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20 Minute JRPG Experience

Seal of the Maidens is a traditional JRPG. It is important to note that I am reviewing version 1.1 of the game, or should I say, the demo. One thing about this demo is that, from what I can tell, it is in its early, early stages of development. It took me roughly 50 minutes to beat it twice, once on easy mode, and once on normal mode. There is just not enough content to truly and fairly review this game. Slashandz and I struck a deal in which if he published an honest review of my game, I would have to do the same for him. I’ll attempt to do so with my best efforts and with the limited source material I have.

First, let’s focus on the good parts about this game. One thing I noticed immediately is how controlled the battle system is. The attack power of the two party members, the experience gained, the damage sustained, and the rigid three elements system (albeit limiting) is handled carefully to the bone. The enemies get gradually harder, and the party members steadily get stronger. There seems to be a meticulous time put in the balancing of this game. No matter how in depth a combat, skill, cooking, etc. system is, if it is not carefully balanced, is nothing but utter trash. I don’t want to have to grind for an hour only to find some piece of armor a minute later that completely breaks one of my characters. The effort of gaining stats, or an item should correspond to the sense of reward you feel from it, and this game handles that effectively. Now whether the balance was handled with care and attention by the developer or whether it was merely a coincidence is not known. Whether this balance stays consistent also can’t be deciphered. There is merely not enough material to judge it on.

Now, we need to dive into some of the questionable areas of this game. This game is not very creative in terms of its resources. RTP data is loved by this game. The overworld music, town music, battle music… the soundtrack of this game… is from the RTP. The tileset, aside from the custom sprites provided for the two protagonists, is from purely RTP data. The mediocre mapping that utilizes the RTP doesn’t help either. There are caves that are scattered about the world map that are nothing but one screen big that contains one piece of armor or weapon. There is no puzzle to be solved, no monster to be defeated. Once you’re in there, boom, here’s an item, thanks for visiting, now get going on your little quest. There is also a farm on the overworld that you visit on the first 15 minutes of the game that arbitrarily wants three druid tokens, which can be found right outside his doorsteps (he apparently wants them so that he can have better harvests due to the tokens’ abilities to give their owners better luck, but this can’t hide the fact that this is merely a lousy cop-out). Now, this is handled a little better than the item-giving caves, but the guy is still practically handing you that weapon. This naïve way of handling “exploration” is very childish. These caves should contain more than one room and inaccessible areas, which would in turn motivate the player to take note of these non-mandatory areas and explore them later. By making them larger and more difficult to traverse adds much more rewarding experience when the player finally obtains the secrets within.


The puzzle was solved...


The characters and dialogue are also very bland. Also, considering the length of this game, I’m surprised that I still found a glaring and humorous continuity error. Stasia, a girl who came from the north summons the main character from the southern town of Densae to go with her to the Pathos Temple… which is in the north. So obviously, she has gone through route between the two landmarks, and yet, on her way back to the temple, she has no clue of what a Druid is, even though the trail is littered with them. This little scene is further exacerbated by the protagonist giving Stasia a lesson about the druids themselves. How does a random blacksmith have such extensive knowledge about these druids in the first place? As for the NPCs and dialogue in general… they extrude a sense of lifelessness. NPCs are scattered around the town and do nothing but say something completely capricious, or something that is useful to your quest and something they have no business knowing.


The encounter rate is pretty high... you sure you didn't run into them a little while ago?


When the protagonists exchange words, there is a sense of attitude and emotions put force, albeit the most basic you can get: Fear, astonishment, amusement, etc. just basic human emotions that don’t necessarily add depth nor distinguish the characters at all.

I don’t recommend this game, not because of all these flaws, but because it is incomplete. The game is too early in its stage to be “enjoyed” by the community just yet. There is no motivation to continue on the quest, for there is not enough time to explore the motivations of the characters before the quest is already over. I’d say, get working on that version 2.0, and maybe we can begin to see a game here.

Posts

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Great review! It sums up my points too and I'd roughly give it the same scoring right now. (Slashandz, it may be better to lower the random encounter rate on the world map, it's very high right now.)

However, there's nothing wrong with the RTP resources, it's nothing "oh wow AMAZING!" but it's not going to break a game either. There aren't that many other resources available for grabs either, unless you are an artist and create your own custom set.

So I hope part of your views with the scoring was not lowered because Slashandz was only using the RTP resources.
Thanks, both of you. While I'll admit I'm a little frustrated from the sub-par scores, I suppose it's to be expected from such a short demo.

I'm a little uncertain if I should continue working on this game though.
It's meant to be a short, lighthearted game. The final game will probably be 2 - 4 hours tops.
Is that just destined to get low reviews?
Hey man, if you like your game and really feel confident in where its going, keep doin' it. There's nothing wrong with going back and revising your story or gameplay if it needs to be. But hell, if you want to start something new, go for it! A bad review is discouraging, but it's something you can work through regardless.

I'd recommend reading up on some of the fine game-making articles on this site. People like Brickroad and Craze have written articles that have much to offer for new game developers.
It's only destined to get low reviews if you allow it to. I'd would feel really bad if it was my review that effectively discouraged a person from continuing to work on his game. Like I said, the game is still very early in its life, meaning lots of the problems can be fixed if you work hard enough. Also it's in an early enough stage that if you do decide to go for a new project, not all is lost... if you can learn from this experience.
What I'm trying to say is, don't let one review like this get you down. Instead, learn from it, and make better games.
The two reviews on this site for my game, including yours, sure has helped me a lot in terms of understanding what was the most important aspect I needed to fix in my game, the difficulty. I sat down, tried everything in power to make it better based on the suggestion, and by my guess, when the next release arrives, hopefully more people will enjoy my game.
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