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A great game with addicting gameplay and hilarious characters.

  • Indra
  • 05/06/2012 03:41 PM
  • 2761 views
Before anything else: this is my first review ever, so please be gentle.
I already gave my notes to the developers, so this review is aimed at players.

Before we start
Chain of Retribution is a chain game, meaning it was not developed by one person but by a group, each adding their part and sending it to the next person.
Overall, this was never a problem, EXCEPT for the dialogue and text (I’ll get to those later). For a chain game, I felt it pulled off a steady flow well enough, and there were no parts where I felt “oh, the developer changed just now” (outside the one occasion I’ll mention later).
So, in that aspect, Chain of Retribution is a good chain game.

The game took me somewhere between 15-20 hours, fighting and exploring everything , having some trouble with certain bosses, and running commentary in the irc the whole time (I was not rushing through the game, is my point) but your mileage may vary.

Story 2.5/5
The starting premise is exceedingly simple: two mercenary brothers are hired by a woman to escort her to the capital. On the road they run into trouble, and things take a definite turn for the worse once they arrive.

The plot starts simple and then…explodes. There is one part of the game (when you arrive to the capital) where suddenly many other subplots are introduced all at the same time, making things a bit confusing for a while.

Despite the complications (and some clichés), the story doesn’t take itself seriously (mostly due to the characters) and it never gets annoying or boring. It’s not exactly riveting, but it’s an excuse for the characters to do their thing.

Overall I felt some subplots were unnecessary, and the story would have been better kept simple, but it was not a big issue.

Characters 4.5/5
Let me start off by saying that characters and gameplay were what drove me up the walls with glee about this game.

Most of the characters are simply awesome. Some more than others, of course, but overall their interaction was great, and even if they never seemed to take the plot very seriously, it didn’t feel like forced comedy.

Characters are many and varied. Even villains were well developed, despite somehaving little screen time. Some characters felt slightly forced in (the ninjyas, for example, did not fit in much with the plot to me, but they didn’t hurt it either) but none were irritating or unwanted.

A nice feature I enjoyed was the pub room topics. When you arrived at a pub you could view four discussions (different for each location) and see the characters interact, often hilariously. These conversations did not usually add much to the plot, but they were well written and funny, and one of the things I enjoyed the most about the game. I wished there were more.

A special mention goes to the magician twins: they are simply hilarious. They basically run the same style of joke thorough all the game, and the writers did a great job keeping them funny and not annoying.

Writing (Varies)
This gets its own section because it was the part of the game that I had the most issue with.

From the game intro to the capital (a few hours into the game), the writing is GREAT. Then, as you arrive to the city, it does a sudden curve and starts getting…less good. Not terrible, but the difference in quality is obvious and it stings, specially because it was so good before. Eventually it seems to recover a bit, but I still miss the fun I had at the start.

I believe this part needs revision the most. I understand that in chain games these things happen, but the difference is so big and so sudden that it leaves you a bit confused (more so since the plot dialogue is also downgraded at the exact point where the plot explodes and expands, at a point where good writing is critical to keep track of all that’s going on).

Overall the text is never BAD, but it ranges from GREAT (at the beginning) to much less great, and then to okay.

Gameplay 4.5/5

By far the thing I enjoyed the most about the game. Let me start by saying I NEVER ENJOY ACTUAL COMBAT in rpgs, with very few exceptions. At most, I don’t mind them, but I’m more of a “evade all encounters to get to the next plot section quicker” sort of gamer, so I was extremely surprised to see that this game managed to have me fighting every single enemy in the game, WILLINGLY.

The game has a simple enough battle system style: encounters are visible in the map and easily avoidable (they don’t even chase you), and there are not too many or too few of them (I’d say a single map may have 5 encounters, on average).
The fights are in sideview, using an active turn battle system (with speed gauges). The effect was good, if perhaps the speed gauges where a bit slow and made the battles longer in some bosses.

Your party recovers fully after every encounter (hp and mp, statuses, downed characters, everything), and everyone receives experience, even those outside the active party.
This is a GREAT feature, since it lets players to go all out in each encounter, and encounters to be challenging enough that they never get boring. It also cuts out the whole rpg classic setup of “must save mp for the boss fight”, which makes the more prudent/cowardly players (like myself) play conservatively (aka boring) or avoid combat altogether.

