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What Could Have Been

I never subscribed to this game, but it was always on my radar, despite the fact that it is unfinished and will remain so for all eternity. I don't know why it was ever on my radar - perhaps it was because of the Mak-A-Do artwork, perhaps it was because Craze was at the helm, or perhaps it was because I had set my eyes upon the game at the right time. I honestly have no idea, but having downloaded In Praise Of Peace and having played all the way through to the Chapter Three miniboss, I can safely say I'm glad to have experienced such an intriguing and charming, albeit short, adventure.

I hope you bear with me, as I don't do numerical scores. I'd rather let the writing speak for itself, or, you know, you could play the game and judge it for yourself. That might work as well. You can finish it within two or so hours, so if you've nothing to do, it's a good time waster at its worst. This review is probably a lost cause, as I'm reviewing a game which will probably never see completion, but what the hell.

Gameplay & Balance
The battles often fluctuated between being mildly challenging and being insanely easy, though the game manages to maintain an equilibrium throughout. Early on, especially during Chapter One, regular battles were quick affairs with very little strategy involved, but once Chapter Two arrives, the game hits you with enemies that could very well dispatch one of your party members with a single spell. Honestly, I did not find this to be much of a problem, but I imagine others will very well become frustrated by this very thought. Craze certainly made use of monster party templates and status effects in In Praise of Peace, as every random encounter was complimented by a very direct, albeit flexible, strategy to implement. The battles may not have been overly complex, but they worked in providing an equal opportunity obstacle for the player just as much as any boss would, but instead of being impeded by massive reserves of HP, they were accelerated affairs which could quickly become deadly if you grew complacent.

The game's boss battles were, I found, mainly about endurance. They could become drawn out and arduous, but patience was key. I urge you not to spam the attack command during these boss battles, as you will be mince meat in mere seconds. Perseverance and strategy were pivotal to survival. Unlike other RPG Maker games, where weaknesses and status effects really have no bearing on the difficulty of a boss (or they're just executed horribly), In Praise Of Peace utilizes element weaknesses and status effect efficiency in a way that they're almost nigh, but they're incredibly easy to exploit if you're savvy enough, which is what I found out when facing the Abomination boss in the second Chapter. This could be easily nullified if the game's status effects did not last such a long time, but then again, the reverse effect is true if you're on the receiving end.

Do not be fooled by appearances. He's badass.

The Charge Time-based battle system, courtesy of Yanfly Engine Melody, did have some minor hiccups, or so I think. Sometimes I'd have a character going in to attack as evident by their incoming icon, but then all of a sudden, an enemy would strike me twice, despite their icon being several charges away. I know the mechanics of the Charge Turn battle system well enough, so I'm not sure if this was intentional or a technical hiccup with the battle system. Thankfully, the problem was infrequent and posed no game-breaking threat. Otherwise, the system is perfectly fine the way it is and provides fun, fast, and engaging battles throughout the duration of the game.

Gemstones often provide the crux of battle enhancement, as each gemstone provides you with skills pertaining to a particular element or job, if you will. I did not dabble in this aspect of the game too much, but it provided near limitless customization, though it left a lot to be desired in regards to the organization of your mastered skills, as well as the progress of such mastery being sectioned off away from your skills. If Craze had managed to implement the numerous windows associated with skill progression into the greater skill menu, it would've been a lot easier to circumvent the jumbled interface, but it is a minor issue which could easily be rectified if the developer wanted to do so.

Three commands associated with skills? "Customize," "Skill," and "Progress."

There aren't really any puzzles to be had, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your viewpoint on puzzles. If the puzzle does not suit the story's best interest or is merely an arbitrary waypoint between your objectives, it is superfluous in my humble opinion. Well, if you ascertain the game's mechanics, I suppose it could be said that there are indeed puzzles to be had in the game, but their placement is subtle - in the battles themselves. Each new enemy is almost like a piece of a greater puzzle that is the enemy party, but instead of attempting to put it together, you'll have to pick it apart piece by piece in order to truly succeed. Good stuff.

Shopping was practically useless, since monsters dropped items frequently, while weapons were found in the various dungeons if you search long enough. Not to mention, prices are ludicrously high for most essentials, while battle frequency is not enough to compensate. I never ran from a battle and at most, I accumulated nearly 1500 Oren, which may seem like a lot to buy items, but you'd be wrong. Dead wrong. Item resource management is not as bad in this game as it is many others, as there are enough healing crystals to help allay your fear of being overwhelmed when knee deep in a dungeon, which brings me to my next point.

