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Giving 'Eyes of the Forest' a quick glance.

  • EnderX
  • 08/11/2012 03:07 AM
  • 206 views
Intro:
First off, let me admit three things that will color my opinions of this game. If you disagree with me on any of these, then your opinion of this game may greatly differ from my own.

First, I've never before played something billed as 'survival horror' before. And after having gone through this, I'm unlikely to do so ever again. It's bad enough that most of my free time occurs after nightfall, and I've learned during this playthrough that I apparently don't have the aptitude (or attitude) needed for the genre, either.

Second, I'm not above cheating in an RM game. I won't review one where I completely mangled the gameplay (as in, common events to restore all HP for all party members - I've done that before), but I'm not a purist. I didn't do anything to mess with gameplay directly in the case of this game, and I never tried to play the game in the editor, but I did pop the game open in the maker (both RM2000 and 2k3) several times trying to figure out what I was supposed to do next. I had to or I would have never gotten even a quarter as far as I actually managed to make it.

Third, I did not manage to finish the game. After one particular portion, I felt that the next segment was too much challenge for too little reward, and chose to end my playthrough there.

Having said my piece (and peace) with that, on with the review.

Graphics:
There are two main points to dealing with graphics in a video game: One, they should be reasonable (as opposed to eye-watering combinations of color and pattern) and two, they should be consistent. That is, graphics of the same type (multiple chipsets, for example) should be in the same style, and sets of graphics, such as character{Charaset, Face, Battler} should have a clear and noticible relation to one another.

General:
Graphics were...scattered. That's probably the most polite way to put it. There were a few special case rendered items, but other than that, everything was traditional RM2k era stuff.

One point that does stand out here is that, for some reason, the speech box style kept changing, with no apparent order or pattern to when, where, or why. This was somewhat disconcerting.

Map Chips:
I know the chipsets I saw were from many different locales; some appeared to be RTP, others I believe were REFMAP sets, and a few of them were things I don't think I've seen since the days Phylomortis.com lead to an actual RM website. I don't recall any one location (dungeon) using vastly different styles of chipset, but they were scattered enough there was a clear stylistic disconnect between different areas.

Character Graphics:
I only saw three real 'playable' characters over the course of the game, and precious few NPCs outside of flashbacks. The style for most ofthe characters I saw (barring the dog) were normal RM2k(3) RTP style; the dog sprite looked like it belonged to Romancing SaGa 3. I think I may have also seen one or two sprites modded from FF6 images, although I'm not certain about that.

Face Graphics:
Faces varied as well; the two major sets I saw used appeared to be the Roco sets and whatever source Three the Hard Way used. Naturally, you had one of each in your playable list (plus the dog, who had a face image from somewhere completely different). The faces were chosen, with at least decent accuracy, to go with their associated sprites, but there was no real cohesion to them as a group.

Battler:
There were precious few 'battles' as a normal RPG would have them - although there actually were a few boss battles. I don't recall much about how consistent those battlers were. Since the game is RM2000 in origin, there were no characters battlers to be seen.


Sound:
A video game can be well-designed, and the most beautiful thing you've ever seen, but without sound, it will seem dull and lifeless. There are two kinds of sound; point-in-time (aka 'sound effects') and constant (aka 'background music').

First, the music. This one may be more a complaint regarding the genre, or perhaps my choice of speaker setup (I've got two sets of speakers on my comp desk; the second's plugged into the headphone jack of the first as an amplification system). I get that horror games are supposed to have scary music. Scary isn't the problem. The problem is that the music I heard was less 'scary' and more 'ear-grindingly annoying', except for minor moments which I'm assuming were supposed to be actual fear-inducing parts - which in this case, I actually looked forward to as a break from the rest of it. Again, though, that may simply be because I'm not used to it, or because I was hearing things far louder than I should have thanks to my sound setup.

The sound effects, on the other hand, were used to good effect. (First time I've actually been properly spooked by a cat scare, for example.) Some of the repetitive ones could begin to wear after a while, but that'd probably be true with any set of sounds. Ironically, a segment of the game that I normally don't recall afterwards (check my other reviews if you don't believe me) gets top marks in this game - for effect, the sound effects were probably the best at keeping my attention and at least partially keeping me in the game.



