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Hard as hell, but just as fun!

  • Oblic
  • 04/24/2013 01:30 AM
  • 1488 views
For some reason, I usually skip over games made with RMXP, even those with higher scores. I’m not entirely sure why. I think it has something to do with it being the middle-child between the classic looking RM2k3 and the new and vibrant looking RMVX. Long story short, I’m not the biggest fan of the engine. Yet something about this game caught my eye, and I’m glad it did.

This game is FAR from a walk in the park, and, quite frankly, kicks your ass from time to time. The maker even says that “this game doesn’t hold your hand,” which I would say is a huge understatement. I have played games that claim to be “hellish” that were less of a headache than this game! It can be brutally unforgiving, and rarely gives a reprieve.

Well, I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, because I just kept coming back for more. I was driven to just forge ahead, even after I started screaming during every single random encounter. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few parts of this game that I didn’t really enjoy, but every time I was about to save and take a break, I would always end up saying to myself “…just this one last thing…” There are a TON of collectables and side quests that will hook you like that, and, of course, I am a complete sucker for them!

Time for the breakdown!

Story:

The story is… well, I wasn’t completely hooked to say the least. It starts out similarly to many other classic games: ancient war ends recently; currently in a time of peace; trouble is brewing on the horizon; so on and so forth. Once the introduction concludes, you begin the game as the heroine, Integra, a young elf training to soon be a Ranger, the elite warriors of her village. She is instructed to complete one more menial task before she is to be dubbed a full-fledged Ranger. She completes this task with the help of a childhood friend who has been training to become a Shaman, the healers and wise-men of their village. Upon her return, she is told to rest before the ceremony which will make her a true Ranger. Only after a few short minutes of rest, she awakens to find her village in shambles… wait, what?

Within the first few minutes of gameplay, we go from a quiet village (that is in a supposedly completely peaceful world, no less), to the shit completely hitting the fan! And in no small way either; half of the village is wiped out and your childhood friend cursed to the point of being bedridden! This wouldn’t be so bad, but the story pretty much crawls to a halt for the next couple of hours after this initial shock. This pattern, in my opinion, continues throughout most of the game. There seems to be a serious lack of pacing. Part of this has a bit to do with the fact that there are a lot of things to do on the side, but even when you are progressing toward some major story point, there always seems like someone is tripping you up to help them do their “dirty laundry”.

At times, the game also seems to be emotionally flat. Other than the short intro, I don’t recall many high (happy or otherwise light hearted) emotional points. There is always, at the very least, some feeling of stress or urgency. You never seem to get a break on the “OH CRAP! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” front. Aside from the aforementioned “lulls” in the story, Integra always seems to be pissed, depressed, or otherwise unhappy. This only gets worse the closer you get to your ultimate goal.

One of the few good things that does happen to Integra is a completely out of place love triangle/love story thing. It crops up utterly out of the blue and is almost more uncomfortable than a high school romance. Again, if the story took its time a bit more and paced itself a bit better, it may have made a bit more sense.

Any bits of comic relief within the game, though few they seem to be, always seem to be shoehorned into the game. To be honest, I thought most of them were pretty funny, but they never really seemed to fit with what was going on in the story. One of the more awkward and out-of-the-way characters is FULL of cultural and gaming references! He almost has nothing to say about what’s going on in the world, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he reveals himself to have come from separate universe entirely in a sequel. Although he was the only character to make me laugh out loud, he was also the only character to literally cause me to shake my head (mostly because I was ashamed to know where the references were coming from).

(At this point, I should point out that the maker is Finish and may not have been a native English speaker. This may have led to some cultural and language barriers that caused some of these finer story elements to get lost in translation. I am saying this now to give the maker the benefit of the doubt and not completely tear the story apart without a bit of a disclaimer.)

Gameplay:

If I had to guess, this game probably had a 10-15 hour story, assuming you did the bare minimum to get from start to finish. I currently have well over 30 hours of gameplay logged on my main file, and I am still not finished doing everything! Granted, I may have a few hours of grinding in there when I got to some of the end game stuff, but I ran from most battles near the end of the story, so it kind of balances out.

Near the beginning of the game you are handed a journal that can be accessed from the inventory. This journal logs all the information you will need to know about your current objective, any started sidequests, and all completed sidequests. It is INIFINITELY useful, especially if you were to take a long break from playing. It also has an incredibly useful key: all sidequests are green; “dirty laundry” quests (sidequests that need to be completed) have an “!” on them; sidequests that require a certain character have that character’s portrait on it; and finally, all endgame quests are marked with a skull. Those that fall in the last category are no joke; do NOT attempt them until you have and endgame party. I add this warning because some of these quests are logged as early as the first couple of sections of the game. Being a cocky veteran to RPGs, I rashly ran into one of these quests headlong without saving right beforehand and paid for it with about an hour of lost time.


A quick snapshot of the journal, courtesy of the game manual.


The battle system is the stock RMXP turn based system. That, coupled with the standard stats, there shouldn’t be many surprises when it comes to battles to those that are familiar with the RMXP engine. That being said, most of the battles in this game, even random encounters, are at the very least annoying and at most HARD AS HELL! Like I said in the introduction, I was seriously yelling at my laptop every time one of my more powerful attacks missed. Every missed hit or landed critical can mean life or death in this game. It is completely possible to die within the first hour due to random encounters, so don’t feel bad when (because it is almost a certainty) this happens. Dust yourself off and just keep moving. Also, definitely run when you think you should. It actually works more often than not, and the penalty isn’t too bad, considering most battles are against only one or two foes.

