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A fun exploration romp with your trusty monster sidekick.

  • Indra
  • 12/26/2012 10:36 PM
Vagabond is a complete, finished rpg focused on exploration that will take you around 6-8 hours on average.
As I’ve already given my feedback to the developer, this is a review for players. So, a brief summary for those who will skip the review seeing all the text:

What’s good…
+Exploration based game.
+Good game size and length.
+Solid dungeon design.
+Interesting (and non-frustrating) puzzles.
+Simple but engaging combat.
+Party customization gives it some replay value.

…and not so good
-Story is more an excuse than a focus.
-Some annoying gameplay issues break the flow of combat under certain conditions. (Edit: this has been greatly improved with the last patch)
-Graphics and audio have some poor and bad choices at times that break immersion.

Onwards to the details, then!

Story 2/5
The story in vagabond is not something you will care much about, really.
You’re man or woman from the adventurer guild who has gotten lost. You find a slime that follows you around, and you explore. At some point an old dude says you need to find seven sages and defend the seven fiends.

Doesn’t sound very compelling, does it? It isn’t. But honestly that’s fine, because we hardly care. The real focus of the game is exploration, and it shows.

In any case: your mission is to defeat the seven fiends (bosses) in each area. The seven sages are actually optional, and you can miss them. Each time you find a sage, a scene will play explaining some more story.

There’s really not much else to say about plot. There is one, it wraps itself up nicely by the end, but it’s not really that engaging. It is not annoying either, so there’s that. It’s an excuse to explore the game, and that’s just fine.

There is, however, a twist at the end of the game which felt actually annoying. I won’t be spoiling anything here, and it may be a matter of taste anyway.

Characters 2/5
The game has very few characters, and they range from boring to acceptable at most.

Your main character is not mute, but rarely has anything interesting to say. His/her appearance and some of his/her lines change depending on your answers during character creation, but the dialog for the protagonist is so generic and empty it could have been a silent character and the effect would have been the same.

Both the two “plot characters” that appear in the story scenes lack any real emotion, appear too little for us to get attached to them, and in fact they can be seen as annoying and cliché depending on your views.

The seven sages and fiends are all one time characters with next to no weight who disappear after their single scene, and there are no other npcs of interest.

This part of the review is saved by a single thing: your monster partner.
Despite it not talking or doing much at all outside fighting, you simply get attached to it. (Who’s a cute widdle monstrous flesh eating tank? Who’s mommy’s meat shield while she utterly destroys all that is precious and holy with magical storms? You are!)

But this is all fine! So what if we don’t care about the characters and the story? We knew it wasn’t the focus of the game! Because next we have…

Gameplay 4/5
Now we’re at it! Gameplay is the focus of the game, and it shows.
The game is split more or less evenly between exploration and combat, and both are pretty solid experiences. This is gonna be a long section, so hold on to your butts.

At the start of the game you can choose your gender, name, appearance, and job. You can also choose the name for your monster companion and what it morphs into (more on that later).
There are no other party members: it’s your monster and you. You may want to look up what each job does on the game page before diving in blind, or you may have to restart when you realize you’ve made a bad choice.

There is no experience in the game. Enemies give gold and items. Items range from classic restorative items, sellable junk, equipment, and stones.
Equipment is divided between Tomes, that teach spells and modify your parameters, and Relics, that give state resistances, stat boosts, etc. Your monster cannot equip them, and it gets its own non-removable equipment later on.
Stones are permanent stat increases. They can be dropped by monsters or bought with money. Interestingly enough, the stone shop is accessed from your own menu, so you don’t have to backtrack for that (but restoratives are bought from npcs).

Now, while there is no experience, that does not mean there are no levels. You get one extra level for every shape shifter challenge you win. They’re basically minibossess hidden in the seven areas. Each new level gives you a new skill for the main character.

Enemy encounters are visible on the map and have their own move routes. They will never actually chase you, but instead make rounds around a path or stay still. This lets you ignore or evade enemies if you don’t feel like fighting them. They are overall cleverly placed and I never had an issue with them.

Now, the juicy part: every time you meet a sage, aside from the whole story scene, you will be given a boost for your monster, and there is always a choice involved. Some are as simple as selecting what stat you want to increase (Attack or magic? Defense of Magic defense?) but others actually serve to morph your partner into a more powerful monster.
You have three instances where you make a choice and morph your monster, as well as a final (no choice) evolution at the end. This makes room for a LOT of forms, which is a very fun idea, and it’s really cool to see your beloved critter transform.

