opinion different to yours and dismissed my review with "the game just wasn't for" me and "let's move on."

The game is average, hence the 2.5 out of 5. It has good maps and graphics, but that's all. The story has no message and doesn't make me think. It just designates a person to be evil.
For the story having a message, I wonder what you might be looking for. Elven pride is a theme, the conflict between Nash and Lita not being between good and evil but just opposing ideology, coming of age story for Lita, Doren and Talani betraying the elves and the conflict between them and Asari/Dian... Baramon's wish to end suffering by ascending to what he believes is godhood, elven pride in saying they knew what was best for everyone in Ara Fell... saying it's better that all life end than the Sunstone fall into the hands of what they perceive as evil... the subversion of the "chosen one" trope with Lita not actually being chosen but just being unlucky...

I'm not going to argue with your interpretation of the story or anything, and I certainly won't try to claim it's amazing even for the genre (or even for RPG Maker) but it sure seems like you missed or ignored a lot of the details.

To boil it down as a "simple story about a power hungry enemy" is missing almost all of what was going on. To say all it is is defeating a one-dimensional enemy misses so much of what actually happened.

It's fine if you didn't like it, but saying that is just false. This is going to sound like I'm being shitty about criticism, and I don't mean it that way... but I have to wonder if the issue isn't so much that the story didn't make you think but rather that you didn't bother to think about it.

Could it just be that you entered into this cynically?
InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4353
It might just be that the game could never live up to the expectations that you had when first playing the demo.

I'm also curious why Side Quests got a 1 out of 5. Is it because they don't interact with the story or be cause they are repetitive/uninteresting?
I'll actually give him that one. I do think it's best if all side quests have something to do with the world, some way of building lore or character or something, and AF's sidequests didn't. Sidequests in RM2k3 are surprisingly challenging to create (or maybe I should say tedious) and all the ones I wanted to have connected to the world were all scrapped because of the overall amount of work I had to do just to get the base game finished.

1/5 seems a little harsh. I think it's fair to ask like... what could you expect? What would a 3 have looked like? But I do agree that Ara Fell's side quest were pretty weak, and he's not the first person to have criticized me for it.
InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4353
How does one rate Side Quests in regards to the game?

I agree Side Quests should be world building, it's at least half the point of them. But they are also synonymous for getting extra loot/extra XP as well as a break from the main storyline. Having some Side Quests not having anything to do with storyline is fine. Though it should show the expanded world.

And yes, once I start side quests in older games in 2k3 I end up cutting it short whereas I would have preferred many many missions or quests. So, I get that.
Which is all the more to appreciate them when they do appear.

I have some questions about Baramon's plans.
Did Baramon actually intend to grant godhood to anyone but himself? He didn't seem to make any effort to convince his vampire allies to go along with his true plans and instead killed them. Also, right before the final boss battle, why was he so insistent on killing Doren to complete his genocide of the elves? At this point, he already has his godhood and the only person who can really threaten him is Lita.
Great questions! I should have made a place where you could find Baramon's diaries or something to answer some of this stuff. It would have been cool if Baramon's lair could be visited early but was guarded by powerful enemies you could only defeat later... If I ever come back to AF, I'll definitely add something like that.

Q1: Did Baramon actually intend to grant godhood to anyone but himself?

He never explicitly reveals the specifics of his plans in-game (I wanted to avoid having the villains monologuing about their plans too much), but yes,in a way. When he accidentally created vampirism, he was attempting to use the Sunstone's power to create beings that were gods. I didn't get into this as much as I wanted, but the eons have slowly whittled away his "humanity." He wanted to become a god because he believed the Goddess was either dead, had abandoned them or never existed in the first place, and that Ara Fell's people needed a benevolent god to rule them. He viewed himself as benevolent, but also that individual lives didn't matter much in the bigger picture.

Q2: He didn't seem to make any effort to convince his vampire allies to go along with his true plans and instead killed them.

He viewed them as a lost cause. They were the opposite of what Baramon had attempted to create. Also, Nash had become the leader of the coven and and he wanted a cure to return to being an elf. Baramon had hoped to work in secret, but Lita's exploits slowly revealed him.

Q3: He (like Doren and Talani, albeit not for quite the same reasons) viewed the Stone Curse as a terrible sin committed by the elves, and hated them for refusing to support him. He hadn't intended to kill all the elves, but when they guarded the way to the Sunstone Shrine, he had little choice. Killing off Doren as a god would just be a fitting end.
author=BadLuck
For the story having a message, I wonder what you might be looking for. Elven pride is a theme, the conflict between Nash and Lita not being between good and evil but just opposing ideology, coming of age story for Lita, Doren and Talani betraying the elves and the conflict between them and Asari/Dian... Baramon's wish to end suffering by ascending to what he believes is godhood, elven pride in saying they knew what was best for everyone in Ara Fell... saying it's better that all life end than the Sunstone fall into the hands of what they perceive as evil... the subversion of the "chosen one" trope with Lita not actually being chosen but just being unlucky...

