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Good Story that is held back by Mediocre Game Play

  • amerk
  • 05/28/2014 04:21 AM

I was initially reluctant to play this game. Having been around the RPG Maker scene for nearly five years now, and having played through hundreds of different games, I’ve started to become bored over the past several months of seeing rehashes of the same kind of game using the same kind of default mechanics with the same RTP styled resources… and with boring, wide open maps.

However, having seen a brief play-through of this game by Liberty, I decided to give it a chance. Overall, the game is certainly not going to come away winning any major awards. It’s very average, at best, and has almost no replay value whatsoever. That said, I did find the game somewhat enjoyable, and it’s pretty casual; so if you have a few hours to spare and don’t want to invest your time and efforts in a larger game, this might be for you.

It might also be best viewed as a sample game of sorts, for anybody knew to RPG Maker (and RM2K for that matter) and want to see what the game editor can do. While it doesn’t use the RTP as well as it should, it at least manages to do its job in that towns and dungeons are easy to identify, and the layout of the maps are easy to navigate.

The mechanics are about as average as they can get, and nothing you haven’t seen from other existing RM games. You have your towns where you can talk to people, assist them in their everyday troubles, buy items and equipment, and restore at inns. You have your world map to get from point A to point B, fight enemies for gold and XP, and obtain new ways of travel. And you have your dungeons where you can explore for loot, unlock the next area of the game, and fight more monsters.

Cue in the default battle system and RTP monsters.

It’s certainly not the best use of the default systems, but it’s far from the worse. However, my biggest gripe isn’t the system itself, but how linear everything is. With some very minor instances, you will never get to visit a dungeon you were not meant to visit, and even the layout of the dungeons themselves are very linear. It’s never possible to get lost, and the treasures you find are never too far off the main road. There are no optional dungeons to visit, and there is only one side quest (an arena) for most of the game.

The one optional thing I get to do, and you need time to set up?

Right before you tackle the ending dungeon and boss, more quests open up, the primary goal to gain the best pieces of equipment for your party of travelers, and to fight additional bosses. Completing these also opens up a programmer’s room after the game’s completion, where you can learn a lot more interesting things that went on behind the scenes of the game. These definitely added some spice to the game, but it would have been nicer to include some quests throughout the bulk of the game, rather than have them piled on you at the very end.

The game is never really difficult, and any amount of grinding is sure to make the majority of the game a cakewalk. Mob fights can be handled fairly quickly, while later boss fights may require some form of thought, but overall, the game is fairly easy.

My rating for Game Play is 2/5. It’s not the worst I’ve seen by any means, but very bland and by-the-numbers for most of the game.

This is the diamond in the rough. Where game play seemed to suffer from its lack of creativity, the story more than made up for it. It’s very well written, with hardly any noticeable concerns, and kept my attention the entire way.

At least he doesn’t cast Super Nova.

The story does begin on the shallow side of the cliché pool – the main hero’s dad has been missing for years, he’s bullied by the local kids, his main love interest has a pendant she found in the attic, said pendant seems to have some magical effects – but once all of that is said and pushed out of the way (thankfully within the first 30 minutes or so of the game), the story begins to take a life of its own. That’s not to say it isn’t faced with clichés throughout, but at least they are handled well for the most part.

It’s clear that the developer has a love of what originally made Square a great gaming company, as you see (and hear) traces of Final Fantasy, Xenogears, and Chrono Trigger throughout the entire game. However, the developer is competent enough to make his game stand on its own without having to rely heavily on these past examples, and his careful attention to the story as well as his writing mechanics pays off.

While it’s a great story, and one of the main reasons for playing this game, it’s not without some flaws. The first is that the love interest between the main characters (note, this is definitely not a spoiler, since it’s pretty much implied right from the beginning of the game) tends to get dragged on. I recognize the developer wanted to build his characters as much as he could, but at some point I wanted to shout: “Shut up and kiss her already!”

The other minor fault I had was the ending felt a bit ambiguous in that it left some things open (possibly for a sequel that never came). The developer’s corner provides far more insight into the background of our characters and sheds some light on some things not entirely disclosed in the main story, and the developer was clear he wanted some things left open to the player’s interpretation; however, unless the player is willing to complete every side quest to unlock this area (which can only be done right before the end of the game), some players may be left confused with certain parts.

My rating for Story is 4/5. Compared to other games, it’s a very well written story. It does endure some minor flaws, but nothing major.

It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in several other games. The game is primarily RTP, with music pulled from known games and sources, although some music comes from other composers as well (such as Kevin MacLeod). In spite of this, the audio is used well throughout the game, and helps set the mood for its compelling story.

The graphics, on the other hand, fall flat in what it’s trying to accomplish. On the one side, the developer has shown some promise with his own skills with the portraits he created. On the other side, he’s not very confident with his mapping abilities, and it shows.

An example of a boring map.

And a couple of maps that are less boring.

I’ve no problem with the use of the RTP, as long as the RTP is used well. And it’s not like it’s all dreadfully bad, either. Some areas of mapping seemed more improved than others, but the end result is that it really begins to wear thin, especially when you combine boring empty maps with equally boring game play.

My rating for Atmosphere is 2.5/5. There are hints of the developer’s talents throughout the game, but either he’s not confident enough or competent enough to make them stand out. Some extra practice could really help in this area.

The game suffers most in its visuals and lack of game play. If you’re looking for something that will give you hours of fun, with strategically developed battles and puzzles, and a wide variety of quests, you won’t find it here. If you want something fun and casual, without having to invest too much time, and you’re focus is more on the story, then you should give this one a try.

Final verdict is 2.83/5. It's only made slightly better due to a well thought out story.