Level Design
I'd hardly call myself a "mapper," nor do I really care much for the intricacies of this sacred art, as many do. Functional is what I prefer, not candy-coated chaos covered in gloss to compensate for weak gameplay. In Praise of Peace, the dungeons were very easy to navigate, despite their compact areas and abrupt placement of impassable tiles. No clutter, but no wide, open spaces either. Fully functional and solid in every facet, but not overly bland nor visually obstructing either. It's quite refreshing to see, because many a time, you'd either see an incredibly desolate and sparse dungeon, or a cluttered cornucopia of unnecessary eye candy. In Praise of Peace strikes an adequate balance between these two extremes, while not really committing itself to any school of mapping philosophy. Cheers.

Indeed you are.

Character & Plot
This aspect of the game was probably the weakest, although it had more to do with the ambiguity and vagueness of the plot than it did with the characters. The plot was hardly established; instead, we are treated to anecdotes and quick quips from our starring characters. Although the characters were hardly captivating, they were entertaining in traditional Craze manner. A little dry wit and situational sarcasm, as well as deadpan snarking, is always welcome in my eyes, although at times, it did become a little jarring as you'd see it in almost every instance of dialogue, unfortunately diluting the flavor ever so much. Why oh why, Craze? The grammar is quite superb, but the side effect of this is that dialog can often sound unnatural, almost unnervingly so.

The cutscenes are told mainly via Mak-A-Do's character portraits and quaint dialogue against a rather simple black backdrop. Truth be told, this works almost beautifully in the game's favor. It's simple and clean, with the emphasis being on the characters and the words they have to say, not their surrounding environments. Characterization through this method, however, did feel just a tad bit flat, with the tone never established except through the music being played, which I will elaborate on further in the review. Exposition is a nonfactor, as the game moves on from dungeon to cutscene, rinse and repeat, without much in the way of variety. It's not entirely a bad thing, but I'm sure many will cry afoul at the sheer linearity. Then again, what more can we expect from an unfinished game?

The individual personalities are a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have the pious but unforgiving Padrick, whose contradictory sense of character is even lampshaded by one of the characters within the actual game. While he was a good foil to Lun - the stock oriental martial artist - and to Martin - the wily brigand with a penchant for the opposite sex - he had no character chemistry with Carmilla, one of the most important characters - from what I gathered - of the story. Their dialogue felt too empty for my taste. One of the most interesting characters, Prince Horace, is killed off too quickly, though. From all the screenshots, he very well could've been the ensemble darkhorse, but just as quickly as he entered into the story, he just dropped dead. Pity.

Music & Sound
Quite a selection of music, all of which fit the occasion. I did not find a piece I did not like. RTP sound effect quality was clean as well. During cutscenes, the music, synchronised with the dialogue, was probably the only way to truly gauge the mood of a particular scene. You either love it or you hate it. The music for the regular battles is sufficient, if not a little underwhelming, while the music for the boss battle is just as epic as you'd expect it to be. Music for the three dungeons ranges from catchy to standard RPG fare, which admittedly is not as bad as it seems. I did like the fact that all the songs were new to me, so it made for a fresher experience. Additionally, none of the songs are ripped from other, more well known commercial RPGs, so there isn't a dissonance between the game you're playing and the music you're associating it with.

If I had any regrets about playing In Praise Of Peace, it is that I was essentially playing an incomplete project which had no hope of fulfilling itself. I managed to squeeze in about two hours or so of playtime from this demo, and while the game was incredibly linear in progression and unpolished in presentation, it was quite refined and nearly impeccable in terms of gameplay execution. It's such a shame that it will never be completed, as I desire to find out more about the world and its inhabitants. I spent too little time with the characters and their plight, not really getting to know either. There is so much potential here, so much to flesh out. I suppose the rough product we have now will suffice, but for those of you who want to see more of this mysterious world, this small taste will probably not sate you, but leave you wanting just a bit more. Alas, "wherefore art thou, In Praise Of Peace?"

+ Strategic Battles
+ Great Soundtrack
- Lacking Interface
- Paper-Thin Plot


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why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
Wow, thank you for this. I agree with... just about everything you said.

One thing: Horace is a main character, and one of the only eight speaking roles throughout. Since it'll never be finished anyway, I guess I'll just spoil it.
Horace made a pact with a Demon (capital D, as in Diablocide, as in Martin is Martin IV's great-grandfather) that Navine can control/summon in order to make him not-die when Salvation inevitably tries to kill him. (Navine is of close-to-royalty nobility and is using Tristan in order to track Salvation through the Argot Night.) Horace comes back as a sort of regal zombie messiah, and chases Salvation down with his newound demonic/undead army so that they can't sully his name and kill him again and stuff.

That's the two-cent summary, at least. Basically, he's the main bad guy.

Since it'll never be finished anyway, I guess I'll just spoil it.

I'm guessing, no.
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