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  • Marrend
  • 12/08/2014 11:16 PM
Game Title: Soul Sunder
Engine: RPG Maker VX Ace
Status at review: Completed

I've played various demos of this game, and the initial completed version. However, I never really got much past beyond the Childhood Arc with those plays. I certainly got much further than that with the play this review is based on, but I still could not finish it.
What brought this game to my attention in the first place? It was some time ago, but, my best guess is that I was going through the games listing, and saw the short description. It grabbed my attention enough to call up the gamepage proper. The story's dark tones seemed like something I might enjoy. So, downloading it, and playing it, wasn't entirely on a whim.

I really like these portraits, and the emotion they convey. Some faces are sillier than others, but, work well enough for me. With music, the various dungeon themes I heard were definitely spot-on, and complimented the atmosphere. As long as I'm on the subject of atmosphere, the mapping was pretty solid on this front.

The story is divided into two parts. The first is the aforementioned "Childhood Arc" which sets the scene, and mood, for the "Adult Arc". The main content of the game is clearly within the "Adult Arc", but, it is entirely possible to get an ending while in the "Childhood Arc".
I really like how the game handles this alternate ending. The way things are written with the choices that players make to get this ending makes a hell of a lot of sense. Whither or not players are satisfied with that ending may be debatable, though.
Actually, the way the whole game's narrative flows is, probably, the best reason to play this game. The scenes certainly had an impact on me, and it was quite easy to identify with the struggles the main character was having.

Playing the game:
Underneath the hide-tag are stream-of-consciousness thoughts and notes that I made while playing the game. As such, expect spoilers to be within them. As a side-note, I was a bit more vigorous about writing down each and every thought I had with this game, and seem much larger than what I have typically wrote with review-notes.

