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A compelling story with so many sidequests it's like 2 games in one

Story 4.5/5

You begin your journey as the female elf archer, Integra. She and her childhood friend have been called by the spirit to mature sooner than normal for a greater unknown cause. In a turn of events Integra learns that it's not just her friend she must save, but she must also battle vicious vampires, bands of pirates, corrupt holy factions attempting to wage wars on other religions, harpies, zombies, you name it. Along her journey she befriends many different playable characters who each have their own stories/sidequests/collections/goals. Integra is no Mary Sue, as she is constantly faced with tough decisions that may have undesirable results. Which brings me to characters...

Characters 5/5

I found myself at odds because I became attached to each character and had difficulty choosing who to level up so that I may keep them with me. That in itself speaks volumes of the care that was put into the story and characters themselves. On one hand you have Welys who is seriously devoted to helping Integra even though he suffers a great loss almost as soon as you recruit him. On the other hand you have Lyrion who makes conversations hilarious because of his "condition" that causes him to babble on about pop culture references that none of the other characters understand. With each character addition you open up new quests to help hem with their personal goals...some are ragingly difficult boss fights, some are just simple collection quests that break up the monotony. A new town? Let me gather my crew and go find all the pianos, teddy bears, wall cracks, and locked chests! Onward!

Gameplay 3.5/5

Sigh. I want to give this a higher score so badly. But then I think back to all the times I nonchalantly walked right into a battle unprepared, died due to a 1 hit kill, and found myself set pretty far back. Or found myself between a rock and a hard place as far as supplies vs. money go. This game really toes the line of medium/hardcore. It's not that there aren't enough save spots...they just aren't where you need them most...and they don't heal you. Your down to your last potions and suddenly: BOSS!

Standard turn based battle. A lot of the characters had skills that were more effective if you used their power up first...then POW! you're dealing some serious damage. At some points, though, that became pointless if you were hanging on to your last 6 ethers. I think it would have made a major difference to either have the save points heal you so you could grind (don't get me started on how little xp and gold the monsters drop, it's almost made up for by what you get from the bosses...but those monsters could use a small increase on xp and gold) or to be able to access your alternate party members from the menu instead of finding a party base to change out characters. Party bases are always in a city, never a dungeon.

All that being said...there is so much diversity in this game. I can't sit here and say I wasn't pleasantly surprised. Some cities are chock full of stuff to do, people to meet/help, others are small but with big dark secrets. You'll encounter a haunted mansion with ghostly encounters, a manor with a murder mystery that you must help solve, a town with a corrupt leader oppressing it's inhabitants, a queen frozen in a crystal who needs some saving. Secrets on the world map, sidequests that have you scratching your head, puzzles that need solved to access a new area. Being able to own your own inn, staffing it, and then reaping the benefits.

One more nice feature was the journal. Without it I would have been lost. It details all of your quests, provides a nice picture of the character the quest is related to so that you know to have them in your party to complete it, and finally, skulls in the corner of the quests that are super difficult. Let it be known that these should not be attempted until after completing the final dungeon. Really...I wish that would have been suggested in some way or another during the game. I must have wasted 4 hours trying to go do each one so that I could level before the final dungeon.

Graphics and music 4/5

I'm not picky about these two points. It's not a full 5/5 because I can't discount the fact that sometimes games just blow you away with some custom tracks or graphics but I'm not going to bash on what works either. This games is a fine example of working with what you've got. It's standard for rpg maker 2003 in both aspects. I'm fond of some of the music tracks because of games I've played in the past so they make me smile. I loved Lyrions little piano performances. The tracks were well selected for each area and fit the mood of what was going on at the time...it fell into place for me. Like I said, not picky. Some of the maps were a little over sized, for instance, the main square of Capitol and the main square of Moonnest could be tightened up. Being able to toggle dash in these areas would stop me from mentioning this at all but sadly there is no dash.

Overall 4.5/5

I'm not going to lie...there were some evening rage-quits going on that had my husband wondering how in the heck we are compatible people. I don't often make it through games...in fact I'm notorious for playing 75% of a game and then I get indifferent, quickly followed by "screw this...I have 6 other games I could check out." For some reason this game kept me coming back to try again. I'd die, I'd feel discouraged, I'd step away from the computer for a day and in the meantime I'd think up a new strategy and then have to come back to implement it. That's what this game is all about. It has a draw that you can't quite put your finger on.
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