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Fair warning:
By normal RPG standards this game is very difficult. It is intended for those who enjoy challenge, and especially for those who are frustrated with the ease and simplicity of typical RPGs.

Statement of purpose:
This is my ultimate attempt to create my 'ideal game' to the best of my ability and knowledge, which I've acquired from playing RPGs, creating other RPGs, and creating hardtype hacks. The two primary focuses are decision-based difficulty and customization. In addition to being hard and having lots of options for the player, this means minimizing the player's ability to level grind their way past an obstacle. The two commercial RPG series that most significantly influenced this game are Shin Megami Tensei and Etrian Odyssey series.

Game Controls:
Arrow keys: Used for movement and control cursor positions.
C/Enter/Space: The confirmation key.
X/Esc/Num 0: The cancelation key.
Q/W: Corresponds to the L and R keys respectively, used to change characters in certain menus (equip, skills, etc).

Other Functions:
Alt+Enter: Toggle full screen mode.
F1: Access to some options including game controller configuration.
F12: Soft reset.

Character statistics:
Lv: Level. Represents a character's experience. With level, HP and MP increase, and you gain a mild bonus to damage you deal. A character can only equip souls of level equal to or less than his character level. As per the game's intent, the effects of just gaining levels are fairly minimal.
Soul Lv: Soul level. Represents an approximation of a soul's power. This stat has no effects, but a character's level must exceed a soul's level in order to equip it
Learning: Progress bar that approximates the XP needed to learn the next skill. Displays Mastered if no skills available.
Skill Limit: Displays the maximum number of skills that this character can retain. This limit goes up at certain points in the game.
HP: Hit Points. Once these reach 0, a character is dead.
SP: Skill Points. Consumed to perform skills.
IP: Impulse Points. Consumed to perform impulse skills.
Next: Progress bar and number displaying the XP needed to gain the next character level.
Wpn: Attack power. Represents a weapon's attack power. Used in Weapon skills and the Attack command.
PDef: Physical Defense. Reduces damage taken from Physical attacks.
MDef: Magical Defense. Reduces damage taken from magical attacks.
(Str)rength: Used to deal damage in physical attacks.
(Dex)terity: 1 point in Dex also increases Tech by 1 point. In addition, Dex determines turn order in combat, evasion, and the character's avoidance of being critically hit.
Will: 1 point in Will also increases Focus by 1 point. In addition, Will determines the power of healing spells, ward rate, the character's avoidance of injuries, and determines your rate of inflicting and avoiding Ailments and Malice/Wrath attacks.
(Mag)ic: Used to deal damage in magical attacks.
(Tech)nique: Increases your Accuracy and chance to critically strike targets with Physical attacks.
Focus: Increases your Magic Accuracy and chance to inflict Injuries.
Accuracy: Increases your chance to hit with Physical Attacks.
Magic Accuracy: decreases the enemy's chance to Ward and increases the damage dealt when Warded.

Physical elements:
Force: Physical skills that rely on brute force. Damage based on Str.
Weapon: Physical skills that rely on the attacker's weapon. Damage based on Str and Wpn.
Magical Elements:
Heat: Magical skills that damage the target with heat. Damage based on Mag.
Cold: Magical skills that damage the target with cold. Damage based on Mag.
Elec: Magical skills that damage the target with electricity. Damage based on Mag.
Status Ailment Elements:
Body: Composed of Poison, Blind, Stun, Frail, and Numb attacks.
Mind: Composed of Sleep, Panic, Confuse, Curse, and Agony attacks.
Mortal Elements
Wrath: Deals damage based on the target's current HP.
Malice: Attempts to instantly kill targets.

Body Ailments:
Poison: Inflicts will-based damage each round of combat. Stronger poisons override weaker ones.
Blind: Halves the accuracy of all types of attacks.
Stun: Inflicts a loss of one turn.
Frail: Decreases resistance to all elements.
Numb: Completely disables all actions.
Mind Ailments:
Sleep: Disables all actions briefly. Reduces evade and critical hit avoidance to zero. Will awaken if struck.
Panic: Disables all skills.
Confuse: Causes inflicted to attack allies, will awaken if attacked or healed. Base chance to awaken is 100%, but cut in half for enemies and for AoE skills.
Curse: Inflicted receives a portion of all damage they deal.
Agony: Reduces all HP restoration effects on the inflicted.

Basic commands:
Attack: Performs a normal attack with the character's equipped weapon, dealing Weapon elemental damage. If no weapon is equipped, the damage will be Force elemental. Keep these facts in mind when considering enemy Attacks as well.
Guard: Guard eliminates any elemental weaknesses a character may have, and halves the effectiveness of all elements against that character. This includes Body, Mind, Wrath, and Malice.
Skill: Perform a skill from that character's skill set
Item: Use an item from your inventory.
Impulse: Perform an Impulse skill.
Rally: Perform a Rally.