Map Layout:
Some games don't need map design. Pong, for example. But for most games, especially VRPGS, maps are critical. They don't just show the world, they are the world, and should be treated accordingly.

Hmm...how about, 'Big'. Does 'big' work? The maps were large enough that I sometimes had trouble finding my way around, not to the next story point, but to anywhere where I could at least try to do something to further the game. Those that weren't extremely large tended to be quite small; usually with large hordes of monsters coming after you. This is not a good thing.

This is one of the areas in which I resorted to cheating - I popped the game open in the maker so I could actually look at the map and see where things were. If I hadn't been able to do so, I'd have probably given up shortly after my first circuit of the first town map.

Reviewer's tip: The town maps wrap in both directions. If you get lost, use this to your advantage by finding the river and following it until you reach something familiar. If nothing else, you'll eventually reach the main road.


Story:
What's going on? How much do we see, how much do we learn?

<Sarcasm>At what point?</Sarcasm> Perhaps appropriately for a horror game, the story doesn't appear to be 'fleshed out' so much as 'a thin skin draped over a skeleton'. Something's obviously going on, clearly dealing with the occult and apparently revolving around some sort of woodland deity, but I don't believe anything solid was ever stated...just a mass of cryptic mutterings from various individuals. It's possible it would have been further resolved had I managed to finish the game, but from what I saw, I doubt it.

Characterization:
What are video game characters? Are they simply collections of pixels and statements, or are they people, with real personalities?

Is it a bad thing that the character who felt most fleshed-out to me was one who only appeared in a small handful of brief flashback cutscenes? The protagonist's wife (deceased at the start of the game) was the only one who I really got a handle on. As for the main protagonist himself, well, surly attitude does not a character make, no matter how thickly it's slathered on.

Gameplay:
How well was the game designed? Do things interact nicely, or is the player likely to throw down their keyboard in disgust?

The vast majority of the gameplay appears to be wandering around trying to figure out where to go next - with the occasional clue tossed your way like a bone to a dog. (Which might be an apt metaphor, considering...) Sadly, once each clue is used up, you're back where you started, trying by trial and error to determine what to do next. This was the second point in which I cheated - the 2k3 editor can open an RM2000 game, and has a function to search for variables and switches among events. When I started running into dead ends, I'd pop the game in 2k3 and try to track the events that had whatever switch I needed, then go find the event in the game.

Those segments that aren't like the above are generally filled with screaming monsters (literally screaming, or at least snarling, in a few cases) charging at you to kill you - and with rare exceptions, you can't hurt them without taking damage yourself. Of course, the reverse also holds true - I think there was one point where a zombie tried to take me from behind and got itself cut down in the process, which was at least a bit amusing. I know there was one point when I was crowded by a group and they seemed to simply wait patiently for their turn at being torn apart. Who'd have thought the rampaging undead would be that polite?

The final bit of gameplay I saw was a stealth segment (sneak past the guards while their backs are turned) - after five game overs within as many minutes, I chose to give up and attempt to write this review. (Note to the developer - my playtime was sitting at 269 minutes right before I entered this segment.)

Minigames:
Take a break from the action. Why not try a refreshing minigame while you wait?

There are no minigames in this game. There are a few puzzles that have a minigame like feel, but these are non-repeatable.


Custom Systems:
What kind of custom systems are there? And how well designed are they?

There were two major custom systems used in this game. The first is a health/hunger overlay set; one bar showing 'hunger' (never let that run out, so I don't know for sure what would happen, but suspect I'd have gotten a game over), and one bar showing (loosely) how much damage you'd taken (it didn't always react correctly to healing; later in the game, there were times I was showing a full bar while at half HP - not sure if this was a direct glitch or if my HP had risen above the level it was supposed to mark).

The second system is 'battle mode', where you can attack the enemy without actually taking damage yourself. (The same is true for them, however.) Pressing the enter key while in this mode initiates an attack, done by flinging yourself at high speed across the map. Note that you have to be at a certain range from the enemy to attack properly; done too close in, you'll ram into them instead of unleashing an attack. Ramming them doesn't hurt you, but it doesn't hurt them either, and it leaves you in far too close a proximity unless you try to get away quickly.


