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Engaging exploration combined with thoughtful battles

  • Silviera
  • 10/30/2009 05:53 PM
Battle System- 4/5
Battles in this game play out with an ATB sideview, and are rather fun. Combat is initiated through touch encounters on the map and enemies behave predictably enough that almost every fight in the game is avoidable. Although itself combat is fairly traditional, the skillsets are what make it so enjoyable. Skills that simply deal damage are the exception rather than the rule, and almost every skill has a strategic effect on the entire battle. Despite the fact that combat is on the easy side, you'll likely spend a lot of time mulling over each move to make sure to dispatch the opposition with the utmost efficiency. There are some rather epic boss fights and on the higher difficulty modes you have to manage your mp and item reserves carefully to progress safely.

The problem with the combat are not serious ones, but they are on the annoying side. The first of which is that the game is not entirely clear what the effects of each stat are, which becomes quite confusing especially when certain stats begin to overlap with each other. Taking basic damage as an example, the strength of your attack is determined by the Physical (or Magical in some case) Attack stat, the Logic stat, and up to 2 primary stats depending on the type of weapon used. Although the game does inform you that all of these stats are relevant, some of them are more important than others and since enemies have different elemental resistances and defense it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what each stat is doing for you.

The second issue has to do with experience. First of all, the game never informs you that you are gaining exp to begin with, you'll simply gain a few stats after you've fought a certain number of battles. Unfortunately since there is no indication of how much exp you're gaining per battle or how much progress a character has made, you can never be sure when an increase is due. Additionally the level cap is ridiculously low, you are only able to gain 5-6 levels per character. Although this isn't a problem if you're skilled at avoiding encounters or you aren't diligent enough to explore every dungeon, if you actually sit down and grind for even 30 minutes you'll be on your way to hitting the cap long before the game's climax. Even though the game often encourages you to avoid combat, battles begin to feel like a waste of time once your characters have peaked.

Lastly, the battle system is slightly buggy. For the most part this won't influence combat in any significant way, but every once in a while you'll encounter something strange such as an attack suddenly not being registered or an ally who will inexplicably dodge a healing spell. Revive items also have a tendancy to fail during battle, although even on the most difficult setting they are not required if you play carefully.

Storyline- 3/5
You are a nameless wanderer who comes across a small town in the middle of nowhere. While passing through you discover the town is suffering from some serious problems in the form of disappearing residents and strange monsters showing up all over the place. Following your naturally inquisitive nature you embark on a quest to discover the truth behind the incident.

This is a game which is rather light on storytelling. Aside from the initial setup the only dialogue you'll come across is the rare interaction between characters while resting at the tavern or wandering throughout dungeons. Although the game does encourage you to explore the town in order to unravel the mystery, when it comes down to it there just isn't a lot of information to go around. The story serves well enough to keep you interested in how everything is going to end, but overall isn't particularly engaging or ultimately satisfying.

Characters- 4.5/5
A very strong point of the game, nearly every character is bursting with personality. Excluding the wanderer who serves as the main character you may encounter up to 7 allies along the way, all of whom are optional. Although the game does grant some benefits for playing solo you'll certainly have a much more enjoyable experience by snapping up every person you encounter. From a thiefly sexual deviant to a crazed war veteran/demonic chef, you'll encounter an assortment of bizarre characters who are largely entertaining and serve to soften the dark atmosphere present throughout the majority of the game. It's saying a lot to have so many memorable characters in a game that is light on dialogue to begin with. The only thing dragging this category down is the fact that a handful of characters receive much less attention than others, including one who speaks in little but elipses.

Level Design- 3/5
The entire game takes place inside of one small city. You spend most of your time wandering through abandoned buildings and the nearby wilderness, looting what you can while avoiding or fighting through hosts of monsters. When you feel you have accomplished enough for one day, you can return to the inn and rest which will cause time to advance by one day. As time advances you'll notice sparkling objects begin to spring up in places of the town you've visited before, and examination of these will teleport you to interdimensional dungeons which may contain some nice loot to make exploring the town a bit easier. Each day contains a few new dungeons, but unfortunately there is no indication as to what part of the town they will open up in. It gets kind of annoying to wander through the entire city each day trying to spot one glowing tile that will lead you to an entirely different area. Eventually I ended up just sleeping through several days so I would be sure to come across a number of new dungeons in a single run of the town.

The town itself is rather simplistic, consisting of mostly an open field and a few scattered buildings. The dungeons are also uncomplicated mazes and never consist of puzzles more complicated than flipping a switch. Fortunately things are spiced up a great deal due to the fact that each character has a unique action known as a feat. These range from actions such as picking locks to granting a bonus prior to battle. Each character's feat is unique, so the more people you acquire the more options you have. You have a limited number of feats available each day, though you can increase that capacity by defeating bosses scattered throughout the dungeons or through a bit of careful exploration. Since there are plenty of ways to spend your feats you'll have to think carefully whether or not to break one out or save it for later. Fortunately if you come across a situation that absolutely requires a feat you can always head back to the inn and rest for a day to replenish your supply.

Graphics- 3/5
The maps consist entirely of the VX RTP, with a bit of color toning to darken the atmosphere a bit. Sprites are taken from Mack's VX collection and are a fair bit taller than the standard RTP. I'm not entirely sure where the battlers came from but they fit well with the sideview battle system. Although graphics are solid for the most part, a handful of the bosses were clearly small sprites that have been blown up to ridiculous proportions creating an extremely pixelated look that clashes with the rest of the game.

Music/Sound- 3.5/5
Sound effects are standard and well put together, while the music has been pulled from a variety of sources. I did not recognize any of the songs, which was a plus for me. For the most part the themes were rather somber which fit well with the dark atmosphere of the game. The battle music was often a bit more on the upbeat side, and thankfully the game contained several different battle themes so nothing became stale over the course of the game. Additionally a handful of the boss themes were quite epic.

Random stuff I like-
The feat system. Just in case you missed reading it the first time.

Random stuff I hated-
Right outside of the inn there is a bush which randomly shifts between being bare and being covered in flowers. No matter how many times I examined this bush I was given no explanation as to why it was doing this, or even any confirmation from the game that this bush actually existed and was not a figment of my overactive imagination. Throughout the game this bush ate away at the back of my psyche as I was forced to pass by it again and again.

Final Thoughts-
An extremely enjoyable adventure. Although it sometimes feels like the game isn't quite giving you all the information you'd like, the engaging battles and interesting characters should easily hold your attention until the end.


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why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
Thanks, Silv. I'm glad you liked the DEMONIC CHEF.
I always thought that the bush gnawing on your sanity was kind of the point of the bush....
Whether that was its intention or not, the bush has earned my ire.
why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
I will let you know, Silv, that the bush harms the sanity of people beyond yourself. You should form a support group.
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