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Similar to my own development style, yet different

  • Marrend
  • 07/06/2012 12:56 PM
Game Title: Maze of Heroes
Engine: RPG Maker VX
Status at review: Demo/In progress

My motivation to make this review lies more in getting an achievement and bonus markerscore via the NaGaDeMo Review Drive than anything else. However, I did manage to perform a small amount of research on the game itself before just plunging into it. So, this review is not completely blind. Just mostly blind.

When I extracted the game, I noticed that there where no sub-directories. I recalled from the gamepage that the VX RTP had to be installed to run the game. Which is fine, for a first game attempt, which I more or less assumed this was. So, the only question that remained was how well the game used the RTP, and how fun it was.

Obviously, the game uses nothing but RTP. As far as mapping was concerned, it was pretty simplistic. I'm figuring that the Random Dungeon Generator was used for the base maps, then there were edits made to make things more to the creator's liking. I've done this technique myself, so I see no harm in doing this. My issue lies more in the fact that there's no flavor tiles anywhere. The walls had no torches, so I'm not sure how can this character can even see. Maybe it's some kind of magic light? There was the floor, too. It was uniform. No cracks. No alternate tiles. Just whatever floor tile that was chosen with the Random Dungeon Generator. I dunno, maybe I'm being too harsh. Like I said, I can get behind the basic concept that these maps seemed to be generated from, but they can use more detail work.

The only other thing I really have to note here is that the game uses a moving smoke cloud to relay regular encounters. These enemies respawn whenever the player enters or exits a map. This was a concept I'm quite familiar with.

Obviously, the game uses nothing but RTP. The general wandering around music is "Scene2". The combat music for both bosses or normal combat was "Battle5". RTP has its uses, but I don't think these choices made the game more organic. If RTP is the one-and-only-option for this developer, I have nothing better to suggest, outside of using a different song for boss battles. Otherwise, I would suggest taking a visit to Newgrounds, or like place.

The game starts the player off with the main character (Alrik) just waking up (Didn't I just do this?) in the middle of a dungeon. Alrik blats a bit about facing an evil wizard (Piranos) and losing. The result of which, Alrik realizes, brought him to the titular Maze of Heroes, where Piranos sends those who face him to die. Which is vaguely reminiscent of something that happens in Planescape - Torment. Then again, maybe I've just been on a certain wavelength of thought lately. So, with axe in hand (Guys like Piranos clearly don't ever feel a need to confiscate the equipment of those he captures.), our hero sets out to climb the tower dungeon to victory freedom!

In my opinion, exploration and combat are pretty key to a dungeon crawl. The maps were fairly huge. I'm guessing that they were around two screens in each direction. Exploring them is a chore, though. There's tons of enemies on these maps, not to mention that everything starts looking the same after a while. The mapping shortcomings was noted on the game page, so the author was aware of that, at least.

As for the combat, the game uses the default battle engine without too many interesting tricks. I more or less expected this, as this was a first game attempt. I can't really "hate" on this design decision, since it's basically the same kind of decision I've made for my games.

My party consisted of Alrik for two floors. With the quantity of enemies on screen, I was hoping the game balance, and ability learning, would account for all of this. I started with "Stamina" which is a self-heal ability that can only be used in battle. Fair enough. His next ability, Side Slash, was learned when he reached level 5. That one was an attack-all ability. Seemed pretty expensive (20 MP is expensive when you only have 30-ish MP), so I guessed that it would be used as a once-only board wipe for a while. Still, this meant that my best move was to Control-A (basic attack) creeps 99% of the time.

The floor 2 boss was fairly difficult, but I managed with a Tonic (This game's "Potion".) and a Mana (This game's "Ether".). With floor 3, the Paladin, Cassandra, joined me. Perhaps it was because I was still in the midst of getting my thoughts and ideas together for "Might, Magic, and Mafia", but I had to smile from the name ("Cassandra" is the name of the pre-made Sorcerer in Might and Magic II.) and from the class (With one, maybe two exceptions, "Paladin" has been a class in every Might and Magic game I know.). Anyway, she entered the party at the same level Alrik was. Either there's code in place where she enters the party at the same level Alrik is (Which is the kind of thing I would do, by the way.), or she's hard-coded to start at level 6. Cassandra's move set was centered on healing, so my best tactic was still Control-A.

I wasn't as copious with my notes for the floor 3 boss, sadly. By no means am I suggesting that it was easy. Far from it, as I recall that it had two different attacks that each caused a different status effect. The fact that I had two party members probably helped, though my offense was still more or less limited to normal attacks.