I kept looking out for these small details, but they are just barely there in the game, overshadowed by long dungeons and boring fights such as the one in which you have to beat Nash about 5 times consecutively.

It is not clear to me why Nash ended up fighting Lita in the end when his goal was to stop being a vampire and what Lita's team wanted to do is save Ara Fell from the vampires and destruction. Nash could easily have been an ally.

I was very interested in the conflict between Doren and Dian, which came so late in the game and was never really resolved. It was introduced, but went nowhere, so it is like it was never there in the first place.

Talani came off as being a so-called breaking the fourth wall shopkeeper who gets tied to the main conflict at the end in a desperate attempt, so that she is not completely forgotten once the player finishes the game.

Then there is Baramon. He occasionally emerges and the most common line he gets it "...". I would have liked to learn of his background, motivations, thought process, but the only things I remember him by is him saying nothing. None of what you listed about what you wanted him to be is reflected in the game, which is why I wrote what I wrote about him.

So, what you had intended is different to what is in the game. It is a real shame, because I liked Ara Fell as a demo. However I can say I still do now despite its flaws, since it is not a bad game. Were it horrible, I had not bothered playing it through, then spending a few extra hours writing a review.
author=FarkasUrdung
author=Euphoniac
While I can understand your opinion, FarkasUrdung, I think you seem to have absurdly high expectations. Surely there isn't a well-polished RPG Maker (2003) JRPG comparable to Ara Fell that you would rate higher than 2.5 out of 5 stars, is there?
author=Euphoniac
I can't take such a low score seriously. Maybe the game just wasn't for you. Let's move on.

I would appreciate it if you hadn't scolded me for having an opinion different to yours and dismissed my review with "the game just wasn't for" me and "let's move on."

The game is average, hence the 2.5 out of 5. It has good maps and graphics, but that's all. The story has no message and doesn't make me think. It just designates a person to be evil.


I don't make it a habit to question others reviews/opinions...but this, I have to. I really feel you wrong on a a lot of this.

One I don't see how going commercial made it different. Also about the side quests, the main objective of them is to do something different then the main story. It's not their job per say to advance the story, but rather give you something else to do. I've played far worse games on this site MUCH more deserving of that score.
author=Jparker1984
I've played far worse games on this site MUCH more deserving of that score.

Don't take it personally, but if you consider bad as average, there's something seriously wrong here.
everybody is using different rating styles, some people's ratings are literally a choice between 1 or 5, and being unhappy about someone else's score suggests that you want them to rate using YOUR rating style, which is impossible.
author=FarkasUrdung
author=Jparker1984
I've played far worse games on this site MUCH more deserving of that score.
Don't take it personally, but if you consider bad as average, there's something seriously wrong here.
author=bicfarmer
everybody is using different rating styles, some people's ratings are literally a choice between 1 or 5, and being unhappy about someone else's score suggests that you want them to rate using YOUR rating style, which is impossible.

Yeah, that's pretty much it. Some people think a middle score of 2.5 is "average" while others feel it is "barely above passing grade". For myself, I consider a score of 3 to represent "average", with 2.5 to 3.5 within the general "average" range. 4-4.5 is exceptional, and 5 is outstanding (but not 'perfect, no game could ever be better!' because that is dumb and unrealistic).
I think that the review author's sense of dissatisfaction with the game is fair. Reviews are entirely subjective after all. And it's his point of view. Even the part where he says...

Personally, I loved Ara Fell when I first played it, when it was only a RPG Tsukuru 2003 demo, but the story finished for the commercial release ruined it for me. Alas, it did not remain a demo...

...has a small point. If the game was 90% made free (dunno what part of this is true, I know nothing), then you charge money for the ending, plus polish everywhere which should be a given if you're gonna sell something of good value, and the reviewer thinks he liked more the 90% he experienced before when playing the demo, well... We can't do a thing about that, it's his own experience.

Can't say a thing about the game by myself, I just played the demo a little bit. AND I KNOW NOTHIIIIINNNNNNNNN...G.

If someone disagrees with the review, make one yourself and put your opinion there. Also scores are gaaaaaarbige (except for game listings ordered by score, and extra storage for your lovely locker <3).

And please, stop the salt. If you like the game, good for you.

===

Now, he could ellaborate more on things like sidequests, give more details about why he thinks they don't add a thing to the game and stuff. But... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
author=FarkasUrdung
author=Jparker1984
I've played far worse games on this site MUCH more deserving of that score.
Don't take it personally, but if you consider bad as average, there's something seriously wrong here.


I didn't anywhere in my comment state my opinions on the verbiage of your score. I simply said I played games that I felt were more deserving of a 2.5 mark. You seem to like to kind of argue with people that differ in opinions with you.
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