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A Tale of Trust, Loss, Family, and Sacrifice

  • Strak
  • 01/01/2022 05:52 AM
  • 379 views
Alright, where do I even begin?

Let's start with a synopsis.

Synopsis
Villnoire is set in a medieval fantasy world where Humans and Druids have lived in disparity for generations. The cultural persecution of Druids and the imperialist views of the Inchor army and their leaders, the Vanheart family, are prevalent throughout the game. You follow the story of Lukas, a former Inchor soldier who finds himself caught up in a series of events that have the potential to change the way the world sees not only Druids, but the Inchor army and the royal family as well. The game can be thoroughly completed in around 15 hours.

With that in mind, I've broken this review into five different categories, then rated each category and compiled the rating into an average for the final score. Let's go through them, shall we?

Story - 5/5
Alright, I'm going to get this one out of the way early. This story. Is. Amazing. It's a fairly unique perspective on the typical "persecution of a humanoid race" trope (looking at you, Fire Emblem), but doesn't feel cliché at all. At first, I was a little disappointed that the main villain seemed to just be your typical evil villain doing evil villain stuff because he's evil and powerful and evil, but once you truly dive into the story and learn about the history of the Vanheart family, you almost start to feel more sympathy for the character than anything else. I don't want to spoil any endings if at all possible, but the way the conflict resolves with the main villain is a daring and unique choice that I don't see used very often, and was extremely refreshing to see.

The way that certain secrets were foreshadowed was a little predictable, but were revealed in such a way as to still be surprising and impactful. The way that character backstories were revealed and tied into the story was masterfully done, and definitely drove home the concept that this is not a game about saving the world, but about family. Loss. Sacrifice. This is a story about cleansing old wounds, and creating a brighter future, not about destroying the deepest darkness. But before you go thinking that it's all happy-clappy let's-be-friend-and-sing-kumbaya, trust me, it's not. There are definitely some powerful sentimental moments about the power of friendship, but they don't feel sappy or cheesed out. And as much as there is an overall theme of trust and faith, there are several dark moments that really define the characters, and what their true motives are.

This is really hard to write without giving massive spoilers. Suffice it to say that the story is exceptionally well told, and manages to steer away from feeling too cliché. This is a story that balances drama, romance, comedy, action, sentiment, and tragedy in a way that I've only rarely seen done so well. The world is very well fleshed-out, with an immersive feel to the lore and history without drowning the player in full-on history lessons.

Characters - 5/5
Dovetailing off the story, the characters are also exceptional. The dialogue is very well written, and you can tell that each character has their own way of speaking and their own personality. Whether it's the strictly formal and stiff dialogue of the reserved Brice, the witty and aloof humour of Zach, the airy honesty of Vivian, or even the muteness of Emilia, each character comes across as being distinctly different and a valuable contributor to the story. The drama and conflict between the various characters is well executed, and well resolved, and the bonds that forge between them is truly touching at times. I did feel that the villains were a little cliché at first, but again, there's a whole level of dysfunction to that family that explains everything.

As for the character backstories, this is the kind of writing I wish I was capable of. Each character has their own past trauma to deal with, and it comes to the surface throughout their interactions in the story. Seeing Zach shed his masks at critical times was jarring - in a good way. It really showed the depth of the character, and cast all his future jokes in a whole new light. And, at the risk of some spoilers, watching Lukas deal with his denial, and come to terms with the truth literally brought tears to my eyes. I could vividly imagine what life must have been like for him, and how when everything changed it left him a broken man. I could feel that pain as if it were my own, and it made me love everything about this story and how the characters have been so painstakingly developed. The reveals of each characters backstory and how they process it is exceptionally well done, so I have to give a full rating.