There is at least one special treasure chest in every dungeon that opens only once you fill the encounter bar (each combat fought increases the bar, filling the whole thing takes less than ten battles) and that holds better treasure than normal chests.
This is a good encouragement to have the player fight a few encounters even if they don’t want to do all of them, so it’s a good feature to keep you at the minimum level needed.

Skills are gained by equipping two types of gems to each character: an Element Gem (fire/water/wind/earth/light/dark) and an Ability Level Gem (levels 1 to 7). Gems of both types were avaliable in treasures and shops.

It’s a simple but effective system. The higher the Ability Level gem, the more skills the character will have. Elemental gems change the elements or effects of certain skills (such as elemental spells, buff/debuff effects, status inflicting spells, and so on).

Each character has his/her own skill list (and some skills are available for multiple characters). The combat roles are pretty straightforward: you have the damage dealers the healers, the offense magicians and the hybrids (who combine various skills such as buffs/debuffs with some offensive/defensive abilities).

Characters are also divided in three types depending on how they get mp: Strikers, Balanceds, and Passives.
Strikers get mp by attacking, Balanceds get some mp every turn no matter what they do, and Passives get mp by defending. Starting mp amounts in combat vary between characters, but they always have enough to pull out at leas one attack in the first turn.
Character types become an important strategy factor for long fights where mp will run out and must be refilled often. The system also makes mp healing items outside emergencies and boss fights unnecessary.

No character is useless, and by the endgame you have 8 of them (the active party holds 4), enough to make any party setup you want.

Items are pretty straightforward: most of them are recovery items, with a few buffs thrown in. Some felt perhaps useless (the normal potion, for example, healed too little and to one target, which feels useless when healers will heal more to the entire party) but it was never cause for irritation.
One surprising aspect was the hoax items: false, cheaper versions of normal items that would do nothing or cause bad statuses when used. Until you figure out what they are, they can mess up your combat flow without you noticing (like failing to see that a fake antidote has poisoned you).
There are also stat boosters, plentiful enough to significantly buff up your preferred party.

Enemies were challenging (perhaps on the hard side). Bosses ranged from hard, to normal, to “OMG am I really supposed to beat this?”.
Despite some initial boss fight difficulties, most HARD boss fights (or any fight at all) was a matter of setup and preparation. Once you experimented a bit with elements and strategies it was rare to actually DIE in the middle of the fight. It was far more common to willingly reset the game to try out another setup instead of waiting to die to try again.

I had a few issues with combat, however. Some are minor annoyances, such as the cast text for enemies being so fast you have no time to read what they’re doing (and therefore what you should defend against), having no way to track the buffs/debuffs of either party members or enemies (and in some of the late game battles, this actually hurts) or knowing WHO was casting what among the enemies was also a bit iffy, and some enemy skills had no animation, so it was hard sometimes to keep track of who was doing what.
Another complaint on a more basic level were elemental affinities. Monsters, on the whole, were not VISUALLY indicative of their affinities at all, which made figuring it out a guessing game and hoping for the best. Eventually I got into the habit of testing out elements at the start of new areas, but having some kind of initial clue would have been preferred, especially since elements are a big deal when it comes to equipping the right gems.

Combat balance was, overall, quite good. Encounters are challenging but not frustrating, bosses are hard but not ragequit inducing, and if you take the time and effort to buy some of the epic, expensive equipment, it makes an enormous difference (as it should).

There are two secret bosses. Both were quite challenging and fun (thought on had too much hp for my taste, and stretched out the fight for too long) and were quite rewarding. By the last dungeon I had managed to outfit my preferred party with full epic equipment, making the rest of the game (the last dungeon) a breeze, which was EXTREMELY SATISFYING by itself after all the hard work I put into it.

Overall, combat was my primary reason to keep playing, which is an extreme oddity to me and a way to show to how well designed it was.

Graphics 3.5/5
As far as I know, all graphics except the faces are rips from Bahamut Lagoon and Romancing Saga3 (both Snes games).
It may feel a bit off at first to see the Bahamut Lagoon sprites used here, but it’s not an issue as the characters have enough personality of their own that they become separate beings immediately.
Battle sprites and animations were great. Enemies were a bit less even, but fitting in their own style.

