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Promising, but highly disappointing

  • NTC3
  • 01/16/2015 06:01 AM
Middens started off with real promise. It had unique collage art style, a setting (the so-called Rift) unlike any other, a combat system centered on summons and status effects, and an intriguing opening voiced by Genie, an enigmatic Talking Revolver. Those were elements of a great game, but instead of building up on them, the creator has chosen to expand outwards, and ended up burying them under mountains of pretentious filler. I’m sad to critique a game like that, but Middens is one of those cases where the praise typically lavished on it is duly unjustified.

Aesthetics (art, design and sound)

The collage art used is very unique, and unlike most RPGMaker games, the levels are not static. On the contrary, animations are very frequent, and you’ll often find entire rooms shimmering in some unearthly glow. Unfortunately, the game really doesn’t know when to stop and catch its breath, and there are literally far too many different art styles used, to the point that later backgrounds feel like an overblown parody of the neatly accomplished designs you’re greeted with at first. Backgrounds animated with some sort of oily paper effect will outright hurt your eyes, and the painfully white rooms with random objects (actual cats collaged in are a particular favourite) aren’t much better. The Rift might’ve been intended as a dream world of some kind, but those dreams aren’t worth looking at even then.

There’s a similar situation with the BGM; there are about 70 tracks in the game, and they’re all mp3, thus accounting for its 200 mb file size. Out of those, however, only five or so are actually good, and the rest is mediocre filler, some of which is outright unpleasant to listen to. All of that art and music is spread over hundreds of rooms within the game, and again most of those are junk: there’s little to do besides staring at another example of his art, and the forced weirdness just feels tiresome after a while.


These rooms aren’t completely empty, though. Usually they have an NPC or two, but they’re always limited to one line. Some games (i.e. Standstill Girl or A Blurred Line) manage to create interesting stories when these quotes are combined together, but here it never adds up. Middens claims to have obtained the NPCs’ lines from occult tomes, last words of death row inmates and other fascinating sources. I have no way to check it, but even if true, I don’t care, because I want my NPCs to be actual characters, and not devices for delivering weird quotes. Technically, you have a choice to attack and kill any NPC you want, or to leave them alone, but because none of them feel like actual characters, there’s no real reason to bother. The game does try to tempt you into murder in two ways, but these are obvious and not very effective.

First way is by placing dangerous-looking, yet peaceful NPCs in your way when exploring areas, and you’re supposed to be scared enough to shoot first and initiate combat. Doing so enough times would also leave you drained for when a truly aggressive creature (more or less that area’s boss) shows up: this trick might even work once, but once you figure it out, there no reason to waste time on more fighting when it’s repeated. Then, there are some NPCs who’ll give fetch quests to bring some weird items to them, and you’ll soon find that the “area bosses” drop similarly weird items (i.e. Blotter Paper, Marriage License or a Teenage Diary) alongside Nothings (more on that below), but they’re never the exact items these NPCs seek. Apparently their items can only be looted from the peaceful denizens of the Rift, but I never felt like going on a murder spree just so that some nameless questgiver I don’t care about can give me a reward I likely don’t need.

Thus, I walked peacefully past everyone but one guy who claimed to raise children to become serial killers. The one time I did try attacking someone for no reason, I found that they’ll beg for mercy instead of attacking during some turns. You’re allowed to spare them by fleeing from those fights, and on the whole it’s a nice idea, and something I really want to see more of. Sadly, the effect is diminished by spared characters just standing there on the map, and their dialogue towards someone who just tried to kill them remains completely unchanged. Furthermore, the “bad” characters like the aforementioned serial killer guy will never beg for mercy, making the whole thing feel even more simplistic. I wouldn’t mind it so much if the game didn’t argue that all murders are equal and karma is a false concept that can be used to justify everyone’s death. In game, this is represented by Nomad gaining 1 Nothing every time you kill someone regardless of context in which it happens. Thus, the only outcome to me fighting only when forced to, with the flee option barred, was when my Nomad’s blood was referred to as “blood of the pacifist” at one point.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned the main plot so far, but that’s because there isn’t really one. Nomad is just a player insert who has zero personality and Genie, his talking revolver, is the only real character in the entire game. In the prologue, he asks you to commit yourself to him in the prologue and explains the game mechanics in a sort-of tutorial. Once he finishes doing it, he tells you to “cleanse the Rift” and suddenly goes silent, never trying to urge you on in spite of always being in your hand. There are moments later on when he does say something, triggered either by reaching the far-away areas or by obtaining enough Nothings; I’m not sure which.

