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Highs and Lows on the Journey Up the Rope to the Sky

  • unity
  • 01/29/2014 10:52 PM
  • 3649 views
I first dove into A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky about two months ago. I found myself almost instantly hooked on the memorable characters and interesting plot, but there was a lot more to this game than I initially perceived. A note up front about the game length: This is, as the developer puts it, a very “meaty” game. I clocked in at just over 55 hours when I finally beat it. Thus the long review before you; after devoting that many hours to a game, I have a lot to say.

Before I review the game proper, I wanted to talk about the name of this game. I’ve heard some criticism about the long and unwieldy nature of the name, but I disagree; it was the unique name of the game that made me give its gamepage a look-see. I think it adds to the charm of the game and the name is tied firmly to plot itself.


Story And Characters

The story and characters are where A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky shines. If you want to see a talented storyteller at work, you’re in for a treat. Ivy and Mint, the main characters, are very believable and their personalities work exceptionally well together. The dozens of other characters they meet all also have unique personalities and motivations.

I’m going to try not to give anything away, but just let me say that the developer has put together a rich world with interesting characters not just as the key players, but even the lowly town greeter or random guy on the street has personality. The world has a developed feel of mystery that you get to uncover bit by bit. While there are certainly RPG cliches here, many are done with an interesting twist and none felt bland or boring. I personally was really driven to keep going just to see what would happen to the characters.

The sense of the world changing and people’s lives being affected is also a huge part of A Very Long Rope. You’ll go back to places you’ve been and really feel like your characters actions or the events in the world overall have really changed the place. It’s very well done.

The plot isn’t without flaws, though. Here are my thoughts on what didn’t work.

The tone of the game changes around one-forth to one-third through the story. Without spoiling anything, I just want to say that this tone-change did not appeal to me nearly as much as the original feel I got from the game. The game stayed interesting and the writing was still mostly top-notch after that, but my investment dropped. I feel this is my own bias, however, and reflects the kind of stories I prefer, so I’m not faulting the game for it.

What I can fault the game for is the way the story is handled late-game. About 40-45 hours in, things start to fall apart a bit. The world-building up to this point has been phenomenal, with some dangling mysteries left for you to piece everything together. Some of the answers to these mysteries, I felt, come right out of nowhere and were poorly handled. And the pacing, which had been fine for most of the game, completely degrades. The ending is also only decent and was a disappointment after so much had been handled so well.

I’d write in depth my feelings on all sorts of characters and events, but to spoil them for you would be doing both you and the game a disservice, so I’ll let them speak for themselves. Just know that I found the story and characters in the game to be spectacular aside from the stumbles the plot took near the end.


Mapping

Mapping, unfortunately, is not A Long Rope’s strong point. All map tiles seem to be RTP, which isn’t necessarily a horrible thing if they look interesting, but this is often not the case. Maps are often square-shaped and lacking details. Houses fair a little better but are often just passable in terms of quality.

Space in towns and other areas often isn’t utilized to its fullest; in the worst cases you generally have to walk through stretches of bland nothing to get from one end of the town to the other. This certainly does give off the impression that the town or location is large, but it’s often so empty that I can’t help feeling that if the maps were condensed, it’d make traversing around much more pleasant.





Facesets

I have to speak a little about the facesets used in this game. They were made with Facemaker, which I know little about, but I do know that it gives different characters very similar faces. This method for the faces makes a lot of sense given the huge, huge cast of this game, so I think it works. Though some characters really do look way too similar to another, these are usually the bit players and not the main characters.

My biggest gripe with the facesets actually have to do with Mint, whose pigtails don’t even show up on her face. One can pretend that they’re just outside the frame, but that always bothered me for some reason. Also some people have mistaken her for a male, despite her pigtails being clearly visible in her spite even though they are absent from her face portrait.

Dungeon Design

The dungeons of A Long Rope are an interesting mixed bag. A good chunk of the dungeons are built around very clever puzzles. Being someone who’s not good at solving puzzles myself, please take some of this with a grain of salt, but many of these puzzles boil down to “A+ idea, but only a B or C for execution.” There are seriously a slew of really neat dungeon mechanics, but while most of them will impress you at first, it’s rarer to find a mechanic that doesn’t overstay its welcome as the dungeon rolls on.