Tiles were a bit more mixed, but overall (with a few exceptions in a couple of areas) they were well put together.
The mapping was good, creating a good ambience for each area with very minor and forgettable errors such as cut off tiles and passability mistakes, never hurting the enjoyment of the game.

The faces, I understand were custom drawn by Marimo, and do an excellent job of portraying the personality of the characters, even without different emotion sets. I liked them all and never missed variance in the graphics, so good job with that.

Overall, the graphics were fitting for the game and created the right ambience.

Audio 2/5
A mixed bag. The sound effects were good and fit the battle scene very well. The music, on the other hand, was not to my taste. Most battle themes were okay, but some of the map themes did not fit so well.
There were also a few rare instances where the music choices feels wrong, setting a mood that doesn’t fit the action.
In my opinion the worst aspect of the game, but nothing irritating.

Enjoyment 4.5/5
I had a lot of fun with the game. The plot didn’t take itself seriously, the character dynamics were funny and the gameplay was addicting and challenging.
What few flaws the game had were rarely an issue (besides the text quality going down at one point) and easily forgettable.

To put it simply, I was pleasantly surprised by this game and enjoyed it a lot. With some polish on a few aspects such as the dialog and a few minor issues, I think it would be truly memorable. As it is, I loved it, and I would probably still enjoy playing it again at some time in the future.

So, developers: good job. This game was great, and it give it 4 stars (because it’s a nice number and I’ll be damned if I actually stop to do the math).

And to players: give this game a try! I finished it all without ever feeling bored or frustrated, and I definitely recommend it.

Posts

Pages: 1
Ocean
Resident foodmonster
11243
Excellent, glad you had fun with it! We'll have to keep these things in mind, especially to remember to not overcomplicate a story so we don't screw ourselves over trying to tie everything together. But either way, thank you very much for the review!
K-hos
whoa You guys are hi-chaining without me? That's just not right. :<
721
"I’m more of a “evade all encounters to get to the next plot section quicker” sort of gamer"

Wow someone else that does this.
author=Khos
"I’m more of a “evade all encounters to get to the next plot section quicker” sort of gamer"

Wow someone else that does this.
I do this as well, since I like to see what happens next~ ^o^
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
13829
Great review. Totally pumped to play this game now. =)

(Do more reviews, seriously. You're both analytic and subjective, but in the "correct" parts of the review - you're a natural.)
Indra
YOU ARE BEING TOO AGGRO
10801
>///<!
Haha, it was fun doing notes and then the review, it'll be a matter of finding some other games to enjoy :D At least I havent been lynched for lenght of the text, which I was kind of scared about OTL

Also @Khos, I always skip the combats, so the amount of amazement that went to my own reaction at the combat system in this way can't be put into words. Some time into the game I literally thought "HOLYSHIT, I'm fighting every single enemy ON PURPOSE BY MY OWN WILL. OH MY GOD."
A big part of it is how satisfying encounters are. Challenging, allowing you to throw EVERYTHING without holding back, and rewarding if you actually plan your strategy a bit. If I compare the encounters here to my own game projects, I suddenly see how utterly bland they are OTL
Yeah, gonna shut up before I start ranting again :x
author=Indra
>///<!
Haha, it was fun doing notes and then the review, it'll be a matter of finding some other games to enjoy :D At least I havent been lynched for lenght of the text, which I was kind of scared about OTL

Also @Khos, I always skip the combats, so the amount of amazement that went to my own reaction at the combat system in this way can't be put into words. Some time into the game I literally thought "HOLYSHIT, I'm fighting every single enemy ON PURPOSE BY MY OWN WILL. OH MY GOD."
A big part of it is how satisfying encounters are. Challenging, allowing you to throw EVERYTHING without holding back, and rewarding if you actually plan your strategy a bit. If I compare the encounters here to my own game projects, I suddenly see how utterly bland they are OTL
Yeah, gonna shut up before I start ranting again :x


Yeah, and as a result it gives us leave to make the battles short but brutal, since the consequences are not too dire even if you made it out with one guy with 1 hp left. With that, you could reduce the number of battles in the game so that it's no longer about attrition but surviving every battle. And yeah, I really did get tired of having to hoard MP in games, where your magic users and etc end up being useless or expensive (item cost) until a boss came around. Spamming attack all day is no fun, it's much better if you can vary it up. I am definitely using this battle system on a future project based on the reception it's getting.
Pages: 1