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Grindsphere

  • Dyhalto
  • 07/13/2015 07:32 AM
  • 2724 views
Preamble
Bloodsphere is a remarkably unsung hero of an indie jRPG. Despite being a complete project for over 4 years with thousands of downloads, it has no name recognition, no cult following, and one single review. It's not as if the game is bad. Far from it; Bloodsphere more than makes the grade.
So what gives?

Visual: 3/5
Understandably, a game being made exclusively out of RTP is a red flag. The ready accessibility and seeming aversion to broadening visual horizons can't help but speak one word : Amateur.
However, in Bloodsphere's case the RTP exclusivity comes across more like a self-imposed limitation by it's creator, perhaps similar to the projects of RM2k3 gamedevs today. The workarounds turned out reasonably well. Mapping in particular opted for compact, distinctive piecemeal sets full of detail composing the larger landscapes. This smart design offers the player a proper feeling of progress and exploration, as opposed to the truly amateurish 100x100 barren wasteland. Here, Bloodsphere deserves respect.

But not too much respect. Even intelligent composition and creativity have their limits.


No, it isn't.


Audio: 4/5
As advertised in the Game Features list on the front page, half of the music is non-RTP. That is to say, only half.
The thing about RTP music usage : If you've heard it in one game, you'll remember that game when you play a new one. It's undesirable enough with VGMusic material, but RTP is comparatively rampant.

Fortunately, the aforementioned other half is comprised of some fantastic original music. A shame the entire soundtrack wasn't of this caliber.

Storyline: 4/5
Our protagonist, Lucian, is a Dragoon with the Reinian military. The story begins with him returning from deployment at the front lines, the first thing on his mind being reuniting with the love of his life, Kira. But within minutes of his heartfelt homecoming, she's snatched away by a powerful shadowy figure.
Maybe I'm just a sucker for simplicity, but I think this is an excellent prologue. Shadowy figures and kidnappings are normal RPG fare, but his return from the war front only to immediately find a new battle starting adds just the right amount of yearning to the mix.

There are similar feats of story composition. For example, the primary antagonist's multi-faceted plan involves coordinating the activities of various smaller-time villains who all believe theirs is the one true conspiracy, and the kidnapped Kara is brilliantly turned into the very instrument of Lucian's failures, despite her own best intentions.
Add to that, dialogue is well written and properly conveys all the background a player needs to know while highlighting character personalities.

Nothing is ever perfect, though. For one, there's a relentless abundance of tropes ranging from certain party members being unapologetic stereotypes to the use of the Broken Bridge I-don't-know-how-many times. Also, several of Lucian's decisions are asinine, such as trying to report a traitor without a shred of evidence, or escaping into hostile territory during a war to avoid hostile pursuit (which follows anyway).

But the good more than outweighs the bad, and I always argue that proper use of tropes brings familiarity to a game anyway.

Gameplay: 2.5/5
I grew up in the 80s and 90s when grinding was normal, or even expected. Hell, Dragon Quest 1 had 30 hours of exp farming and 45 minutes of actual gameplay. So when Bloodsphere ran as a fair, balanced quest for the first third before doing an instant plunge into powerleveling-is-mandatory mode, I adapted.
That doesn't make it okay though. The enemies became difficult, not for clever strategy reasons, but because they just had too much HP, did too much damage, and evaded too many attacks. Each battle became a war of attrition and the best way to survive was to pump myself up enough to kill them in 2 rounds instead of 4.
At least life got a lot easier when Lily reached Level 40.

That's pretty much all the bad there is to gameplay and even that depends on your predilection to a little organized Exp harvesting. Otherwise, things roll along at a decent clip with the plot unraveling accordingly plus a few novel ideas thrown into the bag. For instance, the thief, Erik, has a lock-picking minigame that will both delight and irritate you.

Overall: 3.5/5
As the classic jRPG flavor goes, Bloodsphere is no shortcomer. It has all the genre qualifications from an engaging storyline to powerleveling to pilfering NPC's houses... within fair judgment.


Stealing a random person's treasure on the 1st floor is okay, but the 2nd is a bit much.

Posts

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Hey, thanks for the review! Very well written and I'm glad that overall you enjoyed the game. It's crazy how time flies looking back that I finished this game 4 years ago. I have been working on a new rpg maker game since I finished Bloodsphere but work has slowed down the process a lot (really apparent when you consider it only took me 2.5 years to make Bloodsphere). But it's nice to know people still play this game and that might be the motivation I need to get cracking more on my new game! Thanks again!
Glad to hear you're working on a new project. Bloodsphere's no slouch, so I expect even better ;) Get cracking.
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