I think the first dungeon is a good example of what I mean. There are buttons that open doors, with a clear trail from the button to the door to see which one they open. Open the right door and you get to progress further. Open the wrong door and you get a monster battle. Then this is varied up by separating the buttons and the doors and putting them on different maps. This adds a memorization element to the puzzle, which works fine. But then in the last area you have a whole bunch of doors with a Liar’s Game type riddle about the right one to open. Added on to that, the buttons aren’t clear on which door they actually open and you have to figure out the riddles on the signs next to the puzzle to just know which door they actually open.

I originally thought “This is a complicated puzzle for the first dungeon,” but I had no idea that this was just the tip of the iceberg, and you’ll find plenty of brain-teasers and puzzles in future dungeons, some of which are pretty vexing. So basically, if you love puzzles like that, then you’re in good hands in that area. If not, prepare for headaches, over and over again.

Dungeons overall range from “somewhat interestingly put together” to “a blind slog through stretch after stretch of similar-looking areas.” Dungeons, especially the ones without the puzzles to spice them up, are very unmemorable and generally consist of multiple maps (or just one really really big map) of you wandering around areas that all look the same trying to find treasures and the exit. To give the developer credit, he really did try to add new things (like puzzle mechanics and such) to bring something unique to each dungeon, but so many share the same tilesets and are lacking details to the point that they start to blur together in my memory. I found many of the dungeons to be too long. Sometimes way too long.



To make matters worse, each dungeon has little variety in enemy groups. The game uses the standard random encounter system of most RPGs, and most standard dungeons have a small handful different enemy groups that you fight over. And over. And over again. The exception are the overwhelmingly large dungeons which have more variety, but by the time you get through them, you will still have fought every foe many more times than you cared to.

I know that fighting the same foes repeatedly is a staple of RPGs and RPG Maker games in general, but I don’t think that’s an excuse when this could have been fixed by either putting in the time to make more enemies and more enemy groups, or if dungeons had been shortened.

Battle Gameplay

If I had to rate the gameplay in regards to the battles in A Long Rope, I’d have to call it "average." There are some fun skills here and there, but nothing about the battle system really stands out except that most characters have different ways of easily recovering MP like stealing it from foes or generating it with special moves. Though I will say that MP recovery was certainly appreciated in the really long dungeons, it makes fighting the same monster groups even more pointless as you’re just spamming the same moves to fight the same monsters with little worry of running out of MP.

Early game battle strategies are mostly “exploit the hell out of elemental weaknesses and have Ivy spam her Cleave skill on the toughest monster” and late-game strategies are “Quickly hit everything as hard as you can before it can do overwhelming damage to you” or “paralyze the monster with the most broken attack, skill, or status effect” It’s all serviceable, but it doesn’t really have anything that stands out. Some of the boss battles rely quite heavily on luck, as well, so you may be fighting them several times, and in the late game, bosses have tons of health but a small set of abilities, making the longer boss battles boring. Luckily, the developer added a feature where you can retry boss battles should you fail.

Other Gameplay

This game is full of great side-material, including sidequests galore, a crafting system that will have you hunting for monster drops and the right items to make cool new gear, and my favorite, the establishment of your own town with the ability to recruit new townspeople and pass legislation that changes your town. You can spend hours recruiting new people, passing legislation, and watching your town grow.

It’s all well done and must have taken a ton of work on the developer’s part. Truly a great addition to the game.



Music

I really love the music in this game, and I was surprised to learn that the developer made them himself! They’re all really suited to game and give everything a unified feel. I often found them stuck in my head long after I had stopped playing.

I’m, unfortunately, not musically gifted in the slightest and couldn’t carry a tune to save my life, so I can’t tell you why I thought the music was good. But I give the soundtrack two big thumbs up. Towns sound so peaceful, dungeon music really fits the mood, and when the battle theme changes it really reflects the tone of everything that’s happened in the story. Wonderfully great job on the score.

Suggestions to the creator

In this part, before I wrap up with my final overall verdict, I’m adding some notes to the developer about parts that I think need improvement. I’ll put them under a hide tag so the average reader may skip them if desired.