Like the rest of the game, these mini-cutscenes somewhat interesting, weird, and aren’t particularly well written. I wouldn’t have a problem with those scenes if there were a lot more of those, but they’re so few and far away that their arrival feels like mana from heaven. Because of their scarcity, the conclusion feels very abrupt, and it’s also highly unsubtle, with Genie literally breaking the fourth wall to tell the game’s moral (the thing about karma I mentioned above) to the player. It’s not particularly original, and rendered void afterwards when Genie mocks video games in the same sentence, not realising that if Middens doesn’t take its own medium seriously, then I have no reason to give weight to any of its morals.


The combat system here is quite unusual, with the protagonist being rather weak and possessing few abilities. Instead, the main power here lies in your “chakra points”, called Lam, Yam and Om. Of those, Lam is a brute-force damage dealer, with the most powerful melee attack and who can cast spells of more than one element. Om is a healer, also responsible for various buffs and inflicting melancholic damage, while Yam is mainly there to inflict status effects, and casts choleric. All of those have to be summoned by Nomad during the first battle, and then summoned again (or revived, if you’re short on Nerve) during the second before they remain present for the rest of the level. When combined with the almost total lack of Nerve-restoring items (in comparison to extremely frequent healing items), this system discourages attacking non-aggressive NPCs in unexplored areas, as you might end up unable to summon them during a major, non-skippable battle, and thus have to face a boss-like enemy at an acute disadvantage.

The combat is boring at first, because Middens is another one of those RPGs too afraid to give you skills until you level up several times. Unlike other games, there are also no shops, and no equipment to be found besides the things you start with. Exploring and running into aggressive enemies is thus discouraged until you hit level 5 or at least level 3. This can be done either by grinding on Thrones (game’s only non-unique enemy, with no skills of its own) or by setting Nomad to exercise and having a tea break: that ability gives non-combat XP for every push-up you allow Nomad to make, though don’t expect the game to tell you that. Once you reach that level, the fighting actually becomes good, as Yam’s status effects are brought to the forefront.

All creatures that attack you first have boss-like stats and always have a couple of powerful abilities, and so straight-up combat is quite difficult. However, they are always vulnerable to at least one status effect, and each battle is a satisfying puzzle to pick the right effect to neuter them and/or hurt them a lot if they’re vulnerable to Lichen. Then, you find the element they’re weak to (choleric, sanguine or melancholic, with phlegmatic absent for some bizarre story reason) and structure your strategy around that. It helps that outside of Thrones and Void Demons, all of the enemies are unique; weirdly, their sprites on the map never looks even remotely similar to their combat model. Another annoyance is the sort-of whistling sound played by Nomad every time you win battles: it might be intended as a mockery of traditional victory tunes to go alongside Middens’ anti-violence message, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Outside of fighting, wandering around and exercising to get more XP, you can also use the Guitar ability to have Nomad literally go out and play the instrument. He does so automatically, so don’t expect any rhythm minigames, and besides hearing his melody, you’ll typically have the more supernatural levels change colour and/or pulse along with the tune. It looks very cool, but like I said above, there are so many unnecessary rooms that it grows stale quite fast. There’s also a gameplay reason for playing it, too, as it’ll open some blocked entrances and lure in the worms (Vermis). There are dozens of worm varieties, and your inventory will soon be stuffed to the brim with all of them. However, their function always boils to acting as either healing/status-negating items, or as elemental and/or status-inducing grenades. The animations used can be quite cool, but the actual damage they inflict isn’t much larger then what your summons’ abilities can already do, and so they’re only there for those who fight a lot and find themselves unable to summon chakra points for major battles.


Middens had great promise, but as a finished product, it serves only as a proof of two truisms. Firstly, it shows that RPGMaker is fully capable of processing great graphics and animations if you have the skill to make them. Secondly, it again shows that if your put effort into a game, you can overcome anything but your own misplaced priorities.


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notorious rpgmaker 2k3 shill
Oh jeez, didn't even check the date on these, goodness.
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
A wise man once said, 'judge not lest ye be judged and for the measure you use'.

And millions of foolish men have used it incorrectly to validate their fallacious arguments.

What "judge not lest ye be judged" actually means has nothing to do with what occurs on Earth, despite what so many others - most of whom have neither interest nor background in Scripture - have hijacked it to score a cheap win have argued, What this means is not to play the role of God and condemn eternally others for something you're more than likely guilty of as well yet refuse to acknowledge. It's the same as the story of the woman caught in adultery. Why did all the men walk away disheartened after Jesus said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"? Was it because they knew that they had sinned once in their life? No, it's because they all were guilty of adultery with that woman (why else would they be there to condemn her) and who would've been stoned to death as well.

They feared the repercussions of their own sinful acts and turned away as to save themselves. This is what "judge not lest ye be judged" actually means.

You also forgot Matthew 7:3, which is the other half of that oh so popular saying in the secular world. "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
Well.... I was gonna play this game, but the dev's hateful bullying attitude toward the review makes me nope.

If you don't want feedback, don't put yourself out there. Period.
Glad I dodged a bullet here!
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