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A game with potential but lacking in polish.

  • Decky
  • 11/03/2015 09:59 AM
Polish is so important in RPGs for several reasons. First, the battles have to be well balanced: easy fights will bore the player, but unfair fights will frustrate (most of) them. You have to find that middle ground where the player is forced to think a little but won't die due to annoying mechanics. Second, the story has to be immersive; spelling/grammatical/eventing errors distract a player from the goings-on and make it seem like the creator hasn't put enough time and effort into their project. Playing games is a time investment and we live in a society that demands instant satisfaction; players are not as forgiving as they used to be, and developers need to show that the game is worth their time by putting in the time themselves.

Some of my games lack polish. I cringe when I play my older games, and I sigh at some of my newer contest games because they needed an extra hour or two of work (time I didn't have). Thankfully some of my strengths as a developer seem to have carried that lack of polish, though I think it was just people overlooking the mistakes because of time constraints on my end (or just plain being nice). However, when you have a non-contest entry that has been percolating for a while, polish is something that should be there. This is especially true with a longer game; many players won't sit through a 5-hour game if it's unpolished, but they might be willing to blast through a 30-minute contest game. Every game is better with polish by default, chiefly because you're fixing objective issues instead of design philosophies.

I greatly respect the developer's desire to receive feedback. The game does require a lot of polish, but the developer is actively trying to remedy this. As long as the developer implements the feedback and keeps improving the project, then there's no harm done. It's a hobby. People should work at their own pace and enjoy what they're doing.

For my play-through, it became evident quickly that this would not be an entertaining romp, but a diagnosis. There's a lot to be tweaked here, starting with the off-center title screen.

First off, the good: Rose_Guardian does an excellent job with resource selection. The battle system is always a reliable choice, and the music fits the mood/areas reasonably well. The tilesets are good choices and the mapping isn't particularly bad. The mine is a little bare in spots but this is offest by a fairly detailed forest, town, etc. Some of the natural areas are a little inorganic and boxy, but that can be adjusted fairly easily. I do like the portraits; the characters are quite cute, especially Raven! Penelope's rack is probably a bit too large though, but I digress. The drawn cutscenes were also a nice touch and served to break from the rather monotonous traditional cutscenes present throughout the story. There are some visual glitches throughout; for example, the sunlight overlay is a little jarring, and at one point a portrait lingers on the screen after a cutscene. Overall, the developer has the base of a good game with the resources she has selected. It's all about creativity and execution/polish at this point.

The story didn't really hook me in, but the characters did have some pretty good interactions. Raven in particular seemed to have a fairly strong personality with her fits of rage; I like a strong female protagonist in most cases. With that said, the story does need a stronger hook. The opening cutscene should be revamped until it's perfect; that's what'll draw people in.

But what else attracts people to an RPG? The gameplay, of course; particularly the quality of the combat, the dungeons, and the exploration. Although the combat system is a good choice, the balancing with respect to the fights and skills is a little off. For instance, the game employs a complex elemental system that is not executed to its fullest potential. In an early fight, one enemy is weak to water - yet I can attack them with my physical TP move for twice the damage. And since the TP moves are easy to execute, what's the point? It's important to make each skill valuable in its own right. Many, many RPGs suffer from a lack of proper spell balancing. I don't want to just spam one or two moves if I can help it. As a side note, the fights also lose some of their immersion due to a few missing attack sound effects.

Enemies don't drop much gold; instead, players will have to complete optional quests to get rewards. This is a little frustrating early on because I completed five battles yet could not afford a single potion. From a design standpoint, I recommend harder hitting enemies and a startup fund so that I can purchase some items and then actually use them in combat. The dungeons seem to lack puzzles so there needs to be some sort of interactivity between fights, even if it comes from the rather cheap and old school method of item use/resource management. That sort of thing shouldn't be saved for the mid-game; there's no harm in giving early fights some teeth and giving the player choices/items early on, especially if it means I get to do more with my time. RPGs need to be as involved and immersive as possible without overwhelming the player, especially on a site where we're all veterans. You can step it up a bit in this regard.

Overall, though, I see potential in this project and really hope the developer continues to make strides.

- Good resource selection
- Decent artwork (nice to see some visual cutscenes as well!)
- Plenty of gameplay features
- A decent amount of content and reasonably sized areas
- Touch-based encounters!

- Polish and execution is lacking (balance issues, typos, some visual glitches, and so forth)
- Writing could be improved
- Some areas are a little inorganic and need more interactive features (more NPCs, chests, puzzles, that sort of thing)
- Gameplay could be more involved (harder fights, a few more skills, more items, etc.)
- Questing system seems bugged (optional quests disappear after a while?)

Best of luck with the project going forward!