Soul system:
The power of a Soul Shepherd allows him to sometimes acquire the souls of defeated enemies. A Shepherd is accompanied by his homunculi, living dolls that are completely under the Shepherd's direct control. Both the Shepherd and his homonculi can equip souls. When a soul is equipped, a character takes on the characteristics of the soul. This includes statistics (with the exceptions of level, HP, and SP) and elemental resistances. Through gaining experience, the character will also learn the enemy's skills from the soul. When a homonculus unequips a soul, it is destroyed and cannot be re-used. Upon re-equipping a soul, the skills of that soul may be learned again. Two different characters cannot be equipped with the same soul, and only souls of level less than or equal to the character's level may be equipped.

Enemies have the same skills and statistics as are present on their soul, with the following exceptions:
FOE: Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens, a term coined by Etrian Odyssey. These enemies can be thought of as mini-bosses, and they are not encountered randomly, but as entities that move on the map. They are much stronger than normal enemies, but their skills are not different from those of their soul. FOEs are immune to Body/Mind/Wrath/Malice.
Boss: Full-fledged bosses have no limitations. They may possess any number of abilities and have any statistics. Bosses are immune to Body/Mind/Malice/Wrath.
Hyper: Enemies in a hyper state are much more dangerous than normal. They may possess additional abilities and attributes beyond what their soul normally offers, and will always be more powerful. The experience and gold yield of the enemy is also increased, as is the chance of the enemy relinquishing its soul when defeated. Mobs in hyper have higher resistance Body/Mind/Malice/Wrath.

The main character:
The main character has a few perks over the homonculi: He has an extra skill slot, he does not destroy souls by unequipping them, and has his own soul which receives upgrades throughout the game. He also gets a few bonus stat points at various points.

Skill limit:
A character's skill set is fully customizable, but they can only hold a small number of skills. This limit is upgraded throughout the game.

Impulse Skills:
Impulse skills require Impulse Points (IP) to use. Impulse Points are gained in various ways, each combat round a small number of points are gained, points are also gained when a character receives damage, and when a character kills an enemy. The Impulse option will become revealed when you have enough IP points to perform an Impulse skill. If the bar is full, the option will appear in red, otherwise, it will appear in orange. You may press right on the keypad while on the Attack command at any time to view Impulse Skills available.

Rally Skills:
Shields, gauntlets, and bracelets may have Rally skills. A Rally skill is a special function of the Guard command that effects the whole party. The Guard effect will be 20% weaker and won't remove the character's elemental weaknesses, but Rallies give an extra bonus that generally aids the entire party. Only one character may perform a Rally per round. The Rally option will become revealed when you have a shield, gauntlet, or bracelet with a Rally skill on it. You may press right on the keypad while on the Guard command at any time to view your Rally skill.

Shard system:
In addition to being equipped, souls may be shattered into Soul Shards. Shards can then be equipped to characters to provide a wide variety of special effects. You are limited to 2 Shards at the start of the game, but this limit will increase as the game progresses.

Damage display:
When an attack displays "Critical" a Critical hit has occurred. Critical hits deal 50% more damage than normal. When an attack displays "Ward", the target has Warded the attack, the damage is reduced based on a comparison of the target's Will to the attacker's Focus. When damage displays red, the target is weak to the element used. When white, the target has normal resistance to the element. When grey, the target resists the element. When "VOID", the target is immune to the attack. When green, the target was healed. "Miss" means the attack failed. For attacks that do not deal damage, "Resist" means the target resisted the attack and it missed. "Weak" means the target was weak to the attack and it succeeded.

When using Heat, Cold, and Elec skills, an Injury may be inflicted. Injuries last for a short time and generally increase the damage received by the target. The likelihood of inflicting an injury is based on Focus and the target's resistance to the element. The Injuries are as follows:
Heat - Burn: Slightly increases damage received and deals a portion of the original damage of the skill each round.
Cold - Chill: Significantly increases damage received.
Elec - Spasm: Greatly reduces the target's evasion and ward rates, and greatly increases the odds of being critically struck and injured.

Later in the game, the party can assume formations. Formations alter the parties Threat and AoE PDef/MDef stats. The effects of these stats are listed below.

Threat refers to the likelihood that a character will be the target of attacks by enemies. The chance for a character to be targeted is their threat divided by the total threat of all living members combined. Use this to your advantage by having more defensive characters take more hits. Physical and Magical attacks have separate threats.

AoE PDef/MDef %:
Normally, every member of the party takes 100% damage from AoE attacks (attacks that hit the entire party), however, this damage can be distributed with a different weighting depending on the party's Formation. This weighting is shown here.