1 reviews
  • Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

Too many systems, too little care

  • Seeric
  • 07/21/2012 11:40 PM
  • 412 views
Scarlet Skies has a system to make it so you can only save after using an inn or a bed, but this does not matter because even if you say yes to the prompt the Save button remains greyed out. This is just one of the many, many bizarre issues surrounding the current demo. However, it would be best to address these issues one at a time as they relate to the various aspects of the game in typical review fashion.

The plot is probably a good place to start. The game opens with the protagonist, Dread, in his house with a to-do list consisting of acquiring a sword, meeting Rhen, and going to a practice arena in Charge Town while the rest of the game generally consists of the characters wandering around. Neither the world nor the characters are given anything else in the way of backstory aside from Dread ever-so-briefly explaining why he is in the starting town and why he needs to find a sword despite being two-hundred years old. Otherwise, the plot involves the characters stumbling upon a mysterious person (whom they decide must be evil) while in the middle of wandering around simply to kill time and then deciding to pursue said mysterious person. While there may be a bit more to the plot than this, it seems impossible to find out as the plot demands that the party head to an inn shortly after meeting the third party member, but entering the inn traps the party behind a wall with no way out so the demo seems to be outright impossible to finish.

The combat system is easily the part of the game which feels the most sloppy though. Before the game begins, players are asked to choose between four classes, Spellcaster, Hunter, Phantom Guard, and Samurai; I played through the game up to the broken inn as both a Spellcaster and a Samurai. While most games will simply give a message explaining each class upon selecting it, Scarlet Skies instead has an additional button on the title screen labeled 'Classes Guide' which in turn brings up a dropbox page outside of the game to give a brief description of each class. The classes themselves seemed 'ok', but have a severe lack of skills; Samurai only had three skills by the upper teens , all of which were TP based and one of which just increased TP, while Spellcaster had only wind-based spells (nearly all low-level enemies are weak to fire though) along with some buffs and debuffs. Yet another odd design choice in the game is the way skills are divided as every character has four sub-divisions of magic, making actually finding specific skills something of a chore - this is especially odd as a Spellcaster as the four subcategories of Magic are labeled as Spell, Boost, Chain Skill, and Magic again, with the Magic subcategory of Magic being TP-based. As to the battles themselves, the best word to describe them would probably be...


cluttered.

Scarlet Skies has a massive maximum party size of fifteen thanks to its monster capture system, and it quickly becomes nearly impossible to tell what is going on. Character portraits are extremely small with current actions, such as guarding, buffs, debuffs, an HP bar, an MP bar, and an ATB bar jammed onto each of them while a thin, grey frame is the only indication of which character is currently taking a turn (in the picture above you can see it around Dread all the way on the left). All captured monsters are simply represented by a black rectangle with part of the word 'captured' on it, so it is entirely impossible to tell just which type of monster each one is while in combat, let alone which specific monster if there are multiple of the same type in the party. Not being able to tell which monster is which doesn't matter though since none of them seem to learn spells and, with no autoattack option available, combat turns into a matter of endlessly selecting Attack and inevitably missing out on using a skill with Dread or Rhen while caught up in the attack-spam flow.

As to how monsters are actually captured, they simply decide to join sometimes after defeating them, although selecting No when given the prompt to recruit them does nothing and it wasn't until my second playthrough that I discovered you can reject monsters by selecting No, pressing the cancel button to bring up a different prompt asking if you want to abandon the monster, and then selecting Yes. Enemies themselves seem to never attack in groups (or if they do it must be very rare), but a system is in place where a second fight has a chance to start immediately after winning; this system is neat, but the lack of enemy groups and the lack of party abilities makes fights both nonthreatening and tedious. Yet another system exists where Rhen will make a comment along the lines of "We're almost there!" when an enemy is low on health, but this again feels needlessly complicated because enemy health bars appear when a party member deals damage anyway. As a final note on the combat system, enemy levels seem to scale with the average level of the party, which, when combined with the lack of skills available, means fights actually begin to take longer the more you grind and, since captured monsters always start at level 1 when recruited and most remain fairly weak, many of the 'party members' begin hitting enemies for 'null' damage unless weapons are bought for them (and equipping around a dozen party members is itself a chore).

Aesthetically, the game is 'ok', but runs into issues here as well. The music is decent and the vast majority of the graphics are RTP-based, but there are some nice touches such as wildlife and many, many places with flowing water. Players have the option to either just display Dread or have the party trail after him, but this latter option is currently not very nice to look at as, similar to in battle, monster party members are represented by featureless shadowy humanoids. The aesthetics sometimes get in the way of the actual gameplay though as logs, rocks, and other objects are scattered around to give the world a more 'authentic' look, but this creates some oddly-narrow passages in seemingly open fields and on multiple occasions I was forced to simply sit around and wait for a frog or some other wildlife to move out of the way in order to get to a chest or simply to progress. Graphics tie into combat as well as random encounters are only found in tall grass like in Pokemon games, although there are also non-random enemies wandering around; some of these visible enemies disappear upon defeat while others simply stay where they are and can be refought if desired, but there is no logic to which ones do and which ones do not disappear upon defeat and some of the non-disappearing ones run into the same problem as wildlife in terms of blocking paths. Environmental interaction is also strangely limited as, aside from acquiring some consumables from examining certain plants and using a pickaxe to break certain rocks, nothing can be interacted with and NPC conversations never change to match events, so Dread will still ask one of the earlier NPC's where he can find a sword long after he has already found one. Yellow arrows are used, but the actual way in which they are used is completely inconsistent; in some areas they are used to indicate where to go next and are complimented by red arrows which simply indicate which houses are possible to enter, in other areas they are used to point out optional parts, some areas don't have them at all, and yet other areas again use them to point out where to go next but do not use the red arrows.