Playthrough notes:

- Passability errors (e.g. cabinets) in the houses.
- Sun overlay appears just before the transfer to the house exterior.
- Overlay overstays its use - it's basically been up the entire time
and I'm already in the first town. Overlays and effects should be
used for impact, not as a constant.
- The maps could be laid out better - the forest seems a little
blocky despite the detail, and the town has you walking on the
borders to reach houses etc. This is not a huge deal because you
use arrows to indicate exits, but still.
- Music choice is good. Battle system seems good so far. Decent amount
of starting skills and fights aren't too long. Enemies could stand
to hit a little harder though.
- It's an old-school style, but I do find it weird that the
interiors are visible on the same map as the exteriors, especially
with how you're using that sun overlay.
- I don't really feel like I gained anything by visiting the town.
No items and everything there is too expensive for me to buy; can't
even afford a potion!
- Raven says "we need to go to Avana first" twice when I try to enter
that house near the cave.
- The artwork is pretty good! It gives the game a bit of uniqueness.
Raven is cute.
Penelope has really big boobs though! Not that that is a bad thing...
- Some comma overuse here and there. Some proper nouns not capitalized.
- Quest titles could be more clever and the words should be
- Overall, I feel like Avana should have a bit more going on. The map
should be a little larger, there should be a couple more NPCs about,a
and I should be rewarded for my exploration via treasure chests.
- At least there's some optional quests though! That's always a good
thing. Content makes a game world feel alive.
- Overall, the writing could use more polish. This is especially
notable in the quest log.
- I do like that the optional quest gives me reason to revisit the
- In hindsight, the forest's music may be a little too forboding. It
doesn't really seem like that spooky of a forest.
- The mine's layout is too open and blocky. It should be tighter with
a greater variety of detail.
- I just noticed that some of the attacks (both enemy and friendly)
lack sound effects.
- Given the cost of items and equipment, I feel I don't get enough
gold after fights. I've been in 5-6 fights so far and I still don't
have enough gold to buy a potion.
- The menu background (brown square with rounded edges) looks kind of
blurry and odd, especially up against the sharp grey rectangles of the
menu proper.
- Duel Shot > Dual Shot
- The dragonfly boss fight was really easy. Overall the game starts off
very easy, even for a full-length RPG. Enemies should hit harder
and I should have a starting fund so I can buy and use items in this
first dungeon. As it stands, I just spam my TP move and don't even
have to heal between fights.
- Overall, the mine dungeon is just a few rooms strung together with
some touch encounters. I'd like to see some puzzles or a more clever
layout. It's a start though!
- "My aren't you beautful" - "beautiful" misspelled.
- Balancing issue: orb blast hits 3 targets, but it can hit the
same target 3 times for ~180 damage. Yet my water attack exploits
a weakness and only hits for half that amount.
- Good to see that debuffs can be used against bosses.
- The fight in the pit, while a step up in difficulty, is still
pretty easy. I never fell below half health and only had to use one
- Thank you for using my sample maps from the DS pack :)
- The arrows only seem to appear sometimes. I think they should
be on screen all the time; they're a good indicator of screen
transitions, and they should be visible consistently to avoid
confusing the player.
- In the cutscene after the mines, Cypher's faceset remains on screen
for a while.
- For some reason I can't view my quests after the mines.
- I am not sure if I got any rewards for the first optional quests.
As a matter of fact, I think they disappeared from my log entirely.

Overall, I think the most important thing is to keep polishing
your game. I've pointed out a decent amount of things to work on here
from the first hour of the game. In short:

- Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Keep polishing the
writing overall.
- Make the fights a little bit harder and involved. Right now it's
TP spam except for the bosses.
- Give the player a startup fund so they can buy items early.
- More secrets and goodies!
- Work on your gameplay balance; I'm not going to exploit elemental
weaknesses if I can just hit an enemy with a regular attack for
more than twice the damage.
- Try to make the areas a little more organic; they're still kind of
blocky. Even though you have a decent amount of detail within the
areas, the area themselves are kind of inorganic-shaped when they should
feel natural.
- Polish up the glitches with the overlays, portraits, and so forth.
- Add a few more NPCs and polish up the quest system (as I said, it
seems some of them disappear after completing the mines).
- Keep it up! You'll get to where you need to be with practice.


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Goes inactive at least every 2 weeks
I may be a tester for this game. But I like to thank you for the review.

You caught stuff I missed (I'm so fired), and gave it some good critique.

Rose_Guardian has been struggling for a while and been stressing out from something (I will not name it for privacy reasons).

I don't know why she hasn't been on a while but she will be happy to see this review.
I know thanked you already, before, but I forgot to thank you, in the review topic too. I am glad you were able to find things that we missed. I been sick lately to be honest, and have not been feeling that great. Thank you again for the review.
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