The floor 4 boss was insane. It used three different abilities that had each had different status effects. My offense was still limited to normal attacks and Alrik's Side Slash. There were stones in my inventory that had spell-like effects, but I've only gotten them via treasure chests. For defense options, I didn't care about the Blind status, since the status auto-removes as soon as an inflicted character becomes hit. Being silenced was something I didn't care if it happened to Alrik. He could still Side Slash while Silenced, though I found that it didn't do that much more damage than a regular attack. Cassandra, however, would be pretty useless if she was silenced, as she only had spells. The killer was the boss' Poison-all ability. I could have a Poison Ward effect on Alrik, but Cassandra needed the Silence Ward worse. I supposed that I could visit the shop on the floor below me, as it had some equipment upgrades that I didn't bother to purchase at the time. I also supposed that I could buy some items from the shop on my current floor to help augment my chances at survival. I wasn't sure either of these was the right move, though, since the only source of money that I've seen in this game so far have been from treasure chests. I think the first boss might have dropped some, but still, it seemed to me that the game was more about having a limited pool of resources to work with. In the end, I decided that my best option seemed to be to get extra antidotes for the poison that would be put on Cassandra, and some Mana potions to ensure that Cassandra can keep the party alive with her heal-all ability.

Additional Oddities:
There were quite a few text cut-offs in the game. It uses the default font, so I would highly suggest this developer looks into using the message preview option to fix them. That is, while the Show Text dialog box is open, press the F2 key for a text preview.

I found a switch on Floor 3 that didn't seem to do anything. Bug?

Overall entertainment:
A lot of my time with this game was spent in combat. Which is pretty sad, since combat got really tiring to the point that I was considering quitting. I mean, I was doing the same thing ("*Yawn* Control-A the creeps.") each battle, and the rewards for doing battles was pretty minimal (14 EXP at best. If I'm insanely lucky, and I mean insanely lucky, an item drop.). As a general rule, I'd rather see fewer battles that give higher/better rewards than see lots of battles give lower/crappy rewards. It probably didn't help me that I made it a point to get to the healing point at the near end of the of each level as fast as possible (I like having a "base camp"!), and found that I needed to walk a mile (Not literally, of course, but it sometimes felt that way) to get back to where I was. I must have avoided 20+ enemies on the way to each healing point. Not to mention the 20+ enemies that are not on the main path that I figured I needed to kill.

As I outlined, the bosses were generally tough. I don't know how those bosses were built, but I get the feeling that the developer has issues with how the game should be balanced. I've been lambasted for having whacked-up game balance myself, so I probably shouldn't talk.

Treasure hunting was close to non-existent. There weren't any hidden treasures, per se, but there were definitely side passages that led to treasure. However, I went down those paths since there was bound to be enemies I needed to kill in order to have the best chance against the boss of the level. The contents of the treasure was usually decent (They were my only source of raw money.), so they were not a complete waste of time.

I kept expecting (Though, maybe "wanting" is the proper term for it.) to see normal creatures that drop money. It never happened. I began to suspect that if it ever did, the money drops would be pathetic. They would so low that the only way to get anywhere is to grind out the level of monsters, and then, if patience/persistence allows, resetting the level to do it all over again.

Before I even fought the floor 4 boss, I had already come to the conclusion that I would quit after winning against said boss. After I managed victory against it, using a bit too many items that I would have liked, I had to check to see if there was another floor. There wasn't. The demo ended for me. I can only hope/guess that the author had enough sense to say "enough is enough". So that is to his credit.

This dungeon's bosses are definitely a point of contention. Some would argue that they have a difficulty appropriate of a boss. I would content that the main reason they seem so difficult is because of this sensation that resources are scarce, and should be saved for the Biggest Boss that's inevitably on the top floor. It is because of that sensation, and the repetitive nature of levels and regular encounters, that the game is something of a chore to play, at least for me, in its current incarnation.



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Actually I made all the maps to the game. I really did feel like they were quite barren, which was one of my concerns. That switch on Floor 3 actually opens a gate that you would have seen if you went the other way. That gate blocks the entrance into Floor 4. I guess I should put a dialog about that. Thank you for you honest feedback. Looks like I got a lot of work to do before I can realise a finished version of the game.
Bludgeon of Inspiration and Gaurdian Angel of the Description Thread
That switch on Floor 3 actually opens a gate that you would have seen if you went the other way. That gate blocks the entrance into Floor 4.

As the switch stands, using the action button doesn't appear to do anything, since the switch doesn't move from down to up, or whatever. I would suggest that the switch to moves it's positioning to indicate that something was triggered. For more flavor, you can have a screen shake, then the character say something like "That must have opened a door somewhere." It's not like I did something like this for Matsumori Days at any time. Like, say, the Water Trial...
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