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Guild Raider! Is Better Than Your Game...at least in a lot of ways.

Guild Raider! Is Better Than Your Game...at least in a lot of ways.

Guild Raider! by psy_wombat with some help from bob_esc is the best RM2k game that I've played in between 5 and 10 years. If I had to try to narrow that down, I'd guess between 7 and 8. The important thing to stress is that I haven't played an RM2k game this good in at least half a decade. And don't let the fact that most people have switched to 2k3, XP, or VX in the past 5 years cheapen that statement any.

One last disclaimer before I begin evaluating categories. I have not *quite* finished Guild Raider! though I certainly intend to. This review is being written after losing to what I can only assume is being the final boss.


The story in Guild Raider! is highly 'cliche'--although I hate to use that word, mein gott, it's so overused itself. Perhaps more accurate is to say is that the plot of Guild Raider! has little to offer but a bare bones collection of standard fantasy jRPG tropes.

You are adventurers hired by the Great Sage Aven to explore an abandoned magischolars guild hall in search of 77 magical artifacts, called magi, which have individual powers but when combined grant the power to effectively become a god. The team with the most magi once the guild is all the way plundered receives 500,000 Rupees, which is a lot. It gets deeper than that but...not much. There is a twist at the end, a twist which is bizarre, hilarious, out there, and thoroughly, thoroughly endearing. I guarantee you won't see it coming, because it's literally impossible to do so. It is not foreshadowed in any way. And it is adorable.

Most of the appeal of Guild Raider's "story" comes from its characters.

Malu is annoyingly optimistic, Gordon is your standard likeable dumb guy (an odd choice if the player happens to make him a MageKnight, but whatever), Diaghilev is your basic snarky black mage (honestly one of my favorite archetypes) and Rathmyer is...silent but deadly.

There are three other parties of adventurers besides Malu's. The team lead by Miles is hilariously incompetent and goofy. The team lead by Guy is not much different, except they have the added gimmick of being a living parody of D&D and the archetypical jRPG party, especially Glorfindel who is hands down the best/funniest character in the game. Guy's crew on their own are much funnier (and more concise) than most "comedy games" that attempt a similar style of humor. And Tobit's team are, well...a bunch of dicks. Consistently. No character ever changes as far as I can tell over the course of the game.

"Okay, just checking." -- The writing in Guild Raider! is consistently brilliant/wonderful, and often made me laugh and/or smile.

Although all characters are fairly one-dimensional, archetypical, or both, they act in a consistent manner and interact in ways that causes wacky hijinx to ensue. It's the standard formula for ensemble comedy--static characters with consistent and exaggerated personalities. And it works. My expectations were certainly met, perhaps because even one-dimension is something that 90% of RM games can't manage to give their characters.

The only characters really lacking narrative 'flesh' I thought were Aven and Abel. I'd love to learn a bit more about them. (If there are big reveals about either character after *successfully* beating the final boss, then I apologize.)

A few points are being taken off here for a very specific reason. Rathmyer is ostensible female, but is never referred to by the female pronoun until 80% of the way into the game, does not have a feminine looking sprite, does not have a feminine looking face set (since this game uses sprites for face sets) and does not have a feminine sounding name. As a matter of fact, the character's name and art are all very masculine. It turns out this doesn't matter at all, but I was still annoyed by it.

SCORE: 80/100


This *should* logically be the area where Guild Raider! shines. The game is very light on story and the graphics and audio are nothing memorable. This is plainly where the game's focus is.

In Guild Raider! you control a customizable party of four adventurers. Each of four characters has a choice of three races (the same three for all characters) and three classes (each of the four characters has a choice of the three classes unique to them; there are 12 classes in the game and no two characters can be the same class). Gordon and Rathmyer are pretty much firmly encamped as Tank and Stealthy Guy respectively, although you can toggle the flavor and focus. Malu and Diaghilev each get to choose from an array of magic users ranging from cleric/healer to blaster caster and everything in between.

This is the first screen that Guild Raider! shows you and no, it doesn't ever bother to explain what this actually means.
It's not hard to figure out yourself, though.

Your race (human, mutant, or baron, two of which to me are odd choices. Mutant is not what I think of when I think of a primarily fantasy game, whereas baron is pretty clearly a rank, not a race) determines your starting skills and abilities and the rate at which you learn abilities and skills. Your class determines the set of abilities you learn. The game has a fairly narrow pool of abilities that all 12 classes draw from, and many classes get some of the same abilities as other classes but in a different order and with a different emphasis. Your weapon type determines which skills you learn--there are sword skills, dagger skills, spear skills, axe skills, staff skills, and bow skills. You must have a weapon of the appropriate type equipped to use the skills you've learned, and the weapon you have equipped on level up determines what type of skill you learn.

