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A promising start for Julian and company.

  • Sgt M
  • 12/24/2012 11:27 PM
It goes without saying that using RTP in VX Ace is easy to understand, but difficult to master. While the freebie package certainly looks good on its own, it takes some real talent to take such a limited toolset and make something beautiful out of it. Some games can make what we refer to as “default” or “regular” visuals look incredible. And I can safely say that Valera is most certainly one those games.

While the game is still in development, there is a free demo available for download that lays down the foundation of the story. There isn't a whole lot to go by just yet. But from what is readily available, the story and dialogue are very promising. Valera drops the more traditional archetypes we would expect in a JRPG cast and instead focuses on lesser-used ones. Julian, the trope-breaking thirty-seven year old hero of the picture, is by far one of the more interesting RPG heroes I have come across in my life. His motives are not only clear, but well-grounded and have strong driving forces behind them. I am eager to see what his tale of love and revenge evolves into.

Graphically, the game looks wonderful. Deckiller’s maps are nothing short of masterwork, proving once again that RTP is a force to be reckoned with in the right hands. The map design is fluid, clever, and never feels rushed. Occasionally, the maps will feel a bit too “busy”, but you will be so busy exploring them and rooting around for hidden treasure that you will rarely notice this. The music is equally appropriate, making use of somber melodies and robust sound effects to further set the mood.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Valera is its battle mechanics, which deemphasizes traditional turn-based combat in favor of strategy. Specifically, status effects and stat alteration are the name of the game here. Characters do not have an “attack” command; all combat is done through special skills and spells, and each character has some sort of special mechanic that propagates their combat style. Hero Julian has a sort of combo point system, where using status effects will build up points in a particular element, raising the strength of his powerful finishing moves. Elementalist Trey can instill elements in his sword to deal elemental damage to otherwise invincible enemies. And the list goes on. While some may be quick to label these mechanics as gimmicky, it ensures that battles stay fresh and prevents them from devolving into button-mashing droll.

Furthermore, the difficulty is spot-on. Characters level up at a reasonable curve, and stat gains are meaningful enough without being too insignificant. Since encounters are pre-set, it is impossible to grind and overlevel, allowing the difficulty to stay at the level the developer intended. This is a bold move, as it prevents players from overcoming challenges by a matter of numbers. It works out well in the end. Although, without the cash boost that the demo version provides, I probably would have been a bit too short on currency to afford most of what I needed to finish.

I only have one real complaint with the game, and that is the pacing. Understandably, it is still in development, and hiccups are to be expected. While the game does a great job of setting up the characters and atmosphere, it does so at a pace that is difficult to keep up with. I wanted a bit more time to understand and get to know some of the characters before hitting the dungeon. Specifically Trey, who was my favorite character in the demo, but only saw a few short lines of airtime. In general, there are just a few too many names and proper nouns floating around in such a short amount of time, and I really hope to see the exposition slow down a bit in the full game.

Pacing flaws aside, Valera is still a solid experience that was well worth the time investment. If you want to see VX Ace RTP put to great use, then this is a great place to start. I’m really excited for the full version, and I can’t wait to see where Julian’s tale goes next.


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I'm a dog pirate
Thanks for the review! The pacing will definitely be a focus in the full version, as I take the intro and first areas and space out all the tutorials, exposition, and cutscenes. I'll also do my best to make sure the battle mechanics remain interesting for the whole game. The game will likely be 3-4 hours long, so I won't have to drag things out.
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