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Rough around the edges, shows promise

"Arbiters From Another World" is a very difficult game to review, primarily because I was only able to get 12 minutes into the game. Normally I would never think to review a game that I had played less than two hours of, let alone less than a half hour, so I tried my hardest to find a way to advance. Unfortunately, after interacting with every event I could find in the game, I was still unable to progress. I saw it mentioned somewhere that the demo doesn't tell you when it's over, so I'm left to conclude that I had actually reached the end.

Without any further adieu, here's my review of my (very short) experience with "Arbiters From Another World!"

Gameplay: 2/5
My biggest complaint with the gameplay is that I spent a lot of it walking around wondering what I'm supposed to be doing. You're given instructions such as "I need to go to so-and-so's office," but aren't told where it is, so you have no choice but to go door to door looking for the right room to visit which will advance the plot. On top of this, it's unclear what the conditions are to advance the story.

For example, early on, you're told to talk to someone, but when you go to his office, you're told that it's not time yet. After wandering the campus for a while, I found my dorm room and took a nap, which I figured would advance time to allow me to enter the office, but that wasn't it. I eventually ended up talking to everyone I could find before being able to continue the story, but I was left confused as to what event triggered it.

I wasn't able to find any sidequests, so aside from the sometimes confusing lack of direction, the only other aspect of the gameplay to remark on is the battles. I have no complaints with the battle system; it appears to be DBS (I'm not familiar with VX, but it seems DBS-esque; correct me if I'm wrong). There weren't any unique mechanics that I was aware of and the battles seemed pretty easy. Magic is very powerful and took out every enemy (including a boss) that I encountered with one or two hits.

All in all, the gameplay is pretty typical, if at times frustrating due to the lack of direction and ingame documentation.

Story/Writing: 3/5
The main character is a student at a magic academy of sorts and is presently testing to be promoted to the rank of Adept. Unfortunately, in years past, he has consistently just missed the mark, but that hasn't discouraged him from trying again.

The premise is refreshingly different from the typical RM fare. The characters all have clear personalities, but the brevity of the demo prevents anything beyond their surface traits from showing through, so it's hard to judge just how interesting they might turn out.

There hasn't been much in the way of plot so far; the demo seemed to end with a plot hook to kick off the story, but when I returned to the academy to see what effect it had, the game acted as if I had yet to leave - whether this is a bug or just a result of my completing the demo, I'm not sure. It's possible that there was another event that I needed to trigger to continue, but there was no indication of who or what I needed to interact with.

Something which I found confusing about the game is that all of the characters have Japanese names, even though the game doesn't (appear to) take place in Japan. It's a little confusing, but I wouldn't say it's a fault since it's consistent; everyone and everything has a Japanese name, so once you get used to it, you don't really notice.

The writing itself is pretty solid, aside from the occasional grammatical error ("its" and "it's" are consistently confused), so I have no real complaints there.

Graphics/Level Design: 2/5
There's not much to say about the graphics; aside from some of the facesets, it uses RMVX RTP graphical assets. What I found confusing is that while some of the facesets are from the RMVX RTP, some of them aren't. The non-RTP facesets are of a different art style than the RTP ones and they don't mix well. It's a minor bit of graphical inconsistency, but it's definitely noticeable and detracts from the visual cohesion.

The mapping/level design isn't bad, but it does suffer from having too many wide open spaces. The maps serve to benefit from being shrunk down and having more detail, but they're not terrible.

Audio: 2.5/5
The audio seemed to be VX RTP, so there's not much to say about that. I did have one complaint, though. The title screen music is a midi of one of the most recognizable tracks from Chrono Cross, which was very jarring, and the first thing I heard when starting the game. I highly recommend changing it to a less well-known track.

-Condense maps to remove unnecessary empty space.
-Be more clear about objectives.
-Perhaps consider putting an arrow or some other indicator over the place you need to go or the person you need to talk to.
-Use a consistent style for facesets.
-Double-check dialog for grammatical errors.

Bottom Line
Arbiters From Another World is a short demo with an interesting premise. It's a little rough around the edges and it's a bit short to form much of an opinion about, but it might be interesting to see where it goes.

No rating - Not enough to go on


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Guardian of the Description Thread
I'll certainly take into consideration the suggestions made here about making things clearer for the player. Damned developer knowledge getting in the way of player knowledge! As for battles, I too, thought they were easy. There's also no doubt in my mind that the summons have serious game-balance issues. I've got a plan to fix the summons, so we'll see how that works. Not sure about battles in general, though.

Anyway, sounds like you managed to get your way to the Earth Spirit. I definitely see the error of not putting in an in-game notice that said that there was no new events after the defeat of that boss for this demo. I'm not quite sure why I decided not to include such a notice, but I know I wished to allow players to continue playing so that they could mess with Sataro's summon that he just got, and to allow players to explore the possibilities of the "Beacon" skill.

As for the mapping, I presume Ishino Ruins is a heavy offender? If not, or if there's another place that could use a little something-something (the overworld map?), let me know, and I shall see what I can do.
Good to see the game has come so far from this last release, I just submitted my review of the new version and it's pretty good!
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