I stopped counting how many times I've gone through the Childhood Arc, and now I find that I have to go through it again. Oh well. No biggy.
Ah, yes. The coughing epidemic. Does this GO anywhere, or is it just a set-up for the "Something's wrong" trigger that's sets off in my head? Considering my previous experience with this game, if it comes into play at all, it's going to be a late-game revelation.
Huh. I remember monsters gunning for me like there was no tomorrow.
Okay, I just walked right past a monster without it going ballistic on me. I know I set the difficulty to "Casual", but this seems a tad odd to me. I dunno. I'm mostly sure I was on "Casual" before, but not totally!
Huh. So, I guess it was just the first two critters I saw. Still, quite interesting.
I wonder where you're supposed to get an empty bottle for the spring?
Ayra's not quite convinced with Alex's post-boss pep-talk. Though, he's probably scared too. He just doesn't show it as much. Or at all, for that matter.
I sometimes wonder what would happen if I chose not to go with Alex earlier. The cut-scene at the beginning highly suggests that what I know is going to happen next is gonna happen regardless.
Wait a sec, I bet that's one of the ways you can get the alternate ending I was talking about earlier! Yeah, if you don't tell Alex about Cieran ever, then, maybe...
I could be running an older version of the game, but I saw a text-box for Arya without a portrait near the end of the Childhood Arc.
Well, I have an empty bottle... that now contains water. So, what, exactly does... that... Darigaaz, that thing is useful!
I see enemies still can't quite decide whither or not to come after me.
They really like to target Zero, don't they?
Huh. Zero's target rate is 100% while Isaac's is listed at 90%. Interesting to note.
Oh, Isaac's armor is ice-resistant! That puts the puzzle together!
A lever that I was specifically told not to pull earlier. Hrm. Standard RPG logic states that I must pull this lever to proceed. Ehh, I dunno. Let's try exploring some more.
Yeah, let's SAVE with the Fire Idol! When there's enemies that use ICE skills.
Yeah, I ain't trusting that woman in armor!
Oh great. These...things, whatever they are, hurt me! But one of them is supposed to be "real"? So, what's the deal? Save-scum 'till I find the right one? Seems terrible.
Okay, let's forget these guys, and check out this staircase going down.
Nice "No" written with the hurt-me-thingies.
Hrm. A door that prompts me if I want to continue and a save point where I can camp. Totally not suggesting anything, are you, game?
First section done! I probably I have a crap-ton of stuff I can sell/synth too.
So, I apparently have a "First Aid Kit x 0" on Zero. Not sure how it got there, but, I'm more than curious about what happens when I try to use it in battle, but, it's definitely a save-before-I-try experiment!
Wait, where did my lantern go?
Well, I can buy a lantern at the shop for 0 Marks, but, still.
Hrm. So, the weapons dealer doesn't actually sell me anything I don't already have. Well, I guess I could double up on Iron Gauntlets, but it's only +2 STR over what Zero already has.
I'm waffling over getting an Adventurer's Tunic for Zero. The Armored Gi that she's got gives her a drive and immunity to poison. The Adventurer's Gear is resistant to ice, and has more well-rounded stat modifiers on equip. I didn't find the drive on the Armored Gi particularly useful, but, the poison immunity is pretty hard to turn down!
Hrm. I can't snyth anything I don't already have either. I suppose I could synth an extra Iron Gauntlet, sell off the Brass Bracer, and have a tad more money to spend on... whatever.
So, if nobody associated with the apothecary can do anything with this Medical Gel... who the hell can?
Okay, I made a "town save". Let's advance a day, and just see how I fair against the next section of Puratory.
Going to the Pub first was completely random, and here I'm meeting Myra. Didn't expect to meet her this way, I must admit.
Aannnnd, the lantern is gone. Again. What the frak, game? Why do you even do this? I DON'T UNDERSTAND!
Myra's level 2? That's, like, exactly where she was in the Childhood Arc! If I recall.
Okay, that's clearly a FIRE DUNGEON. So, this Fire Idol and Firebombs that I picked up last dungeon... aren't going to be terribly useful. Well, okay, the Fire Idol grants "Fire Affinity" which I take to mean fire resistance since it's an armor. Or, it could be attributing a fire affinity to my attacks. Let's experiment a tad.
Hrm. Elemental damage is color-coded, and Zero's regular attacks were not the red that is normally indicative of a fire attack. Which leads to the conclusion that it's fire resistance. Good to know, actually! I probably still want to exchange Firebombs for Eyeballs, though.
...Or maybe not, now that I think about it. It's not like the enemies were absorbing Fire Crash.
Whatever. Let's just go already. I'll cry about my choices later, if need be.
Should I try to fight the Ifrit? NAAAAAAH!
I'm not sure what's up with these rocks that would take a strong force to destroy. They aren't, exactly, blocking my way, but, I suppose they could contain some kind of treasure. How to crack 'em open, though? Hrm. I vaguely recall a blog concerning the use of bombs. Which I don't have right now. Seems like a thing I will want to keep an eye out for.
Nothing says "this doesn't belong here" like a structure made out of ice in a fire dungeon!
Another letter, eh? Who is actually writing these, and why? What is the purpose behind getting these people to Purgatory?
Oh, I thought the Frozen Flame was another Idol. It's just a regular consumable. Lame-ish.
Huh. This Fire Idol is pretty damned useful, isn't it? It doesn't feel right. I mean, I certainly don't mind having fire resistance, but, the spell it grants is waaaaay too effective for a dungeon like this.
Another ice structure? I don't like it.
Well, I COULD camp here, but, I've barely done anything yet.
Wait a sec, we're hearing coughing? Last time we heard coughing was waaaay back in the Childhood Arc after falling off the cliff. Maybe I can get some answers as to what that was all about? We'll see.
Oh, I've got a Wand of... wait. Wrong game. Also, Bombs are not the Wand of Blasting! Though, they do both share the most important property of blowing stuff up!
The torso of... a teddy bear? It can't be! Well, it could be Myra's bear from way back, or some reference to it, but... WHY?
Actually, since there's a point of no return, I might as well load my last save, and make camp. My guess is that Myra can use her synth abilities there, and I've a few reagents from blowing rocks up!
Yeah, this synth screen seems a bit buggy. There's repeat items, and some have "(0)" uses. Heck, I'm seeing a "First Aid Kit (-1)" on this list! That sounds a potential game-breaker, if it works the way I suppose it does. Though, again, I may not have the most updated version, so, maybe this was fixed?
As much as I am half-tempted to "Ask" Myra, I think I'm going to leave well enough alone. At least for now.
I think I just had a "Throwing Knife (3)" turn into a "Firebomb (0)"? Not totally sure about that.
Ah, so it was Myra's bear! Though, Isaac raises one of the points I did.
STUPID RAZOR WASP * 5 FIGHT! Where's a good board-wipe when you need one, eh?
