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Subterranean Starfield is a turn-based dungeon crawler RPG created in RPG Maker VX Ace for RMN's 2013 RPG Maker VX Ace Lite Cook-Off. The contest had no theme, but entries had to conform to the limitations of Ace Lite, which limited the number of maps, characters, events, and other parameters the game could support. This project was later modified to no longer be bound to these restrictions.

Subterranean Starfield takes place in a tiny town called Dusk Garden, which happens to be situated, Diablo-style, above a vast labyrinth of unknowable purpose. You begin the game with a random party of four heroes from a possible pool of eight. Each of the heroes has a different set of strengths, weaknesses, and skills. The randomly chosen party I was given for this playthrough were Felicie, an astrologer with a well-rounded skillset including some support abilities, Tyrund ,a sharpshooter with high attack power, Pastelle, a powerful magician and healer, and Cirine, a very agile supportive character. I'm not familiar with the other four characters but it would appear that any combination of the characters would give you a viable party, and different party combinations could give the game a lot of replay value. The characters are also all very cute.

So kawaii <3

From your base of operations in Dusk Garden, you can rest, shop, manage your party, and embark into the dungeon. Once inside, you'll navigate mazes (more on this later), fight encounters, collect treasure, and make your way towards the vaguely defined boss that awaits you every five floors or so. As you reach deeper levels, you'll encounter new obstacles such as darkness, pitfalls, and damaging floors. You can also unlock crystal 'gates' of a sort to create shortcuts back to town.

This is pretty standard for a dungeon crawl, but Subterranean Starfield differs from other games in its genre in a few key ways. The first is that the game is very heavy on resource management. New equipment is constantly becoming available in the town and you'll struggle to afford it all. You'll also need to set aside money for healing items, return crystals (which you can use to return to town at any time), and important tools like torches to light up dark areas and special shoes to mitigate damage from dangerous floors. Trying to navigate the dungeon without these is a hassle, so even though I'm usually a miser in most games I readily shelled out for these items on a regular basis. It makes money an actual valuable resource in this game, and deciding how to spend it is an important decision that can have consequences.

The other key difference is that death is permanent in this game. Each hero begins with an accessory called a Star's Blessing that will save them from death once (An amulet of Life Saving for you NetHack fans), and after that, unless you are playing on the easiest difficulty setting, characters killed in combat are dead for real, and you can never get them back. This can make exploring dangerous areas, and especially facing off against the bosses, who are very intense, carry a lot of tension as a single mistake can cost you dearly. You can buy new Star's Blessings, but it is yet another tax on your wallet, which is stretched thin as it is.

Your heroes, fortunately, get stronger at a decent pace, you can decide how to allocate AP earned in battle to learn and upgrade skills and passive bonuses, and each hero can also 'dualclass' to unlock a variety of new skills to learn, so there's a lot of options for each character and you can build your party almost any way you choose. players who enjoy party management will likely enjoy this game. Personally, I tend to find getting thrown into a brand new game with four new characters that I'm expected to manage to be pretty daunting, but Subterranean Starfield starts off pretty gently and it's hard to actually screw up, as a handy feature allows you to reset your characters' skill allocation at any time; for a price.

Combat is carried out in turn-based combat using traditional RPG mechanics against adorable monsters. When certain conditions are met, your party may use an ability called "Extra Step" to take two actions in one round, which can be great for recovering from a particularly rough attack, or for crushing dangerous enemies before they even get a shot off. Encounters are not truly 'random' however, as battles are triggered after a certain number of steps, which can vary by floor. This means while you won't get attacked every step, combat is inevitable, so you must stay on your toes.

While the game is very pretty and overall I found it fun, I also found it lacking in a few key areas. The biggest problem is that some of the dungeon levels can be an absolute slog. The game often succumbs to overly maze-like level design, which is rarely fun or interesting. Some of these mazes are made worse by being dark or having one-way passages, or forcing you to navigate two floors simultaneously to proceed. It also commits what I consider one of the greatest sins a dungeon crawler can commit, invisible floor traps. These don't even have the courtesy to only damage you, instead they drop you to a floor below and force you to climb back up before you can try again. This leads to one of my least favorite games, 'Guess which passage is the right one' where there are no clues and guessing wrong sends you back about two minutes. I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm not a psychic. I can't see the future, and I kind of feel like puzzles designed around the player being able to see the future aren't very good design. (Edit: I have been informed that the crumbling floor tiles aren't actually invisible and there is a very small visual clue, but man, I sure couldn't see them, and it didn't make the level any less frustrating. If you play this game, learn from my mistakes!)

All in all I feel like the designers got really carried away with the mazes in this game.

This is the last thing I want to hear.

The other problem is that the game has no real story. While I hardly expect a dungeon crawler to have any kind of complex narrative, this is a game where there seemed to literally be nothing at stake. The dungeon doesn't pose any threat to anyone, nobody is even sure of exactly what's inside, your party is simply exploring it because it's there. That's it. And for some people who just want to grab a sword and go fight some bad guys, maybe that's enough. But I personally prefer games where there's a clear motivation or goal for you to achieve.

So that's Subterranean Starfield. It's a pretty game with good art, interesting customizable characters,resource management, intense boss fights, and the danger of permanent death (if you choose), which is unfortunately dragged down by a couple insufferable level design choices. Despite it's problems I still had fun playing this game, there's enough here to keep most players busy for a few hours, and it probably has a lot of re-playability besides. If you like dungeon crawlers, you might want to give this a try.


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So one day somebody asked me: "describe yourself in a single sentence"
this was my response:

(also I'll probably let's play this today)
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
I mean, I give it points for honesty at least.
OMG a Solitayre review!!!

The lack of story is my fault, I got lazy to do it for rhyme because I already went all out on art... :(
Tear Harvester Rhyme
Aw yes a review!!!
I'm really glad you enjoyed it!

Labyrinth of Penance was basically designed to be as mazey as possible since I had in mind players resorting to either cartographing it themselves or be REALLY good at remembering paths. I am aware though that it's not a lot of players' preference but I really wanted the feel of them "prevailing" over a dungeon, going YES I ACTUALLY MANAGED TO GET THROUGH IT! sort of thing, which I hope will at least get a few players to experience that feeling of victory themselves!

The floor traps aren't actually invisible!

There's a sorta hard to see "crack" on the tile a pitfall is on.
(i know it kinda trivializes that floor's gimmick but eh (´・ω・))
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.

The floor traps aren't actually invisible!

They're not? My whole world has been turned upside down! I'll have to edit my review accordingly.
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