-When characters fall down, just putting their sprites to the “looking north” position and playing a sound effect seems overly cheap. I know it’s hard to edit the sprites to have a realistic “I fell down” pose, but just flipping them 180 degrees so they’re on their side looks a lot better than the “I’m looking north, no wait pretend I fell” method. If the game had only used this one or two times, it would be one thing, but people fall down a damn lot.

-On a similar note, people in your game sleep with their eyes open on occasion. Again, you’d have to edit the charactersets yourself to fix that, but I assume you’re somewhat familiar with that given how many characters have wings (though I suppose you could have used a character maker rather than putting those on by yourself, now that I think about it).

-Consider having alternate ways to progress when you’re presenting a particularly difficult puzzle to the player. For example, one puzzle requires you to input a long series of tones. Given that I’m nearly tone-deaf, it took me over an hour to complete it. Having a clearly visible other method to progress would have been a godsend.

-I’m not sure how the average player feels, but having the text pause between each letter someone says when something overly dramatic is going on feels really forced and is annoying to me. I know what’s going on is dramatic because of the writing. The forced pauses seem almost like the drama equivalent of a laugh track- telling the audience TIME TO FEEL EMOTIONS NOW. Also, because it paused between each and every letter, it’s just soooooo slow. This doesn’t happen often but when it does, i t f e e l s r e a l l y a w k w a r d.

-Having tiles that slow down character movement with no gameplay reason for the character to go slower are annoying and don’t add anything. If you were, say, being chased or something, there would be a good reason for you to move as slow as molasses on certain tiles. When it’s just there for the sake of being there, it just a cheap method to make the dungeon seem longer and it tests the patience of the player in the exact wrong way. Please don’t do that.

-The final dungeon of a game is generally where you want to bring all your dungeon-making talents to the table and make a really memorable final impression. Instead what we got in your game was a long maze using the same ‘technology themed’ tiles we’ve seen over and over again throughout the game. With so many neat puzzles in the rest of the game, I was expecting something big in the last dungeon, but the only puzzle-elements there were a couple of switches. All in all, the last dungeon in your game was one of the least memorable, and that’s the opposite of what you should have been going for.

-You need to put some more thought into your battles. You need more varied enemies, more enemies per dungeon, more unique combat situations, more viable strategies that the heroes can use to overcome the enemies, and bosses need a lot more thought put into them.

In a game where MP restoration is easy, there’s even less point to fighting the same monsters over and over again, as you’re not even making resource-balancing a challenge. Instead, it just becomes mindless repetition of using the same moves to beat the same enemies over and over again. That’s really boring.



Final Thoughts

Judging this game as a whole is tough for me. It’s got spectacular writing, great characters, and music, but so much of the rest of it falls flat. The game tells a long, fascinating story, but a lot of that length feels like padding, especially the dungeons. I would have preferred a much shorter game with a lot more polished elements instead of what’s here. Don’t get me wrong, this is an incredible and memorable tale with great characters, but I have to also admit that there were many times that I almost considered stopping because of the game’s problems.

My experience with the game was like a rollercoaster ride; the highs are really high but the lows were really low. I was hooked by the characters and even when the game got really frustrating, I pressed on to see what would happen to everyone. I think that speaks a lot to the potential that the developer has to be a great game maker.

My final score would be 3.3 out of 5 stars, but given that the scoring system doesn’t let me get that exact, I’ll be generous and bump it up to 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Posts

Pages: 1
Thanks for the review, Unity! I pretty much agree with the bulk of your criticism: maps were streamlined and custom graphics kept to a minimum so I could finish this before I hit middle age, and the random battles were a poor design choice, looking back, but now they're something that's so enmeshed with the development that I can't change it without an enormous time commitment. That was probably the result of me emulating older games instead of critically thinking about design choices. I think that being in a vacuum from the community was problematic, as I was approaching this as, "I'm going to make the story I wanted to see in an RPG" instead of "I'm going to do my take on an RPG from the ground up," which is something that the community really values--and rightfully so. I've always been more entranced by stories rather than systems, so that's what I focused on, for better or worse.