There is a slight downside to this: monster skills are variable depending entirely on form, and since forms jump around a lot (from a slime to a lizard to a fucking DRAGONFLY to a freaking armoured lizardman? Uh…ok), a monster may lose a skill you liked using and gain something you have no use for. Still, each morph involves a good power up for your monster and it’s always nice to see them change shape to something cooler.

Now, enemies and challenge. Overall encounters were balanced, and never too hard. Only a few times did I run into trouble with a boss, and regular enemies were not a huge issue, nor just mere annoyances.
Only one enemy, the superboss of the game, remained unbeaten. She was right after ELEVEN FREAKING boring fights that could not be skipped and you had to do them every time you attempted the boss (it’s an arena style minigame, and you can’t save between fights) and after four attempts I got pissed off and I stopped trying.

I would say this is a medium difficulty game. It was not really easy or really very hard. If you fought enemies and used the money to buy stat increase stones, planned your equipment to match the area and situation and had some idea of what you were doing, most monsters are not a problem.

Now, there were a couple small problems with combat, and one bothered me a LOT personally, since I made my monster to be a melee hitter.
(Edit: I'm told Zeuzio fixed the TP problems in the last patch, so this part is not an issue anymore)
The Tp assigned at the start of combat is COMPLETELY RANDOM. This means it could go from 1 to 20. This is a huge problem when the basic “attack” skill costs 5 Tp.
I understand this is not related to the game proper but how RMVX ACE handles Tp by default, but it was still very annoying when I’d be forced to guard for one turn or use an item just so I could do a basic attack, even for weak enemies I could have easily beaten in half a punch. Coupled with the fact my monster was a great huge tank and took no damage from…most things, Tp was very annoying to manage in minor battles towards the end of the game.

Now! Combat out of the way, everything else said, let’s go to my favourite part: exploration. This is the focus of the game, and it shows.
There are seven areas in the game world, and you can pretty much go anywhere you like in any order (I followed the natural order of dungeons, so I’m not sure if there are roadblocks keeping you from certain areas).
There are four gates (npc and warp hubs) connecting each area. The seven zones each have their own enemies, puzzles, and mechanics: cutting down trees, melting ice, carrying water to make a seedling grow into a walkable vine, etc.
The dungeons also do a very good job of balancing puzzles (really simple but well executed and fun puzzles) and enemies. Finding items (always in chests) is intuitive and fun, maps are very well designed and interesting to navigate (some more than others) and…
I will stop here, on dangers of launching into zone by zone description. Long story short: the exploration aspect of the game is very good.

Graphics 3.5/5
Vagabond uses RTP only graphics with somewhat mixed results.
Battlers and combat animation are good, usually unedited RTP. Sprites are usually default RTP or generator based, and with a few exceptions work well (there is ONE exception that is simply very very bad, with a central character wearing a modern hoodie that forces me to simply not take him seriously by any means).
Some of the partner monster forms are not from the RTP and they’re pretty nice too.

Now, mapping. The layouts, that is, the structures and designs, are very good. Exploring those structures is genuinely fun and interesting. However, tile selection for the maps is sometimes awkward, and there are mapping errors here and there.
Usually this is not a big deal, but some details will break the immersion a bit sometimes. The biggest problem in my eyes being the third area, the swamp. Some screen effects are also a bit overdone, such as the jungle tint.

Audio 3.5/5
To my knowledge, all audio comes from the RTP and some of the extra music packs (preorder bonus, I think?). Usually they mesh well enough, but there are some situations where a glaring bad choice of music will break the mood (usually with bad RTP music).
Overall, outside a few bad choices than thankfully are only for scenes or very small areas, the music was fine.

Enjoyment 3.5/5 (or 3.75, almost a 4 but not QUITE)
Is this a fun game? If you like exploring, yes.
If you absolutely demand a good story out of it, however, you may want to skip it.
If you’re not sure if you will like it, give it a try. Get to the second area, enough time to play a bit with it, and decide. Some parts are very good, others not as much, but overall I think this is a fun game, and I’m absolutely interesting on seeing what the developer will do next.

So the total score? I’m giving this a 3.5.
A nice game. Not perfect, by any means. Not bad. Not GREAT. But good.
I had fun, and that’s what counts.


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Thank you Indrah! :D

This is quite a fair assessment of the game. (I also thought the review would be much worse after our previous chat xD)
Good read. This will be an interesting project to play through when possible.
Now I want to draw your avatar pic. So cute <3
Clareain this is indeed a good game. Also please draw the avatar pic and throw it up. You need to do something until you get your gear for LPs any ways. :)
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