Unfortunately, the game's ultimate equips don't fall into any of these categories, meaning if you want your characters' stats to be competitive, you need to lose access to the skills you've learned throughout the game. Which...unfortunately matters less than it should.

You can equip weapons, armor, a helmet, and a very very small pool of hard-to-find accessories. And instead of a shield, you can equip magi--each character can only have one magi equipped. What do magi do? Magi can do anything. They're fun to collect and sell and equip and experiment with, which makes this game very addictive.

In my most advanced playthrough, Malu is a sword-wielding mutant Cleric, Gordon is a sword-wielding Baron MageKnight, Diaghilev is a Dagger-wielding Mutant Evoker, and Rathmyer is a Bow-wielding Human (lol) Assassin. Having the wrong weapons equipped at character creation or as you level up can cause you to learn lots of skills you will basically be unable to use throughout the game, although one late game weapon, Omnimetallic, takes care of this problem for at least one character. Nonetheless, Malu spent most of the game with dagger and staff skills she could never use, due to starting the game with a dagger automatically and briefly using a staff for a while around RK 2.

The reason all of this custom...customization doesn't matter that much is because Guild Raider! is ultimately a very easy game. Compounding sin upon sin is the fact that not only is Guild Raider! easy, but its balance seems to heavily favor physical attacks. Admittedly, I'm not a 'space bar masher' at all, and I paid careful attention to my equips and skill sets throughout the game. The payoff for using skills, however, often seems too low. Generally, Diaghilev spending some of his limited PP is outperformed by the (infinitely reusable) regular attack of characters like Rathmyer and Gordon. This is further compounded by the fact that some enemies seem highly resistant to all non-physical attacks, like the spirit, encouraging space bar mashing even further. And too few foes have clearly identifiable elemental weaknesses. (The game's elements are, randomly enough, ice, lightning, and earth, although what if any rock-paper-scissors relationship they have is unclear to me.) Also severely underpowered in Guild Raider! is healing, which is almost hilariously inefficient when attempted inside of battle. This is a shame, since it is possible to build Malu in such a way that she has nothing else to do but heal.

All of this matters very little...generally if you equip your strongest weapons and attack you will be able to steamroll over most enemies simply by attacking. Throw in strategic use of the many, many status-inflicting abilities you will quickly unlock, and the game becomes an utter cake walk.

My favorite and least favorite thing about the battle balance in Guild Raider! is the susceptibility of boss enemies to status effects. In the numerous 4 v. 4 duels that occur vs. the opposing adventuring parties throughout the game, the ability to be able to strategically freeze and petrify enemy opponents is an exhilarating, refreshing change from the tired old catch-22 of your basic final fantasy clone--status-inducing spells are only worth using on bosses, who are immune to them.

However, being able to stun-lock story miniboss "Ned" using Storm and Force Shot so thoroughly that the boss NEVER TOOK A SINGLE ACTION AGAINST US was a sad and disappointing anti-climax. Boss fights in general were very hit and miss, with the action patterns of some bosses not making a whole lot of sense or making for a very riveting fight. The 4 on 4 duels vs. the other adventuring parties, however, were consistently fun and exciting, although I did win almost all of them pretty hard.

The truth is, Guild Raider! is so easy that I did not see the game over screen (or lose a battle at all) until the FINAL BOSS FIGHT. Even when I made gross strategic errors, like dueling Tobit's team over the key and the four magi when my entire party was completely exhausted from the Arch-Griffin fight, I was still able to pull through and win. Many players would consider being able to play an entire game without ever seeing the game over screen an unqualified plus...I would not. Having a game that's easy DOES serve to make the early game more accessible and addictive, however, this comes at the risk of making later game victories hollow or worse, boring.

It might sound like Guild Raider! isn't that much better than your game based on the battles alone. Well, fortunately, RPG battles aren't everything.

The level design in Guild Raider! is absolutely excellent. Besides choosing which on-touch enemy encounters to run past and which to battle directly, you'll get to explore a dungeon CONSISTENTLY CHOCK FULL of traps, locked doors (which can be opened with in-game skills and items), locked chests (ditto), traps (which can be disarmed with in-game items, although this is really only possible upon replaying a save and knowing exactly where the trap is, which is lame), and secret passages. Every level contains these diverse gameplay elements, plus one-off things like splitting up the party/controlling two parties simultaneously, rotating rooms, teleportation mazes, and all of the other stuff that makes dungeon delving fun.

But probably the most fun thing about Guild Raider! is collecting the generously distributed treasure. Not only are your dungeon delving skills from other video game RPGs useful here, but veteran D&D players will feel at home as well. I was able to identify a secret passage simply because it was a 'dead end', and what purpose do dead-ends have but to contain secret doors?