Speaking of foes, there isn’t a single enemy in this game that wouldn’t get hurt from having their MAX HP trimmed by a few percentage points. Most of the more difficult fights are more battles of attrition than anything else. “Who can pummel the other side with their most powerful attacks before running out of magic?” Since most enemies seem to have a limitless supply of SP (skill points), you will lose this battle more often than not, which will force you to use vastly inferior attacks or to dip into your very precious item supply. Not only that, the whole time you are trying to rebuff and resupply your party, the enemy continues to hack away at their health. I know this game is meant to be difficult, but some of the enemies have WAY too much health. I would prefer to fight enemies with slightly higher stats and less health than straight up HP tanks.

Oh, and when I said “precious item supply”, I meant it. Most battles early in the game barely give you enough money to buy a single healing item. Although most inns and resting areas are plentiful and cheap early on, the areas between them are usually quite treacherous, requiring more than just a few supplies on the way. Eventually, you will need to upgrade to some of the more powerful items, making you dig even deeper into your pockets to find the funds needed to purchase said items. While I’m on the topic of costs, equipment is much worse. Typically, I like to keep all members of my party (including those that I am not currently using) in tip-top shape. This is a huge mistake, unless you plan on grinding for a few hours to raise the funds! It is best to get a core party made early so you aren’t blowing all of your money trying to manage high priced equipment for every character.

Fortunately, there are several ways that you can make up for the lack of cash. First and foremost is exploration. Never skip over anything, even the most mundane of rocks! Even though this might be tedious, there is always the chance that you will find a useful item or relic. Second are the side quests. Like I said, there will always be quests that need to be completed. Whenever one of the objectives is close by, check it out and try your best to complete it. Some of the best rewards and equipment come from the sidequests. Finally, there’s the inn, which can be purchased at the end of one of the earlier chapters. The initial cost can be daunting, but the pay-off can be much greater. Not only does the inn pay dividends in cash over time, some of the patrons that stop by will give you some pretty useful and exceedingly rare items. It can also give you access to “the ultimate challenge”, a battle that is by far the most difficult in the game, whose rewards are quite immense.


Interior of the completed inn. Not too shabby…


Like the main gamepage mentions, there are over 10 characters that will be at your disposal over the course of the game (at my count there are 15 total: 11 that you will eventually meet, 3 temporary, and one that’s SUPER SECRET!). Putting aside the temporary ones, there are still a ton of different combinations that you can make. This leaves a lot of room for customization, appealing to almost any style of play. I should add that whatever party you choose to go with, it is imperative to have a party healer at all times. Whether this means you will be using items or magic is entirely up to you, but if you are not tending to your party’s wounds, you won’t last very long.

Graphics and Mapping:

For the most part, Story of Integra uses RTP graphics and tilesets, with custom edits and additions here and there. Even so, the maps are still made very well, containing a lot of variety, while having very few errors. This may sound like a knock, but considering the length and size of the game, I’m very impressed.

A lot of the character sets are custom made, all of which look excellent. Some of them don’t seem to fit their respective sprites, but they all have the same art style, meshing very well together. There are also a few cut scene images during the main storyline. I will say up front that I have very little artistic talent, but some of these cut scenes look a little rough. Not so much so that you can’t tell what they are meant to be, but enough that some of them could really use some polish.

Music
:

Other than on a couple of occasions, the music and sounds are all RTP. The title song and the ending theme are both custom made and sound quite good, but there isn’t really much else to report. I guess it’s fair to say that the music never really seems out of place, which is always a plus. Nothing breaks flow like out of place music!

Tidbits:

- I really like how fast you heal when using an inn. Normally, games seem to take their time with this process, but Integra has shit to get done!
- The piano fetch quest was really fun! I was expecting something along the lines of FF V, but was pleasantly surprised with what it presented.
- As I mentioned earlier, there is definitely a language barrier, so there are quite a few spelling and grammatical errors. Normally, these would have driven me nuts, but since I lost a considerable focus on the story early on, and I was so engrossed with all the sidequests, I could ignore them for the most part. I wouldn’t be surprised that, if the grammar and spelling were polished a bit more, the story would improve quite a bit.

Overall:

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a score for this guy. I know it seems like I ripped on it pretty hard throughout this review, but I still had a lot of fun playing it. When I found out there was going to be a sequel, I had mixed feelings of excitement and exasperation. I was excited that there was more to come and exasperated that I had to wait for it. And I really did have fun playing the game on the whole. It’s rare that I will sit down and play through a 30+ hour game (due to my over achieving OCD) in a matter of a few days. Even after rage quitting due to dying to a particularly long boss fight, it only took me about an hour or so to get back up and say “I am nobody’s bitch!” Even with its little flaws, I just couldn’t put it down.

So, where does it sit after all of that? I think a…

3.5 out of 5

…is fair. With a little more polish this game would have been superb, and I would be begging for more. As it is, I can’t wait for the sequel to come out, but I am content right now.

Either way, with tons of things to do, and two handfuls of characters with which to do them, this will at least keep you pleasantly occupied for several hours!

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Thanks for taking the time to write a review!
Oblic
Once a member of RMN, always a member of RMN!
1752
author=Tosi-Taku
Thanks for taking the time to write a review!


No problem! I really did enjoy the game, and I hope that the sequel is still on track!
author=Oblic
author=Tosi-Taku
Thanks for taking the time to write a review!
No problem! I really did enjoy the game, and I hope that the sequel is still on track!


Yeah, I'm working on it almost every day. Story of Integra took over a year to create, so this one might take even longer. :)
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