This game was really a way for me to get my music and story ideas out there more than anything, and I tended to focus on those kinds of things, though I did get really involved in the crafting and town-building, as well as the puzzle design, which I get is a mixed bag. The sound puzzle, for instance, is really easy for me, but that's probably because I have a good ear for music, so it didn't dawn on me that that would be a trouble spot for some people. The town was another point where I could showcase dialogue and character-building, so I went a little nuts with that. I'm glad I did, as that's the gameplay element that pulled me through the most on my playthroughs. The things I liked the most about my game were the things that you liked, too, so that probably shouldn't surprise me.

I understand the tone shift being problematic for someone expecting one type of story and getting another, but, with the story I wanted to tell, that was kind of necessary. Though, I do think that the game begins in a pretty bleak place, there are heavy dollops of cynicism, and there's plenty of foreshadowing, so I hope the tone shift wasn't too jarring (for the wrong reasons). I'm sorry the pacing towards the end stumbled--not sure exactly what you're referring to--and I hope the ending is the right ending for the game, given Ivy's character arc, even if it's not an ending you're entirely happy with. I've gotten some criticism and compliments on it, so I can understand why it might not have been satisfying, but it certainly feels right to me, both intellectually and emotionally.

I'm surprised that you felt that way about the slowed text. If I would have known people think that's annoying, I wouldn't have used it. I think I only used it four or five times, though, and I did it for emphatic purposes rather than emotional (though those two things generally lined up). I'm not so surprised that you didn't like the marsh, though, haha. There was a design decision there, as the slowdown was there to make you think about where you step, but people hate being slowed down--I get that, and I agree with you. As for the final dungeon, I agree that it could have been cooler, but, in my defense, I thought those teleporters were really rocking sweet at the time, and I did compose a song just for that place. It's special, damn it, just also a little...special...

Anyway, thanks for reviewing this, and I'm glad that you enjoyed it enough to see it through to the end despite a few of the frustrating design choices.
unity
You're magical to me.
11162
Thanks for taking the criticism so well. This was my first review for this site, and I felt a little awkward in giving a numeric score to something you’ve poured years of yourself in to and worked on diligently for an extended period of time.

author=Housekeeping
I think that being in a vacuum from the community was problematic, as I was approaching this as, "I'm going to make the story I wanted to see in an RPG" instead of "I'm going to do my take on an RPG from the ground up," which is something that the community really values--and rightfully so. I've always been more entranced by stories rather than systems, so that's what I focused on, for better or worse.


I understand. On story alone I would give this a 4.5+ stars, easy. I’ve been playing RPGs all of my life, however, so I get particular about the details.

author=Housekeeping
I understand the tone shift being problematic for someone expecting one type of story and getting another, but, with the story I wanted to tell, that was kind of necessary. Though, I do think that the game begins in a pretty bleak place, there are heavy dollops of cynicism, and there's plenty of foreshadowing, so I hope the tone shift wasn't too jarring (for the wrong reasons).


In hindsight, that one complaint probably shouldn’t have been in my review, as it was a completely personal one. Though let me clarify that I wasn’t expecting the game to be “Yvette's Magical Unicorn Adventure Except Actually Starring Ivy and Mint In the Land of Rainbows and Sunshine" (though I would totally play that game).

(Text hidden below for massive SPOILERS.)

What I was expecting was “Two sisters survive in a bleak world where the only thing they can depend on is each other (and maybe later they can depend on a couple of extra party members, too!)” Instead we got “Two sisters survive in a bleak world until one of them dies, then thirty years pass, and circumstances force the remaining sister back into the world” to put it really mildly. Granted, Mint’s death was forshadowed pretty heavily, but I don’t automatically assume that every sickly or anemic character automatically is under a death sentence.

Hell, for a classic example, even Tiny Tim lived to the end of that story. Then again, Tiny Tim didn’t adventure around the world fighting monsters. If Ivy and Mint had returned with Cyril when they were denied the opportunity to see their mom in prison, I wonder, would Mint still have been alive 30 years later? I mean, it’s a moot point since we wouldn’t have a game in that scenario.


author=Housekeeping
I'm sorry the pacing towards the end stumbled--not sure exactly what you're referring to--and I hope the ending is the right ending for the game, given Ivy's character arc, even if it's not an ending you're entirely happy with. I've gotten some criticism and compliments on it, so I can understand why it might not have been satisfying, but it certainly feels right to me, both intellectually and emotionally.


