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Impressive! *Spoilers within. Read at your own risk.*

Normally before I play a game, I do some research on it, even if that might end up spoiling the plot for me. I watched NicoB's entire LP on this game, read all the reviews on this site, and read the developer blogs.

Only two things somewhat made me hesitant on playing: active-time battles and short game length.

Most of the RPGs/JRPGs that I've played have been either turn-based or real-time, and the few that I have played with active-time always made me extremely nervous. It's not as calming as turn-based games, such as Trails of Cold Steel, Suikoden Tierkreis, and Persona 5, since everything's still going on while I'm thinking or choosing what I'm going to do with one character's turn, and it's not as flowing as some real-time combat games, such as Xenoblade Chronicles, Tales of Xillia, and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, where my other characters have an AI script to act on without my direct control.

Whenever I start a new RPG/JRPG, I expect to be strapped in for a long ride in both gameplay and story, and while I can say both were amazing in quality, there was much to be expected in terms of quantity.

Surprisingly, the combat's low difficulty actually helped out my nervousness with the active-time battles. I'm not saying I put the game's difficulty setting to easy. I mean the game's battles are naturally a breeze once you get the right item and skill setups going, even on the insane difficulty setting.

I do understand that this was entered into a contest, so that definitely hindered just how much content could fit, but even the dungeon layouts seemed shorter than my expectations. Besides having a few dead ends with items or objects to circle around to avoid enemies, dungeon traversing felt extremely linear. Final Fantasy X made their linear dungeons in a way that multiple aspects were available to the player. Whether it came in the form of info, puzzles, mini-games, etc, dungeons never seemed stale. That being said, the final dungeon did seem stale. No items to obtain, unlike the first visit to the Aether and in the concert hall, and not really much to do besides go from point A to B while fighting along the way.

There were a few times when "skits" would appear for viewing with the Shift (default) key, and while I did enjoy them as they were like the skits from the infamous Tales of series, I was slightly disappointed in how you only got them from plot progressing. Maybe some would be available after reaching a certain rank, discovering a new item, or talking to a specific NPC, but it didn't seem like any of those were in this game.

I know I keep comparing your game to other games, but to be honest, a lot of what you have is very similar to what I've played or watched being played. Edan is Reyn from Xenoblade Chronicles 1, Flynn is H.B. from Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Alaria is very similar to Makoto Niijima from Persona 5. A school of aspect-users for containing and eliminating monsters from the Aether reminds me of S.E.E.S. from Persona 3. This isn't a bad thing, though, because I do love these characters, the setting, and plot.

The most original and interesting part of this game, by far, is the combat. It's very rogue-like with not being too specific on descriptions for attacks and support skills but not too vague so I know what I'm sort of doing with testing new skills. Not having to worry about some kind of resource for skills, like MP, REALLY made it convenient and not stressful with handling fights. I've always wanted to play a game that doesn't rely on keeping track of healing resources to use skills or spells so the strategy behind such skills don't get hindered. The break mechanic was also very interesting, but it never seemed absolutely vital on the insane difficulty.

One other mechanic that looks like it'll be a part of this game but I hope doesn't is currency to buy things. Why limit a player to buying something if they can just grind for hours to get the money to buy said thing? It's more impressive if the player has to mentally work for items through puzzles/gimmick fights or just have all the items be available in the inventory and limit what's more useful in certain situations. Like, oh wow, I have 100 items that can deal 50 fire damage to all enemies! Try one to find out that one of the enemies absorbs fire damage and counters back with healing the other enemies. That'll teach the player to be careful with just throwing whatever before checking for elemental damage calculations.

With small teams on games, it's completely reasonable to have typos or grammar errors, especially if there aren't a lot of testers that check for them. Yes, I have noticed these mistakes in the writing, so I recommend proof reading multiple times. This isn’t just in regards to dialogue. Skill descriptions were misleading. For example, Alaria’s Prison of Ice attack skill says, “Deep freeze damages foes over time,” but it only targets one enemy instead of all of them, which it should’ve if the word, “foe,” is plural, like it is in the description. The same problem happened with Edan’s Incandescence attack skill. Foe is plural, but it only targets one enemy.

