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With hours left before the confirmation of a new temporal cycle, a band of ambitious sellswords descends into the depths to bring the march of time to a final stop.

Time is running out, all over again...

Cataphract OI is an experimental turn-based RPG escort mission made in RPG Maker 2000. Key features include:

  • Move as a unit. Lead your party from room to room with menu-based movement and protect your squad out of combat by avoiding wandering monsters and holding defensive positions.

  • Race against the clock. Time is your most precious resource as every action in or out of combat advances the mission clock. Learn the landscape, choose your actions carefully, and halt the wheel of time before it runs you over.

  • Step into the Fray. The vortex of battle is safe at the margins, but anything can happen at its lethal center. Protect your party by keeping them out of the Fray while driving your enemies into its deadly clutches.

  • Protect your charge. The operation turns on the Supplicant's survival. Everyone has a role to play in keeping her alive: control the Fray with the Captain, cling to your charge's side with the Satellite, and tear down tough foes early with the Wolf.

One dungeon, medium-hard difficulty, light story. Estimated playtime: 2-3 hours.

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  • Completed
  • Koff
  • RPG Tsukuru 2000
  • RPG
  • 11/14/2021 08:17 PM
  • 10/16/2023 02:23 PM
  • 11/12/2021
  • 5269
  • 3
  • 101


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I feel like people have been sleeping on this one - even though it's more of a proof of concept than anything else, it's probably one of the more interesting tactical puzzles I've run into in an RPG Maker game. That's not easy with such a minimal design - I feel like a lot of more traditional RPG Maker games could take notes here when designing their own combat systems.

A few more specific comments under the spoiler:

1) I feel like the game could've benefited from way more enemy variety - I know it was an experiment, but outside of the final boss (which I haven't beaten yet), I've run into three common enemy types and one optional mini-boss... and that's it. Since most enemies only have 1-2 moves that they spam, this did lead to fights getting a little tedious near the end.

2) This game really needs to be better at communicating what things do. Even after spending a couple hours with the game, I still don't know how Death Sensitivity is supposed to work (I'm not sure if it even triggered, or how I'd know if it did?). More importantly, you don't get an explanation of what Lash/Internal/Cave-In do until you spend your single-use item to teach them to a character, so I never felt like I was making an informed decision.

3) Actually, speaking of Lash/Internal/Cave-In... I do have some questions about how they work (despite using them a bunch). First off, does their damage depend on who uses them, or does everyone get roughly the same damage when they Lash an enemy (for example). Also, am I imagining things or does Cave-In deal extra damage to enemies that are in the Fray?

4) The grim reaper enemies near felt like absolute bullshit. The rest of the game is built on managing risk and avoiding damage entirely, and then suddenly the game introduces an enemy that ignores the whole system. I get that the idea is to add an enemy that you have to prioritize, but doing it by having it auto-hit for full damage feels cheap.

5) Another similarly cheap-feeling fight was, ironically, made up entirely of the basic skeletons. The fight with five skeletons that you can run into after jumping down the pit is a crapshoot, since there's a reasonable chance that one of them will randomly engage Guruntum and then another one will one-shot them, with absolutely no counterplay since it happened between two of your characters' turns. I think that this is a sign that the damage is too high - it should probably take two hits to kill the Supplicant so that the player can actually react to the threat.

6) Waiting instead of moving between rooms felt useful in exactly one room, and otherwise seemed pointless. I think this is another "not adequately communicated to the player" thing, since it feels like it assumes that you have some sense of enemy "patrol patterns". I've done multiple runs, including one where I fully mapped out the dungeon, and I still don't know if there's any way to avoid fights other than going around them.

7) OK, I've been pretty negative so far... but the Fray is really damn clever. It's a surprisingly physical system in an otherwise traditional menu-based combat system, and it feels obvious that this game only scratched the surface of what you can do with it (my favorite moment was in the fight with the minotaur guy - the move where it charges into the middle of the party was so dang cool).

8) The decision to make the game an escort mission was a good one. Like, you'd think that baby-sitting the White Mage would be boring, but it really made the threat management system pop. Good job there.

9) The plot was minimal, but honestly pretty intriguing? I also love that you get the choice to either let the villain monologue or interrupt them, which felt like a nice touch since the player probably only has 30 minutes or so left when they get to the final boss.

If you ever revisit this (or if someone else picks up the idea and runs with it), I did make a mental list of stuff that I think would be cool to see (also spoilered):

1) Skeleton archers that can always attack your characters, but who miss if they're in the Fray.
2) Slow zombies that go after everyone else but hit super hard.
3) Bats that can't be Engaged but can't attack themselves.
4) Bomb enemies that explode after X turns and hurt everything currently in the Fray.
I'm always happy to see another entry in the underserved "Unlimited Saga-like" genre, and quite enjoying this one. This battle system is very cool. I died several times starting out and thought the game was really hard at first, but now that I understand how this party works together better, I'm making steady progress. I also like the way the characters show their personalities through their animations; even with no dialogue, I feel like I understand them pretty well.

I feel like there should be some way to avoid being put into the fray, like maybe disengaging would also stop you from being engaged for the rest of the round or something. Might make it too easy, though, I dunno. Guruntum can't disengage on her own, so maybe it would be fine?

One minor issue that might only be an issue at all because I was dumb: If you open the menu during the intro, the option to save doesn't work, and that led me to think at first that it would never work and you just had to beat it in one run, which would put it firmly in "neat but I'll never get very far" territory. Eventually I realized that you actually can save while resting at dead ends.
Finished! The final battle was tough and took many tries, but it felt great to finally figure out a working strategy for it. I liked this a lot!
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