Let me expand on that. Again MASSIVE SPOILERS time.

The pace really took a nosedive, in my opinion, after you beat Rutger for the final time. Before that, you find out through Rutger’s own overcockiness (written beautifully, I might add) that he’s got part of the God’s Eye and is going to destroy Yvette’s country and your sanctuary town (forgive me for not having all the names here, I’m not on the same computer I played the game on and can’t look them up).

The big antagonist had left the world for the space station, and now WOW, we better stop Rutger before he ruins everything! This is the closest thing the game has for a climax, and I don’t think that was the intent. The tension rises to its highest, but then you beat Rutger, and the tension is gone. World saved. Boom. There is no more looming threat.

But we’ve still got to find out what Raccoon is doing. The game states that its highly unlikely that he poses any kind of threat to the world anymore. Look, I wanted to know what his deal is as much as the other characters, so I was certainly motivated to find out. But we’ve had a story where Raccoon has conquered the major cities of the world, has emptied the poor sectors of the towns and used their denizens as slaves, worked them to death to uncover a gigantic technological tower, and after that, he just runs off to a space station, leaving the places he’d taken in a poor state, but free from his rule. The antagonist has almost defeated himself, as far as the player knows at this point. This is bad pacing.

Raccoon’s motives for going all Bandit King Evil Overlord after the thirty year time-skip still seem unclear to me. We’re told that when we first went to the floating mountain, Raccoon went a different way than us and saw something that shook him to his very foundation and thus made him decide to conquer the world.

You find out that the reason Raccoon did everything was because he saw Solomon’s recording that stated that every Wingless and Winged person in the game was taken from the past, as all the current Wingless were destroyed in the world and all the Winged are trapped in a time-loop. Raccoon is clearly mad that this happened. He thinks Solomon has abandoned the world and is pissed about it.

Now, at first I thought that all of his actions after that were to get to Solomon on the space station so he could go “What the hell, man?” But when we get to the space station, we find that Raccoon hasn’t even spoken to Solomon. Racoon is on the space station, apparently, so he can enjoy the space-station’s ability to create a false reality for himself where he can do whatever he wants, even if it isn’t real. But wait, that’s not true either. He’s miserable here, too, and it seems he’s punishing himself for his deed but doesn’t have the willpower to commit suicide.

So, then, why did he conquer the world in the first place? Was it just because he was so disillusioned with the world after finding out Solomon’s big secret that he didn’t value life anymore? I understand that he’s a man who cannot love himself. But then what was his big overall plan? It’s never explained well, and makes it feel like “Raccoon is doing this because the plot says so now” rather than “Oh, I see what he was going for. I see why his mind chose this path.”

Another part that felt weak to me was the discovery of why the Winged religion hates Wingless and wants them killed. This was a major theme in the game, especially in the first half where Ivy and Mint’s mother has been jailed because she fell in love with a Wingless. It shapes the world so much. Then when Rutger threatens us with the God’s Eye, we find that we need a doodad from an android to break into the castle, and Oliver buried an android companion in a cave long long ago.

We find that someone has built a giant holy place over the android's tomb, and after navigating through several trials of flame-traps, we finally get to the android, and it’s revealed that he was mistaken for a god, and because he was programmed to kill the Wingless, he said that the Wingless are evil and must be killed. That’s the whole reason for all of the persecution in the world. And it comes right out of left field and we would have never even known if we didn’t need that android’s doodad to beat Rutger.


And here are my feelings on the problems with the ending. Again, the most massive of SPOILERS lie below.

Before we get into the events of the ending, let’s talk about what the game’s been building to, especially in regards to Ivy’s character. Mint dies. Ivy stays in the barren surface world, alone, for thirty years, because the surface world produces very life-like illusions from your past, so Ivy can still see Mint. Then Gainer and company find her and bring her back to the floating world. We learn what Mint’s death has meant to Ivy and other characters.

All throughout the rest of the game, I thought Ivy was finally coping with the loss of her sister. She reunites with Yvette and Lief, finds that her friends still love her, and seems to find other things to live for. She is shown more illusions of Mint on her journey, but she rejects them because they aren’t real.