Oh, great, a boss fight. When was my last save? Before I examined the pillar? GREAT. Okay, let's forgo F12 resetting for a bit, and just see exactly how screwed I am.
Wait, what? The battle ends prematurely? Annnnd I couldn't respond fast enough, so, of course, it's back to full health. GREEAAAAT.
Aaaaaand... dead. Well, that kinda figures. It was able to take down two characters right before the healing was able to get to them three times in a row, so, it was inevitable. Also, I think Zero was on her last First Aid use anyway. Unless it randomly glitched to become a First Aid Kit (0). But, that would assume that she was able to use the damn thing that round, and survive the next round's attack.
I bet the strategy is to get it into another room, get it to the point where the fight prematurely ends, make a rush for the pillar, bomb it, maybe needing to have another round against the boss before we can escape for real. Well, presumably, we can escape for real!
I'd still rather not need to go through the motions of putting Myra's old bear (sorry for continuously forgetting it's name) back together again (or as much of it that still exists), but, I don't really have a choice, here.
So, let's try checking out that ice-structure in the upper-right room before we try anything. Though, to be fair, it was closed off both before and during the chase scene. There shouldn't be a reason why it would be open now, is there?
Nope, no luck. Well, I guess I should prep by team a bit, here.
Didn't think using a bomb on the pillar before the event would work. Had to try, right?
It kinda sounds like Myra wants to say "It was a low point in my life." Having her say "I was low on life" kinda sounds weird to me. I dunno.
Huh. Not exactly how I expected that to resolve. I went past the ice structure, and noticed a crack in the wall this time.
Alright, on a lark, let's try synthesizing that First Aid Kit (-1)!
Huh. They appear to be regular First Aid Kit (3)s. Not as cool/broken as I thought it would be, but, good to know that it works this way.
That was an interesting scene between Myra and Zero. Man, Zero, though. She's in this position of knowledge, but can't bring herself to say anything. I know how that's like. All too well. Not that I don't have sympathy for Myra. She's had it tough too.
Huh. Yeah, I'm... not really sure how to beat this thing. If I could keep it's head injured, I think it would be better than it is. However, whatever injuries I inflict seem to be removed each time it "gets angry". That means keeping Myra alive, and that thing does 80 damage to her, and she's only got 100 or so to work with.
Since I seem to be dying, perhaps I aught to bring Adrenaline Shots into this fight. Question is, who gets them?
How relevant are Throwing Daggers? This boss is weak to piercing damage, but, the biggest damage I've seen is from Fire Crash. I suppose the STR and INT debuff would reduce the damage it would deal after it "gets angry". I've never made it past the second time it gets angry, so...
Vampric Assault? Really? I'm barely damaging this thing to begin with!
Okay, so, let me think about my strategy for a bit. I'm pretty sure my opening move is Wanderer's Speed, Lacerate and Headshot. Fire Crash might be a good second-turn move for Zero, since Isaac and Myra, if they hit, are dealing, like, 10 damage. Total. If I'm lucky the injuries that Lacerate and Headshot apply hit. Hell, I'd probably consider myself lucky if even one of them is applied! Anyway, I'm not sure what my second-trun move is with Isaac or Myra. I shouldn't need to heal yet, so, maybe, Lacerate/Headshot again if the status was not applied? The turn after that, Myra pretty much has to guard to restore stamina. Isaac could keep going, so he could be on healing. Zero probably also has to guard to have enough stamina to re-apply the evasion buff next turn.
Well, I made it to the second time it gets angry, but, I still run out of healing. I fail to see how I can win against this thing.
Okay, exactly how many First Aid Kits do I have? Because I'm beginning to think that I need to have all my inventory slots be either First Aid Kits or Adrenaline Shots. Maybe one slot can be Throwing Daggers.
And, of course, the person that can carry the most consumables is also the one that generally dies first. I mean I'm bringing Adrenaline Shots on two characters for a reason, but, geeze.
Yeah, I've got nothin'.
Okay, let's try a little something-something. Let' replace Zero's Fire Idol with an Air Crystal.
Well, now I know that Zero does 12 damage on a regular attack while Fire Crash does 23 (or thereabouts). So, she's still my best raw damage-dealer. Myra still does 1 on a regular attack, despite the fact that the boss is weak towards Wind. None of her other equipment mentions elemental affinities. I would also note that the damage she does from Throwing Knifes is in the high teens, and it's weak towards Pierce. What the heck is going on?
Huh. Yeah, this looks like it's getting nowhere fast. Time to re-consider my considerations.
Let's put the Fire Idol on Myra. Zero is only doing normal attacks, maybe an Air Crystal (or Throwing Knife) every now-and-again. Oh, right. Wanderer's Speed. Maybe I should try to fight this boss without that, just to see how relevant the evasion buff is?
Actually, before I do that, let me think about where this Fire Idol needs to go. As far as regular attacks go, Zero's does 12, Isaac does 5, and Myra does 1. Myra's weapon gives her a drive that deals 11, but, I should probably consider being more like 5 per turn. Which is where Isaac is at. There is the small point that Myra would be using stamina anyway to deal any significant amount of damage, so let's give that stamina use as much bang for it's buck as possible. However, let's really look at the numbers for Fire Crash. Zero does 23, Isaac does 24 and Myra does 25. This is more like Zero doing 11 (not much better than her regular attack) Isaac doing 12 or Myra doing 13.
Let me run a few more numbers, if you will. Let's suppose that my party's total damage per turn is 30 (Zero = 12, Isaac = 5, Myra = 13, thus 30). Presuming this average damage-pre-round, my party would be taking 14 turns to take down this boss. This is not counting actions that would be taken to restore my health. Let's fun numbers with the boss. Fury's Roar deals 27 to Zero, 32 to Isaac, and 43 to Myra. That alone, would kill my entire party in 4 turns. With Areo's Edge, Zero would take 52, Isaac would take 41, or Myra would take 48. So, I would probably have a better chance of surviving Areo's Edge, as that is a single-target removal whereas Fury's Roar is a board-wipe. I'm not even counting Vampric Assault, the HP regen that it gets during Miasma Charge, or the STR and INT buffs that this boss grants itself over the fight!
The next question that comes to mind is, now that I know all this, what can I do to come out on top? To survive as long as possible, I will want to guard every other turn. That would mean giving the Fire Idol to Isaac so he can get on a Fire Crash/Guard loop. Myra would be on her Headshot/Guard loop. Zero's loop would probably look more like Wanderer's Speed/Attack/Attack/Guard. Or something. Okay, what the hey. Let's try this. Undoubtedly, there would be intermittent healing to break those loops, but, I'm pretty sure this is gonna be my last attempt.
Nope. No good. I mean, okay, I sorta screwed up with a healing target, but, ultimately, I've had enough of this nonsense.