The music and graphics are phenomenal. I'm of the players that say music and graphics don't make the game. The story and gameplay elements do. However, I really liked listening to the soundtracks. Even though there were a few, there doesn't have to be a lot to be enjoyable. The Legend of Dragoon didn't have many and reused a bunch of the same soundtracks, but they were all great to hear. Graphics were simple and easy to understand what I was looking at. I'm not an expert on RPGmaker VX graphics, so I can't really criticize if this looks bad or good compared to other sprites commonly used, but from official game graphics, these look swell!

Dialogue between NPCs and having characters react to them really got me smiling. Not that many games do that, and when they do, it's very rare. However, I was slightly disappointed when I got Alaria and talked to everyone I could with her before heading into the final dungeon just to find out nothing was changed in dialogue between her and anyone I talked to. It was probably expected of the player to head straight into the final dungeon instead of backtracking just to talk to NPCs, but still, it would've been cool since backtracking is like a staple for some RPGs.

The overall plot with Ephrian getting controlled by the raythe seemed out of nowhere to be honest. I wish there was more to hint at his actions. The same could be said with Edan being so strong and getting stronger. I understand that Edan is strong compared to Flynn and Alaria, but what I don't is WHY. He's a first year, so that already puts him behind in experience, yet that didn't seem to do much compared to his stats and skill damage/healing percentages.

World building could use some polishing up as well. Many times, I felt like I got info dumped and had to remember everything new. It doesn't hurt to have a log of all the info learned or tests to check if the player knows what the heck is being talked about. I honestly expected to be tested since Edan was going to a school where teaching and testing is mostly what a school does.

Despite any harsh words I might've said, I do look forward to a polished, expansion of this game where the adventures of Edan, Flynn, and Alaria continue.

I made a guidance video of this game on my youtube channel if you'd like to see me walk the walk instead of just talk.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xOwWxG6_QA

Posts

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Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18722
Thank you for the review! I was laughing pretty hard at the part where you said 'this character is like this character from this other game' because I haven't played any of those personally. I think most of them probably hadn't been released yet when this game first appeared.

I shall tell you a secret! In the initial first draft story I suggested to Anaryu in the very early stages of this project, Flynn was going to be the protagonist. That's why most of the plot in the game revolves around him. Edan didn't exist yet, the plot would have focused more on his relationship with Alaria. Anaryu and Krisanna suggested a more neutral viewpoint character for a protagonist, and that's how Edan came about (and why he has a fairly neutral shonen anime personality.)

Edan's design is actually borrowed from concept art for a character from a planned sequel to Skye, which is why this game also shares elements with that project as well. They were set in the same universe, and if this project had continued there would have been mention of Sky Knights eventually.

Sadly it is unlikely there will ever be a larger version of this game, which is sad as I am rather fond of it.
author=Solitayre
Thank you for the review! I was laughing pretty hard at the part where you said 'this character is like this character from this other game' because I haven't played any of those personally. I think most of them probably hadn't been released yet when this game first appeared.

I shall tell you a secret! In the initial first draft story I suggested to Anaryu in the very early stages of this project, Flynn was going to be the protagonist. That's why most of the plot in the game revolves around him. Edan didn't exist yet, the plot would have focused more on his relationship with Alaria. Anaryu and Krisanna suggested a more neutral viewpoint character for a protagonist, and that's how Edan came about (and why he has a fairly neutral shonen anime personality.)

Edan's design is actually borrowed from concept art for a character from a planned sequel to Skye, which is why this game also shares elements with that project as well. They were set in the same universe, and if this project had continued there would have been mention of Sky Knights eventually.

Sadly it is unlikely there will ever be a larger version of this game, which is sad as I am rather fond of it.


You're welcome! :D If you laughed hard at those sentences, just wait until you watch the guidance video I linked at the end of this review. I edited some skits and voice clips that should match Edan, Flynn, and Alaria's personalities.

Wow, I had a feeling that Flynn had a bigger role before Edan came into the picture considering how the plot was so focused on him instead of Edan, but I didn't expect Flynn to be the main character in the first draft!