Fast-forward to before the final boss battle. We are in the space station, and Raccoon is basically god of the reality here. He makes a fake Mint appear, but Ivy again rejects it. Ivy and the others preach to Raccoon about how he shouldn’t hide in this fake world. Raccoon wants to die but decides to die in battle with you. A battle ensues, and after a long while, Raccoon falls.

The characters lament his fate, but head out to leave the fake reality of this place. But Ivy pauses. Instead of leaving with the others, she SPENDS THIRTY YEARS in the fake reality staying with a fake Mint.

What!? Why? I thought one of the biggest themes of Ivy’s character was her finally, finally moving on with her life. She had just been telling Raccoon how pointless living in a fake reality is. Then she turns right around and indulges in that exact thing. I thought she was moving on. I thought she now had all her friends and the town of Sanctuary in her life. But I guess not. She’s still not over Mint and has to spend thirty more years with a fake version of her. She eventually leaves the fake reality, and thanks to how time works there, she’s only been missing from the real world for a second or two, but that doesn’t matter when you look at this as the last piece of her character arc. This is a serious blow to her character.

Add that to my confusion over Raccoon’s motivations, and you get an ending that I found disappointing. Not to mention that we don’t get a single mention of anything else that happens to any of the characters or the world after that.


author=Housekeeping
I'm surprised that you felt that way about the slowed text. If I would have known people think that's annoying, I wouldn't have used it. I think I only used it four or five times, though, and I did it for emphatic purposes rather than emotional (though those two things generally lined up).


You didn’t use it often, indeed. But whenever you did, it ruined my immersion. We’re not just talking about pauses at the end of a sentence or between words, just to be clear. We’re talking pauses between every. Single. Letter. If you’re imagining the players actually saying the words as the text flows, then the only way to “hear” the slowed text is in comical extreme slow-mo.

author=Housekeeping
I'm not so surprised that you didn't like the marsh, though, haha. There was a design decision there, as the slowdown was there to make you think about where you step, but people hate being slowed down--I get that, and I agree with you.


While in the marsh it at least added to the tension, in other areas it didn’t even serve that purpose. There’s one dungeon where you slow down in certain rooms for no real reason, and the final dungeon also had blocks that slowed you down here and there.

author=Housekeeping
As for the final dungeon, I agree that it could have been cooler, but, in my defense, I thought those teleporters were really rocking sweet at the time, and I did compose a song just for that place. It's special, damn it, just also a little...special...


Okay, perhaps I was a bit harsh when I said it was one of the least memorable dungeons. The music was a really nice touch. The teleporters were sweet, visually, but added nothing to gameplay, essentially making them basically a cutscene between dungeon areas. And you had so many varied puzzle mechanics in previous dungeons, the bar was set pretty high for this last one.

And now that I’ve spent way too much time criticizing your game (I feel a little bad, honestly XD), I’m going to devote my next post to giving you all of the positives about the characters that I couldn’t give in the actual review because they contain spoilers.
unity
You're magical to me.
11162
(I know double-posts are frowned on, but for sheer size issues I broke this into two posts. My apologies.)

Now for the good stuff, my notes on the characters! Oh all the great characters! Let’s talk about them!These are spoilertastic, too, so Hide tag time!


Ivy. Ivy may be my favorite RPG Maker heroine ever. You get to see so much growth from her. She’s extremely nuanced despite being so antisocial (and she grows in that area, too). You feel really attached to her, all the struggles she goes through, and all the hard decisions she has to make.

She’s also a total badass, in both her battle capabilities and her personality, though much of the personality side of that comes when she gets older. She becomes more level-headed as the story goes on, and was the best possible candidate for lead character. She’s also the perfect personality to interact with all of these other varied characters. Ivy is awesome.

Mint. If you had to make someone you don’t want to ever see get hurt (or much less die), it’d be Mint. So sweet, so honest, and so cheerful, Mint is the heart of this game and her and Ivy’s dialog in early game was priceless storytelling in the best way. I completely understand why her death was integral to the plot, and it was a huge emotional gut-punch when it happened. What I’m saying is you couldn’t have had a character to play the role of Mint better than the character we got.

Cyril. I really feel for this old man. He made some questionable decisions that ruined his family (but to be fair, his society did most of the actual ruining) and then got his two grandchildren pushed back into his life. I really appreciated his Soul Tear scenes which really made you understand his struggles. Not to mention the jokes about his facial expressions made mostly by Mint.