General Observations:
Sometimes, I wish I could save anywhere. Okay, let's take a step back from that thought a bit. I can understand how being able to save anywhere could, technically, break the immersion of being in Purgatory. It's not a safe place, people! However, not being able to save anywhere while being in town feels kinda off to me.

What kept me going, what kept me wanting to play the game, despite the difficulties I had with the combat-puzzles, was the desire to see the story come to fruition. Even if I ultimately gave up, I would still recommend giving this game, at the very least, a try.


Side note on ratings (since there is/was/will be somewhat of a spate on what rating means what between each user):
1/5 -> Terrible. Forget about hitting an audience. The game is so bug-ridden, or otherwise unplayable, that what entertainment can be found in the game has a hard time coming to the surface.

2/5 -> Bad but playable. I had a poor experience with the game. When played by a player the game actually caters to, it would serve it's purpose.

3/5 -> Average. A solid experience, but snags somewhere along the line cause it to be held back from being "good".

4/5 -> Good. I enjoyed the experience, and have no qualms supporting it if was considered for a featured game (if it wasn't featured already).

5/5 -> Excellent. Among the paragons of gaming experiences, and instant feature material in my humble opinion (if it wasn't featured already).


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Sir Redd of Novus: He who made Prayer of the Faithless that one time, and that was pretty dang rad! :D
Thanks for the review, Marrend! It's a shame you only got around halfway through the game. I was really happy with how the story turned out after the second Stratum.

Reading through your stream of consciousness, I see you got that glitch where your Survival Gear disappears. I thought I had taken care of that glitch. Can you remember where you were when you noticed it?
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Wow, that's lot of notes you took there, Marrend! Maybe I should also try such a "stream of consciousness" approach next time I play a longer game.
While I very much agree with the score of this review, it's a bit sad you didn't continue until the end. It's worth it, believe me. Is there anything I could do to make you play the rest of the game, too? (Like, giving you a savefile where you have better equipment?)

(P.S.: By the way, his name is "Isaac", Marrend, not "Issac")
Guardian of the Description Thread
@Red_Nova: I might not remember exactly where I was in town, but, it seems more than probable that the first time I noticed the lantern was missing after getting some First Aid Kits from the Apothecary (Which was probably among the first thing I did when I came back). The second time was certainly sometime after meeting Myra, but I can't be more specific than that.

@NeverSilent: Interesting thought! Though, I may attempt to get back to this on my own after RMN PLAYS and Secret Santa resolve.

@Typo: Oops! Fixed!
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