Ooooh, that's pretty clever. I'll check out Skye later then.

Yeah, it's been about seven years since Aetherion came out, but I still hope a finished product gets launched, especially after reading the development on the blogs.
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18722
I wouldn't say a new version is terribly likely at the moment, but there were some assets created for a continuation, with plans for two to four additional playable characters.

Here's some early art for the planned fourth playable character, Sera.



I remember really enjoying this game too. Shame it won't get 'finished' in some form or another. It had a lot of potential.

I wonder what that mad duo is up to nowadays actually.
Playing with Visual Novel Maker right now! (And Kris has nearly mastered Live2D at this point, geez that was annoying for her to pick up, even with all the 3D experience.)

We just created a new game recently for the IGMC 2017 contest (did okay too!); tried to post it here but the description from our itch.io entry page wasn't enough and I didn't feel like typing out the whole plot for the game page, so once it got denied I never bothered updating it; just a bit lazy. :P

This is still a favorite project and we do want to continue (I have most of the story mapped out honestly), it was just done in the worst maker (VX) and I was still in progress moving the combat system to VX Ace. We're not sure what we want to do with it yet.

Thought about just having the combat system and doing the rest as a VN style and avoiding the whole map thing (since tilesets are not something we're good with) or trying to come up with ways to make exploration more of a thing.
Oh hey, you're alive! I did see a game in IGMC 2017 that I suspected was you two now that I think about it. Good to see you're still doing the thing.

As for Aetherion and exploration, you could always do something like Riviera: The Promised Land, and have something like painted BGs on a small handful of maps that tells a story or sometimes has a battle on each one, to support the VN format.

Or you could do something like Record of Agarest War, and put a bunch of different nodes on a BG of the dungeon as a whole to scroll through. Probably with attrition resources and the like to manage.(This is what I usually do)
Hm, I like the node idea, I'll have to think about that, I bet I could come up with something there (made me think of the old FFT map.) Thanks for the advice. :)

Honestly we have so many ideas it's hard to decide what to work on next!

@Solitayre: I've got it at 6 playable characters now.

@MLG_Wannabe: You picked apart the two biggest weaknesses of this entry:
1. Some of the Raythe and "weird" stuff was a forced idea to try to match the theme, honestly I made it not match up with the theme very well to see making a quality game alone would win, or if the theme would end up being so important we'd be out of the running.

2. Ephrian's backstory simply came down to time constraints. The actual idea was for Flynn to have made a critical mistake but we had to simplify it since there wasn't time to expand the idea and make it impactful. Why Edan powers up is the major plot point for the second part.

When we do revisit while a lot of the basic plot structure will be there, the details would be rewritten pretty thoroughly.

Ugh, you guys have made me want to revisit this now. Maybe keep the 2D combat system but move it to Unity so I can do VN stuff. Visual Novel Maker would be way too difficult to implement that combat system in right now. Hm.

I bet these guys would look awesome as Live2D models.
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18722
author=Anaryu
Ugh, you guys have made me want to revisit this now.


Good work, MLG!
author=Anaryu
Thought about just having the combat system and doing the rest as a VN style and avoiding the whole map thing (since tilesets are not something we're good with) or trying to come up with ways to make exploration more of a thing.


Aw, I actually liked the map exploration of the school and the Concert Hall's aether rip map since it encouraged item finding and enemy avoiding using the terrain respectively. I have some ideas for exploration if you want. There could be puzzles to open up paths that we could see but couldn't get to, hints that a previously passed, blocked path is now open, or there could be keys for locked doors. As far as puzzles go, why not use the characters' elements for objects, like obstructing terrain, switches, and collectible items. If you want some examples, check out the Golden Sun series.

author=Anaryu
Ugh, you guys have made me want to revisit this now. Maybe keep the 2D combat system but move it to Unity so I can do VN stuff. Visual Novel Maker would be way too difficult to implement that combat system in right now. Hm.

author=Solitayre
Good work, MLG!


Yay! I'm glad we could make a difference. :D
BurningTyger
Hm i Wonder if i can pul somethi goff here/
1289
It's stil alive? yay!
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