Yvette. My favorite character in the game. As much as I say Mint was the perfect character for her scenario, if Yvette had died instead I think I might have ragequit XD. Yvette was so much fun with her silly yet hilarious personality that I couldn’t wait to see what outrageous lie she’d use next. While she stopped the fibbing after the timeskip, most of what made her the best still shone through and she became more mature and nuanced. Her friendship with Ivy is also one of the best things ever.

Leif. This man is very interesting. You don’t often see a role like his turned into a full-fledged character, especially without breaking the role. He was Yvette’s bodyguard but has been loyally guarding her so long that he’s way more like family, especially after the time-skip. Congrats on another great character with a well crafted storyline.

Raccoon. Hate to say, but probably my least favorite character. I… really don’t understand his actions, but I was really touched when Ivy’s mother told him to “love himself.”

Gainer. I didn’t much care for him at first, but I was in the mindset of ‘WHERE’S IVY WHAT’S HAPPENED TO THIS WORLD AND WHY AM I STUCK WITH THIS GUY?’ But he grew on me real fast. Not the most solid addition to the cast, but a good one. And even though he wasn’t born yet when the story starts, it helps that his parents are people you met before the timeskip. If this setting is ever explored again, I want to see him as the king of a country somewhere.

Rutger. This is a guy who I love to hate. A really good off and on villain who you get in your party for a little while. You’re never quite sure what he’s up to but you know he’s in it for himself. He’s also funny when he’s less cunning than he thinks he is.

Oliver. A friend turned enemy turned friend again. Sort of. I like him. He’s all analytical and such (makes sense being an android) but also knows when its time to switch sides and is a fun character with a mysterious side.

I’m probably forgetting someone. There are loads of characters, and I’m not even touching all the bit players and townsfolk. You rock at characters. Just so you know.


Anyway, I could probably spend another hour typing out all the memorable scenes and character moments, but I should probably get back to my own game at some point XD

Needless to say, I really enjoyed the high points of your game and will be checking out whatever you do next without a doubt.
Man, thanks so much for that additional feedback! Writing good characters is something that I actually DIDN'T do in my early writing, as I tended to write more high-concept stuff, and it's something that I sort of resented about my writing, so it's definitely a focal point for me now. Saying that Ivy might be your favorite RPG Maker heroine was probably the best compliment I've received on my work so far. I really mean that--you made me grin like an idiot. Spoiler time:

I get what you're saying about the ending. If you were to ever go back and do the bonus endings, though, you would see that Ivy wouldn't always leave Ubiquity depending on when she has access to it in the storyline. I thought that giving her back the thirty years that she had missed with Mint would have been a lovely reward for her struggles, but I can see how it could be viewed as indulgent. But, who wouldn't be indulgent given that kind of scenario? The difference was that she still had restraint. If the ending didn't work, it didn't work, but that's what I was going for. I also couldn't really show the characters after the fact without hurting the timing of the scenes (I'd have to put space in between when they left Ubiquity and when Mint disappeared, which I wanted to be the last image), and those where-are-they-now scenes, while I understand the appeal, are typically boring for me, anyway, so I condensed the denouement to basically nothing. I'm not saying that that was the best possible ending, but there was thought behind it.

I get the pacing thing, too. In the end, though, I didn't want the game to hinge on a save-the-world plot. This was a game about the causes and effects of isolation and how we deal with it, and I wanted Raccoon to be a person who is faced with a similar sense of isolation as Ivy, but he deals with it in the opposite way. To expound on him a bit, he's a person who was alone for the entirety of his life, it's the only thing he knows, he doesn't care about people, and, as a child, he was told about a place where he could be completely, totally alone and have complete control over his circumstances. That idea had thirty years to germinate. Those are the reasons for him doing what he did: it's the kind of thing that happens when people begin to value a concept over other people. Just look at Hitler and fascism. Again, though, if it wasn't conveyed clearly enough or if the concept itself just isn't buyable, then that's the way it is, and that sucks. But, a lot of the things Raccoon felt--isolation, depression, the necessity of a purpose--are things that I've felt, too, and they're powerful motivators. I wish I could have conveyed that more clearly, but it's a hard one to convey organically instead of melodramatically.

