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A decent start!

  • Decky
  • 01/29/2014 05:26 AM
  • 1345 views
To Save a Land is Liberty's first adventure into the realm of VX Ace. This demo was made for the RPG Maker VX Ace Nugget Crash Course, and is was basically to her as Valera was to me and In Search of Dragons was to Indra: a way to get our feet wet with the program on our own terms.

I debated whether or not to give this game a star rating, but ultimately I decided to do so. The demo is of decent length (around an hour), and I usually end up rating demos lower than completed projects, so there's always a chance to get a higher rating once the sample size is larger. I typically go for the unrated option only if the game is less than 15 minutes or so, or if the flaws are related to a lack of sample size. Seems like a fair way to do things to me.

Story
To Save a Land has multiple scenarios, but only the first half of the first scenario is available for this demo. This scenario focuses on Tabitha, a cursed girl, as well as her support network/guardians who consist of her boyfriend and her parents. As a group, they are looking for a cure to her sickness.

The dialogue is solid and very down-to-earth. I get serious laid-back Aussie vibes from both this game and the setting (which is not surprising, since Liberty is full Aussie). Even the maps themselves seem like a more desolate area of Australia, as some have noted on the screenshots. But yes, the dialogue is all very solid, despite a few cut-offs and issues reading the thought text (it's colored light grey and kinda hard on the eyes given the color of the background).

The demo ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so it'll be interesting to see what Tabitha's fate really is. Overall, it's a decent start, though the only real hook here is Tabitha's condition. And her performance in battle may make some users hate her (more on that later).

Presentation
Liberty is one of the best non-parallax mappers on RMN and this game showcases some of her skills. Some of the tilesets have been recolored and customized, but for the most part it's RTP goodness.


Good jorb!

The music is mostly RTP/pre-order bonus, but I don't have any gripes. I found out that we're using the same battle music for Radiant Chain, albeit at a faster tempo. From the looks of it, the world map looks pretty expansive. The cave in which most of the demo takes place is very intricate and full of pretty lighting effects and other things to build the atmosphere. Nice work. Text boxes/menus and title screen could use some customization, though - even if it's just the basic Yanfly package.

Gameplay
Unfortunately, this is the category in which I feel To Save a Land could use the most tweaking. While I didn't dislike the game, I did get frustrated at certain elements, and ultimately left wanting more action.

First and foremost, there's no boss for the demo. At least one boss at the end would've been nice, especially considering the lengthy grind through the caves. Even a miniboss or optional challenging enemy would've been appreciated.

Second, there's a intricate issue and it revolves around Tabitha. I do love how plot-oriented the character's builds and skills are (e.g. Thom will protect Tabitha, the father's characterization is very fitting of a healer, and the mother will cast nasty magic based on her mayor crown). However, it gets a little over the top with Tabitha.

Because Tabitha is cursed, she is basically poisoned perpetually - and I believe regular poison will stack on top of this. You will be healing her constantly, and her laughably low HP and defense will kill her within a couple of rounds if Thom doesn't cover her in time and/or if you forget to heal her before a battle due to the damage she's incurred from walking around. This, combined with her poor skills, kind of makes her useless. But I didn't want to just keep her dead, either, because nobody gains experience when they are dead.

However, this is compounded by yet another issue. There's no way to heal your party until you reach the halfway point of the cave dungeon. There's no inn or bed to sleep in at the town. Moreover, revival items cost an arm in a leg; by the end of the demo, I would have only been able to afford one of them! See how the dominos are falling?

The game also starts off fairly challenging until you gain a few levels, which isn't a bad thing as long as revival items are cheaper and there's an inn available at the start. Then I'd only have to worry about Tabitha being utterly useless in combat (and this may weaken my attachment to her with respect to the plot).


Why random? Why?

Skills are generally good, but I have a few gripes. First and foremost, most spells and skills are random. Yes, random. I think a few random skills are great, but when they tend to be the norm, it can seriously undermine the potential of the battle system. It throws a lot of strategic opportunities out the window, and can make battles frustrating at lower levels when your battle efficiency is determined by sheer luck. Thankfully, there is a special crown available that gives Balinda (the aforementioned mother/mayor) the ability to cast AoE fire spells, thereby allowing me to better capitalize on the enemies' weaknesses.

With that said, I like the healing spells as well as the items. Everything is described clearly using brackets in the item descriptions, though there is this Karma system that confused me when it started reviving enemies. There are also a few gameplay-related glitches: an HP-increasing accessory actually decreases HP, for instance.

Exploration is the game's strength. There are a lot of nooks and crannies in the cave, and plenty of shinies to collect. I also like the healing springs, but I had no idea these were coming until I got deep into the cave: I was really hoping for a heal option back at the town.

Overall, the game has potential but some gameplay design choices are holding it back (or at least with respect to my own taste). Most of this can be chalked up to the fact that it's a demo, and demos need feedback from third parties.

Conclusion
This demo is a solid start, especially with regard to the presentation and characters. The gameplay has potential, but it does need a bit of polish and reworking in some areas. Looking forward to seeing the next release!

Story: 3.5/5
Gameplay: 2.5/5
Presentation: 4.25/5
Fun Factor: 2.5/5
Overall: 3.19/5

Posts

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I'm glad you semi-enjoyed the game, and thanks for reviewing it, Decky.

I am kinda surprised by a few things, though. >.<;
The fairy... I'm sure she was fightable in the demo and she was the boss fight you were looking for. It's odd that you didn't get to battle her. I'll double check that to make sure the eventing is all working...
Also, the third room into the caves have the first healing pool and I think there's three total through the place? I was considering adding another near the end, but I think I added a full restore during the last cutscene so I didn't. Still, I'll look into adding more healing items around and see about lowering prices if I still think it's necessary. (Oh, and you should be able to sleep at your house to restore HP... though that might be in the current WIP version now that I think about it.)
I am surprised you had trouble with that though, as Thom has a skill that heals and increases defences (which stacks), Tabby gains a drain ability, Jonathon has both full-party and multi-hit heal skills. Only Balinda is lacking in that capacity and she gets damaging skills instead.

I will admit that I need to refine the curse some more. I'm thinking of either lowering the damage amount per step substantially or making it more steps until 'hit'. Also, changing up some of her skills to help her survive a bit longer/easier. ^.^;

And we're always gonna disagree when it comes to random numbers, Decky. XD

But again, thank you. I've a better list of what I have to address and look into which will help. Still surprised you missed the boss somehow, but maybe you got lucky during it and managed to pull off the easiest win (there are three ways to beat the battle - each tying to character involvement during battle).
Decky
I'm a dog pirate
19517
There wasn't even a boss encounter - they encountered the fairy and then the screen went to black :(
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