Mechanics and Combat 4/5
This is the only area where I'm not super thrilled, to be honest, but I must admit that some of the mechanics felt really well implemented. I liked the simplicity of the elemental system, and how well balanced the characters were. Having just two elements, characters that specialized in them and others that balanced them, and enemies that had different weaknesses based on the colour of their name was a very simple, but effective system. The status ailments felt original, as well as the restorative items. The weapons you could acquire had varying abilities, which was nice, but it definitely felt like I was just constantly powering up from the previous weapon, and there wasn't really a huge debate in whether to use one weapon over another. The crafting system felt a little slow, but was a nice touch. I would have preferred if you could create batches of potions, instead of one at a time, but it did give a feel of a classic SNES game. The ability board was very smooth, however, and I liked how you could re-allocate AP at any save point, so you didn't have to worry about making a poor choice, and you could test out each ability. Having reserve party members while having them all still technically travelling with you was a nice touch, as it allowed every character to weigh in on a given situation while still providing some limitations. I enjoyed testing out different party combinations and synergizing different abilities. It took a while for me to realize that there were more than four combat options if you kept scrolling, so I missed Overflow for about a third of the game, but once I got the hang of it it turned into a very nice touch. All in all, the combat was very simple, and there's a certain beauty to that, but I do feel that it left something to be desired. Even at max level, some of the fights still felt like a bit of a grind, although the avoidable encounters helped to mitigate that.

Graphics and Mapping 5/5
This is actually what made me want to play Villnoire in the first place. LWG makes excellent use of First Seed Material, and his mapping skills are commendable. I'm a bit of a stickler for consistent mapping, and LWG did not disappoint. Resources were used appropriately and effectively, without overdoing it with overlays or clutter. You can tell that there was considerable attention to detail in each of his maps, especially (and this always gets me) in the cliff heights on various maps. The buildings are of a realistic size and proportion, and the interiors are splendidly decorated. The dungeons felt unique, and I never felt lost. I could explore each region fully without ever feeling like I was just walking through the same corridors over and over. This can be difficult to do, especially for a dungeon like the last one, where interiors of buildings are notably consistent and symmetrical in real life, but I was engaged all the way through.

The towns felt very well designed, and their placement made sense on the world map. Speaking of which, the world map was exceptional as well! Movement felt slow, but understandably so. I loved the shrinking of the character sprites on the world map, I thought that was a very nice touch. But the detail and the layout was phenomenal! Overworlds can be difficult to create with much realism, but this one is lovely! My only caveat to this is that the Overworld looks to be the same biome all around, even when you're technically in a snowy area or a desert. I thought that felt a little off-putting. But aside from that, I genuinely have no complaints about the mapping, and was thoroughly impressed with the diversity of the regions while keeping consistency with the mapping style.

Music and Sound 5/5
And, in my opinion the crowning jewel of this game, the music. Unbelievable. Music is an important part of games for me, and can really set the tone and the atmosphere for the game. When assets clash, it can be dissonating and throw off the whole feel of the game. But in Villnoire, the soundtrack is about as immersive as it gets. Each song represents the region exceptionally well, especially the tracks for Lukas' cabin and Palmira Village. Music is used well during cutscenes, and the track at the end of the game for the final cutscene was so heartfelt it was almost painful. Although I might have just been internally weeping because of the ending itself. The composer did a phenomenal job writing the music, but LWG also does a phenomenal job of implementing the tracks.

In addition to the music, I did notice the use of certain background sounds in towns and dungeons that were implemented very subtly, but in such a way that greatly enhanced the atmosphere. Hearing idle conversations as you make your way through a bustling port town or a busy pub, the chirping of birds and rustling of trees in a forested area, or even the gentle whispering of a Druid forest that watches your every move. The BGS were well implemented without being overwhelming, a task which is not as easy to do as it sounds.

Conclusion 24/25
Villnoire is very nearly what I would consider to be a perfect game for its genre. For someone who's relatively new to the community, I thoroughly enjoyed the game in all aspects, even the shout-outs to other people within the community and their games. I thought that was a cute touch. The only issues I do have with the game are incredibly minor, and are more a matter of personal preference than any sort of oversight by the developer. This is the sort of game I would love to see a cinematic version of, and I'm giving Villnoire a rating of 96%, which to me rounds it to a 5 star game.

Thanks for reading this review, and I hope you give this game a chance!

Posts

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Couldn't agree more with this review! Villnoire has a level of polish rarely seen. I think the combat woes are mostly due to RM2k3's weak combat system. Even though it's used well here, it's hard to completely overcome its weaknesses.

Glad to see this game getting some well deserved love!
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