Also, dang, I hate to hear about that about Weiss. I've gotten some complements about that, too. Religion and class warfare were two sub-themes I was working with, and I might have put the religion aspect on the backburner too long, so I could see where that scene came out of left field, but I thought that, within the context of the universe, that scene made a lot of sense.

Regarding Mint: it sucks, but for the story, she really had to die, and for Ivy's self-imposed isolation to be believable, they had to have some good times together. Don't hate me!


Oh, and one more note on the slow text: I get that you might read it in slow-mo, but how do you read red text or blue text? You're emphasizing text when you do that kind of thing, but the words themselves aren't stressed by the way the characters actually talk. It's just a way for developers to say THIS WORD IS IMPORTANT. That's what I was using slow text for. It's like, I understand your perspective, and it's not a tactic I'll use in the future, but I hate how you called it synonymous to a laugh track, because I really, really loathe laugh tracks. In a sad scene, there are several tactics that you would use to convey that it's sad: color palette, music, atmospheric effects, etc. Stylizing the text like that was, in my line of thinking, an advantage of a game that doesn't really have a synonym in other media. Again, though, I never thought of it as being potentially annoying, and that's enough for me to not use it again, but that was my reasoning behind it.
unity
You're magical to me.
11162
The character motivation makes a lot more sense now that you've explained it to me. Maybe I'm thinking a bit too straight-forward about characters in some aspects (I tend to ask questions like "What was the story's message about Character A and how did their actions change?" when analyzing characters rather than "What would the average person do here?") In any rate, even though I didn't enjoy those parts of the story as much, just know that I still really liked it overall.

author=Housekeeping
Man, thanks so much for that additional feedback! Writing good characters is something that I actually DIDN'T do in my early writing, as I tended to write more high-concept stuff, and it's something that I sort of resented about my writing, so it's definitely a focal point for me now. Saying that Ivy might be your favorite RPG Maker heroine was probably the best compliment I've received on my work so far. I really mean that--you made me grin like an idiot.


Haha, I'm glad. When giving critique, it can be easy to skip over what a creator is doing right and instead going on and on about mistakes. I wanted to make sure you understood that I deeply appreciate the parts of the game that I did like, and for me the characters were the best part of the experience.

author=Housekeeping
Oh, and one more note on the slow text: I get that you might read it in slow-mo, but how do you read red text or blue text? You're emphasizing text when you do that kind of thing, but the words themselves aren't stressed by the way the characters actually talk. It's just a way for developers to say THIS WORD IS IMPORTANT. That's what I was using slow text for. It's like, I understand your perspective, and it's not a tactic I'll use in the future, but I hate how you called it synonymous to a laugh track, because I really, really loathe laugh tracks. In a sad scene, there are several tactics that you would use to convey that it's sad: color palette, music, atmospheric effects, etc. Stylizing the text like that was, in my line of thinking, an advantage of a game that doesn't really have a synonym in other media. Again, though, I never thought of it as being potentially annoying, and that's enough for me to not use it again, but that was my reasoning behind it.


I apologize for the harshness of that critique; the laugh-track comment was probably out of line. You're correct in that it's a tool, like anything else, but I've just been playing a lot of RPG Maker games where similar pauses are used all the time, and are used to cover up the author's inability to sell emotional or dramatic scenes, so it's become something of an irk for me. You used it sparingly and appropriately, and even though it gives me a knee-jerk cringe I probably shouldn't have harped on it so bad, but my own personal bias was showing. I hope none of my other criticisms had that sting to them; this is my first review and I'm striving to be as constructive as possible, but I go overboard sometimes.
No, it's fine; I get why you don't like the slow text. I think that the laugh track comment triggered my own bias, so I'm like MUST DEFEND, but, then again, analogizing it to a laugh track is what's going to make me never do that again, so it was an effective critique, haha.
Professor_Q
"Life is a riddle I wish I had the answer for..."
3237
This is a great review. I must go and try this game out now! =)
unity
You're magical to me.
11162
Thanks very much! Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoy the game as well :D
This is a great review. I'd say it's easily one of the most in-depth on RMN (especially with the discussion in the comments). Awesome of you to take the time to look at the game so closely.
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