Bug Count:
How well fumigated was the game? Are the bugs mostly dead, or are there still plenty of them crawling around to make problems for the player?

Very buggy.

First and foremost, at the lightest level of bug, the text was mangled by misspellings. Some were possibly at least half explicable ('Asylem' was used for 'asylum' every time it appeared), but in several cases, the same word would be spelled correctly in one point, then incorrectly in another only a few minutes away. And these misspellings were constant - I don't think I saw any text boxes comprising more than a single sentence which didn't have something misspelled.

Second, there were several points where the game lagged on me. I note that these were maps with a large count of events, and that most of the lagging took place on the main town map, where you apparently have an overlay consisting of at least two pictures, as well as shifting levels of brightness.

Third, in the category of 'good bugs', some of the monsters that were supposed to be attacking you apparently shared kill switches - I saw several cases where I'd come on one that was already lying dead, with a message saying the protagonist had killed it.

Finally, a possible design bug: There was at least one item I found while randomly wandering around on one side of a point of no return that was not used until the other side. I list this as 'possible' because I did collect it; I'm not sure you can cross the PoNR without it. Still, that kind of scenario has the potential to be a gamebreaker, and should be avoided whenever possible.

And finally, the point where I quit - it's possible to trigger an accidental game over at the beginning of the stealth segment, because the segment takes place inside 'attack mode', and it's very easy to accidentally hit the enter key one too many times (triggering a noisy attack, and instant game over screen as soon as the stealth portion begins) while trying to scroll through the wall of text that displays at the start of the segment.


Replay value:
Is the game worth replaying? Are there places of non-linear decisions that invite a 'what if I did it this way?' mentality?

I honestly don't know the answer to this one - it's non-linear beyond non-linear. You're not playing through a story 'line' so much as a story 'web', and that very looseness dampens the 'what if' mentality a replay requires.


Conclusion:
If the developer invests in a proofreader, a little more fumigation, and change in the music to something fear-inducing instead of headache-inducing, there might be a promising game under this...at least for those who like the genre. If you don't like the genre, like having working ears, or are an avid reader or English major, you'll probably want to stay away from the game as it currently stands.

Final Score:
No score. My unfamiliarity with the genre is leading me to compare the game to 'traditional' RPGMaker games, and I don't believe I can honestly make a fair comparison as a result.

Posts

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Well thanks for your input. I'll see what I can do about making it clearer where the next objective is. When the hint for the next area relies on dialogue, if people go through the dialogue quickly at the end of a big location I suppose it's quite easy to miss where the characters say they should head next.

The music is something we're working on, The other designer and I are composing as we go, but we're not professionals. I personally hate the Morgoth avenue house but I love the town map music. I'm curious to know which bit you liked and which bits you hated.

Can I ask, did you get lost so much because you didn't find the town map?
The music: I'd have to go back through and sit through some of the areas to give you exact specs on that. Since you bring up the town map music explicitly, I'll tell you that it was one of the areas I had problems with - but is also one where I feel those problems were on my end, rather than yours. I could see/hear the effect you were going for with it, but I suspect that due to my sound setup, I was consciously hearing portions of it that I wasn't supposed to...portions which, based on the overall song, would have helped to subconsciously heighten the tension.

The map and getting lost: I did not find the map at first. I did find it eventually, but between the fact it was out of date, and the fact that my own developing mental image of the town was completely different due to the two-dimensional wrapping effect, I had a bit of trouble matching what I saw on the map to what I was seeing in the game. (I had Silvermane off in the far upper left, for example.)
Just in case people read about the stealth bit and think the instant game over sounds horrible (because I'd think that) Before each of those stealth bits is a room with nothing but a save point in.

I wanted there to be some reason you wouldn't want to be seen, other than teleporting back to the entrance of that room.

So even though there is an instant game over bit, it's not as horrible as it sounds.
I'll second his statement about the save points before the stealth segments (first one at least - didn't make it far enough into that part to find a second). The save point was where I found the 'time at quit' mentioned in the review.
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