Stepping through a water fall to find a hidden room full of locked (and potentially trapped!) treasure boxes bursting with Magi is a thrill practically unparalleled in all RM games, ever. Collecting Magi and dueling with your fellow adventurers for them is stupidly addictive. If this game had randomized treasure and levels like a true roguelike (the level part is, I know, probably impossible in RM2k) it would have one of the highest replay values of all time. As it stand, it's still very high...and don't expect to get all 77 Magi on your first playthrough.

That said, the level design/field gameplay is not perfect. Specifically, the way decoys work seems useless to the point of being unfair, and the fact that the prism ceases working on any given floor once you move on to the next floor makes hunting down the last few Magi a real pain. More importantly, the last few areas, especially Level 4, felt extremely rushed and not nearly as polished as some of the earlier levels. Of course, then again, I was also rushing through them to finish and review the game, so maybe that's not entirely fair.

If I could change only one thing about Guild Raider! it would be to add pre-character creation tutorials explaining the exact difference between skills and abilities and how they work. Even a readme would be better help than what the current player has, which is nothing. The tooltips on the character creation screen are useless, because saying 'this one grants more skills, whereas this one grants more abilities' is meaningless if you don't explain that distinction clearly beforehand.

But these are nitpicks. Guild Raider! is an extraordinarily fun and addictive game with tons of customization, exploration, and replay value.

SCORE: 80/100


With the exception of Rathmyer's undetectable/misleading gender, the graphics in Guild Raider don't get in the way. There are some neat flourishes, like the ice-golem summoning boss on level 4, the background panorams on level 4, or the doors on level 5. The mapping is functional and includes lots of alternate pathways. The sprite work for all of the characters is really really neat although I have no idea how much of it is custom, edits, or just found.

Overall, especially looking at the maps, is very little "eye candy" on display here, but honestly who fucking cares. Go play FFXIII again if you want something pretty to look at.

One of the few things I found generally could have been improved upon was the monster graphics. I know you were going for a certain sort of 'cutesy' aesthetic, but those tiny little sprites are just kind of bland and boring.

SCORE: 60/100


The music in Guild Raider! is bouncy, catchy, and up-beat, and for the most part I really dig it. It makes me want to KICK DOWN THE DOOR! FIGHT THE MONSTERS! LOCKPICK THE CHESTS! TAKE THE MAGI!

Apparently a lot of it is from other video games, but I didn't really notice or care. It didn't take anything away.

Sound effects were mostly or entirely RTP, and didn't make much of an impact. They were used well enough to not make much of an impression either way.

SCORE: 70/100

FINAL SCORE: 80/100 (Note: not an average.)

Guild Raider! is an ode to minimalism. It does not waste one second longer than it has to on story, graphics, or any other BS. Everything that the game doesn't specifically focus on is handled quickly, competently, and cleanly and then put out of the way for the game to focus on tight, addictive dungeon delving and treasure hunting. This is in many ways an amazing game, and there's a lot you could learn from it. So get out there, and hunt some magi!


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Ooo, this game looks good! I will have to check it out.
Agreeing with everything in this review as to my first playthrough.

I'd like to note that his decision to make "field healing" and "battle healing" was interesting but also worthless because ultimately, healing meant very little :/ I liked the game but that was a problem.

Also, maybe it's because of my playthrough choices, but the skill variety wasn't all that great, at least on the abilities end. Gordon was the only 1 I bothered with skills on. I used Rathmyer as a utility and I used the other 2 as nuker/support respectively but I have to say that the abilities felt really similar at times. "Thunder Sword: Hit and stun" "Bolting: Stun" "Freeze: Freeze." And then, I'd throw out spells and it'd end up doing near nothing anyway...
Ha, Max's long-awaited review. First of all, thanks for your patience during the versioning process!

I'll accept the blame for the healing issues... At the last minute I changed mind effect % to 100 instead of 50, but apparently in RM2K that just means that the target character's mind power is subtracted from the amount to heal. Whoops. I've changed this and made a number of small fixes (really minor) for the newer version. If I find the time I'll probably make the explanation screen as suggested.

There are no multiple endings, Aven and Abel are just underdeveloped. Though I'm not sure if you grabbed 1.3*, where the ending covers the character's story after they leave the dungeon. I'm glad the overall game was enjoyable though.

doomed2die: Though low-level abilities may be common across certain classes, each class has a unique highest-level ability and their later abilities tend to be very different.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
As I mentioned in the review (I know it's a lot of text, so you might have missed this) I couldn't manage to beat the final boss yet, so I haven't seen the ending at all.
You know what, now that I see your link to Nuklearpower, I really CAN appreciate how much Diaghlev is like Black Mage.

Also, thanks for the kind review!
This is a really excellent review, in my opinion, for what seems like a really excellent game -I'm looking forward to playing it tonight!
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
Thank you Faenon.

(Thank you Faenon.)
Sorry, I was typing that on a train on my phone, hence spellings and double post. I've played it now and agree with this review. Especially with the advice about an explanatory start screen and an explanation about skills vs. abilities.
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