Two last things of note in Scarlet Skies are the sidequests and the 'password' dungeons. The demo actually has a few side areas for players to wander into and explore, including one cave with a recruitable wolf boss, and the general openness of the demo is nice, although this is somewhat diluted by the fact that a big chunk of the demo also consists of mandatory wandering in order to trigger events, so it is often difficult to tell if a place is actually a side area or if it only seems like a side area and is instead a mandatory destination needed in order to arbitrarily trigger events and progress. The password dungeon system is potentially a really clever idea, but the current implementation falls on its face. Password dungeons are optional dungeon which, as the name implies, can be accessed by inputting a password. Unfortunately, the way passwords can be obtained is yet another needlessly complicated system because players apparently do not find the passwords within the game itself, but instead passwords will be given out by the author over time, resulting in what is probably the closest thing an RPG Maker game can have to on-disc DLC.

In the end, Scarlet Skies just isn't very fun to play. Nothing in particular stands out about it aside from the sheer number of relatively-unique systems crammed into it. However, many of these systems are needlessly complicated, poorly implemented, inconsistent, or just plain buggy. Add on top of this the issues of the lack of a functioning save system and a progress-blocking transition point and it quickly becomes clear that Scarlet Skies is going to need some massive overhauls, tons of streamlining, and a lot more attention to detail in order to have a successful release.

Posts

Pages: 1
Enjoyable read. I agree with pretty much all of it.
Thanks for the review, man.
I'm basically trying to flesh out systems at the same time as concentrating on the core gameplay and story progression.

The save system is fixed in 2.2, where it just saves after a healing event.

Story-wise, everything falls into place. Chapter 2 REALLY picks up on story, and it's much more story driven. Chapter 1 is essentially an introduction to the characters and game world.

I'm currently figuring out which systems to keep and which systems to throw away. I'm trying to flesh out all the systems at the moment so they work perfectly with everything else which isn't TOO easy to do, but it's manageable.

With the classes, I am currently trying to make them extremely varied, but also not affect anything too badly.

Again, thanks so much for the review. A problem I have is that what I don't think are issues, other people do.
author=skaraflame
A problem I have is that what I don't think are issues, other people do.

Like what? (wondering if I could help)
author=Clareain_Christopher
author=skaraflame
A problem I have is that what I don't think are issues, other people do.
Like what? (wondering if I could help)

Not too much. But for instance, the authentic natural feel of the mapping make them linear etc. As the developer I've managed to get used to that, but players seem to think it's a minor inconvenience.
author=skaraflame
author=Clareain_Christopher
author=skaraflame
A problem I have is that what I don't think are issues, other people do.
Like what? (wondering if I could help)
Not too much. But for instance, the authentic natural feel of the mapping make them linear etc. As the developer I've managed to get used to that, but players seem to think it's a minor inconvenience.
Well having small maps is usually pretty good. I would recommend allowing a lot of the clutter items like plants and rocks to be walked on. That would open up some more space without losing the detail.
Thanks for the fast reply and it's good to know that the save system is fixed and that Chapter 2 picks things up. Clareain Christopher's advice of making clutter items possible to walk on is a great idea since it keeps the more 'natural' look to some of the maps while eliminating the 'unnatural' problem of waiting on a frog to move out of your way.

It also seems like you're on the right track since you mentioned that you're figuring out what does and does not work as far as the systems go; finding out what works and fine-tuning it definitely should take place over adding more actual content since it will save a lot of time later. One suggestion I'd have is to try limiting the party size to the 6-8 range since this would let you use bigger portraits to remove a lot of the 'clutter' during combat while still allowing room for party experimentation. I mentioned it in the review, but the HP bars showing when enemies are hit and Rhen saying something when an enemy is low on health are both nice, but you probably should stick to one or the other; I prefer Rhen's message since I like a little mystery as to just how close to dead an enemy is, but either system is fine.

Well, good luck on your game, I'll go try out 2.2 soon and will get around to editing this review so that it no longer mentions the save bug within a day or two.
With the project's battle script, I find 5 or less is the best maximum party size. Though my fonts are a little bit different.
NEW version.....and lets see.....save bug fixed?...........nope!
author=Roy
NEW version.....and lets see.....save bug fixed?...........nope!
Feck, really? I've looked through everything, can't imagine what's happened...
And yeah, I'll change the nature bits around and make some bits passable. And considering the party system I'll put the limit down to 7.
author=skaraflame
author=Roy
NEW version.....and lets see.....save bug fixed?...........nope!
Feck, really? I've looked through everything, can't imagine what's happened...


Didn't you play test it? How could you say it was working now without even trying it out? No wonder your game is full of bugs.
author=Link_2112
author=skaraflame
author=Roy
NEW version.....and lets see.....save bug fixed?...........nope!
Feck, really? I've looked through everything, can't imagine what's happened...
Didn't you play test it? How could you say it was working now without even trying it out? No wonder your game is full of bugs.

I like how you responded to my answer before I answered XD.
I have play tested, I play test a lot, but you're right, I did forget to play test it when I thought I fixed the save glitch, but that's purely because I was under the impression I'd un-done whatever I did that caused the glitch. And it was 3 in the morning XD

But yeah, I'm looking at each of my scripts and events and looking for the source of the problem.
LouisCyphre
I don't have this game yet :(
4391
With the party, allow hot-swapping in battle and cut the ACTIVE party size down. You'll have to adjust enemies to be able to cope with their prey getting swapped for something at full HP, but, well, you're probably adjusting enemies anyway.
Yeah, I'm cutting down sizes etc.
I'm configuring scripts and stuff before I carry on making the core of the game.

Hopefully by the next demo (which I really don't think will be soon) after the save function is fixed, the game will actually be pretty good.
Pages: 1