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Lost Dreams and Why it Hates Me

Lost Dreams: The Last Magus initially was an extremely fun game to play. Going through the first bit of the game, I found myself sucked into the world and actually becoming invested in the characters and events that were occuring. It was only later on that I discovered that first impressions can be deceiving. Stick with me on this one, because it is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

The gameplay in Lost Dreams, while not particularly stand out, is good. Alas, it is also the main downfall of this title. While the battles themselves are not usually difficult (usually, I'll get to the exceptions shortly), they are numerous, and the only place to heal yourself was at your bed in the main character's home. This wasn't a big deal except when I was attempting to navigate a forest to advance the game, and the only way for me to heal was to use items that I was made to search the environment for. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all about having hidden chests littered throughout an area, but here it was literally the only way for me to actually survive, and going out of my way to get items was a pain when encounters occur every 3 steps and usually resulted in more damage than the items restored. I never actually made it through the forest, by the way, because I died TEN TIMES. TEN. After that I became far too frustrated to continue playing and rage quit, which is a shame because the rest of the game is actually really, really good. Most enemies will drain your characters' hp bars in 2-3 hits, and will often roam in packs of 2-3, making the far too numerous combats hell. My final attempt to get through the forest was a mad dash straight through, avoiding all of the enemies and all of the items, and that was my closest. Needless to say, if the combats had been half as numerous or the enemies had been weaker, or if there was some other way to heal myself besides spending all of my cash on healing items that would often heal only 1 attacks worth of damage, then I would have been an extremely happy camper, but as it stands, without doing stupid amounts of grinding, this game is nearly unplayable save for luck with running/avoiding combats.
And while we are on the subject of leveling, the leveling in this game is tediously slow. I'm guessing that the developers expected the player to grind, because when I added a third member to my party, she was a full two levels above the rest of my group (lvl 5 vs. lvl 3), and I hadn't run from any battles up until that point. this is one of my main issues with this game, that, from all appearances, it is forcing you to grind just to advance in the game.

Summary: Too many random encounters and too few ways to heal leads to an extremely frustrating experience, and the fact that I can only advance by fighting tons of enemies for minuscule amounts of XP to level up is annoying as hell.
Gameplay Score: 2/5

Now that we are done with that, I can get to the parts of the game that I enjoyed (literally everything else). The music in this game was chosen very well and fit whatever happened to be happening on screen at the time, be it combat or a nice laid-back supper. The music choices were really able to sell each and every scene as authentic, and set the tone of the game exactly how it needed to be for every scene.

Summary: Well chosen pieces of music made the game feel real and help connect the player to the setting. The music, while sometimes generic, was top notch.

Music/Atmosphere Score: 4.5/5

I was slightly conflicted in this category, because I really liked the writing in the game and I really loved the backstory that is laid out in the early sections, but some things confuse me. For one, the main character's best friend has vowed to protect him by carrying a gun everywhere to keep people from hurting him. This strikes me as odd, because he brings it to school on a couple occasions, and if someone was to actually threaten him at school, would he pull out his piece and off the kid? This minor gripe nagged at me a bit, but was pushed to the back of my head by the otherwise stellar dialogue. The kids at the school, and for that matter everyone, come off exactly as they should: as real people. Slightly eccentric or odd at times, but real people nonetheless. The events that push the story along also make sense and are well written. The only thing I dislike about the story here is that there is no explanation for why there are a horde of poisonous rats infesting the city and attacking people in the streets and NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

Summary: Some slightly confusing story and flavor choices don't even begin to overshadow the great dialogue and smoothly flowing story in this game.

Writing Summary: 4/5

The locales in this game are all very believable and fir well with the character sprites the author has decided to use. There is a nice connect between the disparate locations in the city through a bus system, which negates the need for useless sections to connect the area where story takes place. Not much to say here other than it was well done, but a few things bothered me, like stair cases being in the middle of rooms, some houses not having enough beds for occupants, little things like that.

Summary: Good maps and minimal stylistic faults leave this section right on par with this rest of the game.

Mapping Score: 4/5

Constructive Criticisms:
- Please please PLEASE either lower the encounter rate, make early game healing more plentiful, or make leveling easier. I wouldn't have minded grinding to get further if it didn't take 10-15 minutes to get a single level.