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An exceptionally immersive, visually-pleasing RPG that crashes from time to time

  • Gibmaker
  • 02/26/2008 10:57 AM
  • 990 views
Most RPGs aspire to have Ye Olde Epic Proportions, with dozens of dungeons and characters and hundreds of hours of gameplay. In a lot of cases these RPGs never get finished because of the incredible amount of work that must go into them, so beginner RPG Makers are encouraged to think small for their first efforts.

But, Supa and Vonguard are certainly no beginner RPG Makers! Destiny's Blades is a wholesome, delicious game that demonstrates how much effort it takes to make a classic epic RPG that really stands out.

Of course, this acclaim must be taken with a grain of salt, considering only the demo version is completed at this time, consisting of the first 3 chapters of what looks to be 7 or 8. It remains to be seen whether the Latte crew can pull off the rest of the game 1) at all, and 2) with the same excellent standards evinced in the demo release.

* STORY

The story is familiar territory for epic RPGs, involving an ancient order of knights who sealed away eight artifacts because they were too powerful. (Oh, those artifacts. Always causing trouble.) You are a young man who wakes up after a shipwreck with no memory of your identity, but of course you're going to discover that you're a big important guy with superpowers. You're joined by most of the traditional RPG archetypes, i.e. the mage, the healer, the thief. Familiar territory perhaps, but the Latte crew gives it enough of a personal touch to avoid being derivative.

Other than core story quests, there are also many side quests and bonus dungeons, which shows a lot of effort on the designer's part. Many of these side quests take some effort to find, usually by re-exploring towns after finishing the major quest for that town.

* MAPPING

Glorious. One way to measure mapping is amount of detail put into areas OUTSIDE the gameplay area, and the mapper leaves nothing to be desired. Forested areas have interesting vegetation all the way to the edge of the screen; the mountain pass is full of crags and terraces; caves are enclosed by eye candy instead of black space. There are even consistent ambient touches like flying birds and changing weather. In fact, when you step out the door in the starting village, the sheer QUANTITY of chipmunks and butterflies will make you giggle or throw up, depending on whether you like Walt Disney. Dungeons are also designed with enough puzzles and gimmicks to offset the usual tedium of random battles. EVERY crate and container in the game can be searched (except for a few which I assume were overlooked by mistake) and although finds are few, it's enough to encourage players to explore every area.

* GAME SYSTEMS

New game systems are too numerous to mention, and are almost ... ALMOST ... bug-free. (See below.) Combat is made interesting by battlers entering a powerful state called "Trance" after a certain number of turns, unlocking new talents. Also, the status-causing attacks are actually useful! (Unlike in many games where you can spend 10 turns trying to lower a boss's attack by 1%, when you could have just killed him in half the time.)

Characters level up in the traditional way, gaining experience from combat. There are also plenty of power-up items to be found in containers, or otherwise acquired. Magic spells, however, must be "bought" from magic guilds in towns, which is unique, and it gives the player more control over what sort of talents the characters have.

There are two minigames in Destiny's Blades: Crate Sliding and Dragon Racing. The Dragon Racing is an action minigame that I didn't really care for, it suffering from the usual clunky controls and event-based hit detection. But Crate Sliding was unique and easy to understand; the puzzles were simple at first, but later puzzles get quite devious!

There are plenty of other tricks and toys programmed in the game, but most of them have no effect on gameplay, and are thus only distractions. Oddly, these are many of the features highlighted on the home page for this game. Yes you can play the pianos, but ... so what? After drumming out Twinkle Twinkle once or twice you'll never bother with it again. Same with getting drunk in the pubs. It would have been interesting if drunkenness created an actual status effect that carried over into some other aspect of gameplay, but the effects disappear as soon as you leave the pub. (If only!) The pocket watch is unnecessary as the time of day has no bearing on anything other than the screen tone. As for running/walking, why would you EVER walk?

These features certainly don't count against the game as they're totally optional, but if they were better incorporated into the game as a whole it would make the experience that much richer.

* SOUND / MUSIC

The audio is unexceptional in this game, and music is mostly well-known tunes from a variety of video games.

Notable is the fact that the programmer created a launcher program with the option to replace the midi soundtrack with better-quality mp3s, downloaded automatically.

* ANYTHING WRONG AT ALL?

As for bugs; in spite of the attention paid to programming, not so much was paid to proofreading. There are the occasional grammatical oddities that make you sigh and shake your head, but nothing devastating. However, text was often pushed out of the text box for me because you name your own characters in this game and I like to give characters bizarre names with tons of letters, like "Proustertop".

There were also some bugs having to do with story progression; ie, when you return to towns from early on NPCs are still discussing quests you've all ready completed as though they have yet to happen.

I'd be happy if that were the worst of it for this game. There were no other bugs having to do with sloppy design, like teleporting into walls or getting stuck because you completed quests out of the exact order the designer imagined them.

However, there were GAME-CRASHING BUGS, which can be a nuclear bomb for players. Some of these came with a message like "Read error in module 3383xx3822", which I'm willing to believe are not the designer's fault. But there were also bugs having to do with the custom battle system, with events referencing skills and battlers that did not exist. (Elizabeth's Summons are particularly prone.) I don't know how these errors escaped beta testers. ... It was beta tested, right?

Fortunately, the game had enough class and interest that I was encouraged to muscle through, and I'm glad for it.

* THE LOWDOWN

My rating: 4 / 5

Destiny's Blades would have earned a 4.5, but game-crashing bugs are unacceptable and hurt the rating.

I would encourage the designers to add even more texture to the world for the final release in terms of side quests; even things as simple as the package-delivering quest, which encourages you to re-explore places you've all ready been with new intentions.

Good Lord this review is long. I'll probably never write one this long again.

Best Feature of Game:
- Detail and completeness given to every single area.

Worst Feature:
- Game-crashing bugs in CBS.

Most EPIC Feature:
- Overworld music. (It has MALE CHORUS. How much more epic can you get??)

Most brain-bending puzzle:
- Coloured-block chambers in the pyramid dungeon.

Side quest that seems beneath an epic hero:
- Finding a man's wallet. OH, WOE. GET SOME INSURANCE.

Life Lesson Learned From This Game:
- Never make off-hand remarks to travelers about where your valuables are hidden.

Weirdest Grammatical Anomaly:
- "You just can't that things anymore." (Old woman in the desert town)

"Where the heck is that?" Award:
(piece of media included with the game that I never encountered)
- Mimic chest

If I Were To Marty Sam This Game ...
- Jerald actually DIES in the shipwreck, but *I* take his place and just PRETEND to be him throughout the whole game, while secretly all ready possessing ALL THE SWORDS including an UNKNOWN NINTH SWORD which is MORE POWERFUL THAN ALL THE OTHERS.

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