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Impressive Gameplay Held Back By Mediocre Story

  • NicoB
  • 05/10/2009 10:02 PM
  • 2982 views
Starless Umbra follows the story of Andoru as he and his friends attempt to find their way back home to Tulron.

Graphics/Style

The graphics in the game are really pretty darn good. In addition to the many custom animations that are used to express emotion or perform an action, there are also little graphical tidbits, such as Andoru blinking, that really add to the atmosphere and help breath life into the game. Dungeons are very well-designed, as are the towns, although there aren't very many town (up to Chapter Four). Battle animations are great; don't know why, but I especially like Renee's battle graphic. Top notch.

I wasn't a fan of the overworld tileset. I feel like a game of such high calibur should use a better set that isn't so limited and represent just how epic the size of the game is. Also, I ran into what seemed to be some incomplete maps after I beat this monster on the mountain towards the start of the game (the one where the voice warns you not to walk off the path). I got out of the dungeon following, and after going through a painful Frogger-like mini game and walking the entire length of the western continent (and fighting a ton of slimes), I discover there is nothing to find, meaning I had to go ALL the way back again. Just kinda sucked, especially after beating such a challenging boss (who also gave me a horrible amount of exp).

8.5 out of 10.0

Storyline

I have mixed feelings about the story of Starless Umbra. It started off really well, with plenty of mysteries to uncover and questions to have answered. However, as time went on, I realized something: none of these questions were getting answered; in fact, the story just continues to create new plot questions without ever answering any of the previous, making it frustrating to remember exactly what the plot is about. It would be much better if the game answered some of our old questions before jumping to new ones. This brings me to my next point: the story jumps around a lot. The story just doesn't stick to any one specific objective. There were some points where I just sat back in my chair and wondered: what the hell am I trying to accomplish? Am I still chasing a thief or trying to uncover some organization or get home or...ugh!!! Too much!

The characters are okay, although sometimes bonds are formed rather quickly and forcefully. Also, character reactions to events aren't very believable. Sometimes Andoru just seems to be blindly following some objective without fully understanding why. This is fine, but he doesn't really ever question it. Maybe if we had some more internal conflict (characters thinking to themselves) it would make it much easier to relate to what it is they're thinking.

The story isn't a complete disaster. There are definitely some interesting plot points that have me interested. I am just still waiting for them to be resolved.

5.0/10.0

Gameplay

Absolutely fantastic. Seriously, I cannot emphasize how amazing this gameplay is. It has pretty much anything you could want in an RPG. Great puzzles, solid battles, and the mini games...oh, the MINI GAMES! I don't think I've ever seen such heart put into mini-games before; it is truly an amazing coding accomplishment, especially considering this is an RPG Maker 2003 game. My favorite was a Castlevania mini game where you invade a castle. God, that was absolutely phenomenal. He could've made a full game with just that concept. I can't imagine how difficult it must've been to code some of these areas. Kudos, dragonheartman.

I only have one or two minor gripes. I didn't love the random encounters, and I'm surprised that a game with so much custom gameplay didn't include some kind of visible monster encounter. Also, though I loved the mini-games, I would've liked to see some of them play into the story some rather than just throwing it at the player and saying \"Here do this random puzzle and win a prize!\"

9.0/10.0

Music/Sound

Music is good, not mind-blowing, but definitely not bad. It's pleasant with nice soft tunes which increase in intensity during more dramatic scenes. Sounds are great, although the sound made with casting magic took a little getting used to. Not much else to say; I would recommend throwing a song with some vocals in during one of the more serious scenes just to spice it up (some soft Japanese song is always good) but that's a preference thing.

8.0/10.0

Conclusion

I really have enjoyed Starless Umbra and I am still working on getting further. I am up to Chapter Four, and based on what I've seen:

Graphics - 8.5 - Pros - Nice customs, good animations
Cons - Mediocre overworld, unfinished maps
Story - 5.0 - Pros - Interesting plot twists
Cons - To many unresolved conflicts, jumpy story
Gameplay - 9.0 - Pros - Amazing, great mini-games
Cons - Random encounters
Music - 8.0 - Pros - Pleasant sounds and music
Cons - Nothing really stellar, just good

Overall - 7.0/10.0

Good

Posts

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dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2750
Thanks for the review, though if you continue you've still got a ways to go. ;)
NicoB. What the hell is this? This game is one of the best RPG Maker games ever made. Sometimes it feels like it's not even a RPG maker game and you give this game 7/10? Yes it's still a good score, but for the game like this? Even though I agree story is not very strong, but dude. Try to think of some good story that hasn't been done already to some degree? and you gave it a 5/10? Nope, sorry I don't agree with that review at all. If the game has so many fun things like superb and possibly the best gameplay of any RPG maker game you don't bring down the score because someone didn't write all his life and just wanted to make a fun game for us to enjoy. I would possibly give this game a strong 9/10 or 10/10, but I've got to be honest I didn't even completed the game yet and I'm amazed. And no I'm not some FPS, action junkie. I enjoy a good story, but even though it's an RPG it doesn't have to be on Baldur's Gate or Mass Effect level. It's an old review so maybe something has changed besides visible monster encounters and I'm playing ten times more polished game, then sorry for going apeshit.
Well, this review is from 2009...
8.5+5+9+8=30.5/4=7.6 The score should be rounded up to 8. But even rounded down to 7 it should equal 3.5 stars... Just Saiyan. =P
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2750
Given this is such an old review, this actually helped shape SU to become what it is now. In his LP of the newest version, NB rescinded many of his older points.

Honestly at the time I am ashamed to admit but I added mystery just for the sake of having mystery. I never really planned the game very well and it wasn't till 2010 or so until I finally realized the entire direction I wanted to take the game.

EDIT: and 7/2 = 3, integer division ftw?
InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4370
What I notice about alot of games and reviews is that storylines always start off strong and begin to faulter as time goes on.
And like you said, dragonheartman, people don't know the full direction yet and have to work much harder fleshing it out rather than setting it up.

And it always hurts scores because of it, which is sorta crappy! I guess one can only be so lucky to have a second look at the game once everything has fallen into place.
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