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Travel the world, meet interesting people, and recruit them.

  • nhubi
  • 06/23/2014 06:23 AM
  • 2652 views
This open-world game kicks off with a tragic cut scene, war on the horizon, families torn apart, children fleeing with their mother's last words ringing in their ears, for older brother Luuk to look after the eponymous Casia. Dark forces are shown plotting; some semi-informative panning shots of the world follow and fade to black. Years pass unseen and Casia is now 16, ready to take on the world and assume her adult life and my first question has to be, where is her brother Luuk? Not a word is mentioned about him even though he's the only family she has left. She lives in a small house with one bed, so obviously she's on her own, but no explanation is given. Did he die, leave, go off hunting the Snark or was perhaps abducted by a cult?

With this question unasked and therefore unanswered it's time to check your mail and talk to the residents of Delta Town (which gives the Brave New World reader in me shudders), and get a few fetch quests. Find a cat, repair an axe, tell a girl a boy likes her, and of course catch a mouse for the survivalist lady who obviously sleeps in the basement since there is no bed on the ground floor, or kitchen, or bathroom, or anything other than a beer, a houseplant and a cold fireplace.


So your typical 16-year-old then.

Along the way Casia meets a florist who offers to sell her seeds which she's told she can plant. After completing the tour of the village sure enough there is a paddock available, but only if you have two seeds. It appears to be a kind of alchemy/cropping option. Mixing seeds of different types results in a different harvest. Some instruction would have been good, but ok I can run with that...and now I have to start a list because there is no farmers' almanac in my inventory, though there is a quest journal that is rapidly filling up with fetch quests that unfortunately don't indicate completion or disappear when you've fulfilled them.

It's a good idea to experiment with the planting alchemy; some of the combinations produce permanent stat boosters, though the seeds to do so are understandably rare.

During the village tour Casia visits a smithy run by the helpful and aptly named Mr Pork who will make weapons and armour, but only if he is supplied with raw materials. So it appears there is a foraging/mining option as well. Also without explanation but just outside the village there is a boulder which turns out to be bronze. Not bronze ore obviously, since it's an alloy, but an actual bronze ingot. Cool, back to Porkers and a new shield for Casia. For no labour cost either. Nice blacksmith in this village.


told you he was aptly named

Our heroine, sick of smiting bees now wanders over to the spooky graveyard at midnight as she was specifically warned not to do by the local priest and promptly gets her nether regions handed to her on a platter. Back to the bees it seems, or maybe wander out into the wide world in search of...something? Now this is an open world game, so direction is always going to be less than in a linear or single/series-quest game, but given we've been shown in the doom-laden intro there is a big bad poised to plague the world then a little more 'something' is needed. Perhaps visiting, searching for, or confronting the mystery of, her brother could be a reason to go out into the world; after all he could be anywhere. Still this appears to be a 'throw the player in the deep end' dynamic, and once I've recognised that I'm raring to go.

So time to wander about and find someone else to drag along to that graveyard to ensure Casia's nethers stay just where they are supposed to stay.

There is a full night/day cycle and weather effects in the game, and it affects game mechanics in some interesting ways. From 21.00 - 06.00 the night cycle kicks in and certain monster types come out at night (and yes I'm channelling Newt here), as well as different activities within the towns and villages. One slightly hysterical side effect is if you are attacked by diurnal monsters they do it in their sleep, as they are all sleep afflicted as the battle begins. The breathing animation as they start to wake up is great and strategically helpful in targeting the next foe. The weather also seems to modify the number and type of monsters, with more of certain types appearing in the rain, whilst others decrease their frequency.

Visible mostly avoidable monsters are, as always, a plus, and are used in most areas. Save is via save crystals that also double as a party changer, but they are spaced closely enough that little backtracking is required if real life interrupts the game. Given the fact this is an open world, the player can travel just about anywhere, but the developer has used the tried and true method of having monsters that will one-shot you dead if you head somewhere you shouldn't just yet. It's brutal but effective, though it does still allow you to grind if you so wish and take on the challenge of a time-inappropriate enemy. There are other devices in play to make sure your forays whilst not prevented are narratively curtailed.

Non-humanoid monsters don't drop gold, which makes sense, since they don't have pockets, but you do get the occasional skin/fur/feathers you can trade for gold. Shop around though as wandering traders seem to pay more than established bricks and mortar shops.

The enemy battlers are a mix of standard RTP and custom, both for the battles and the on map sprites, and I appreciate the consistency between the two, though oddly our heroine is portrayed as a dual dagger (or short sword) wielder, but she's actually a weapon and shield character. The battles are classic turn-based front view with no modification other than HP bars that are shown for the enemy and disappear as they die so the screen doesn't get cluttered. It's simple and elegant and it works. My only gripe in regard to the battles is the dearth of skills available, Casia has a couple that she is taught by random NPC's but doesn't gain any as she levels up, acquiring them only through tough optional battles, all the other fighter-types appear to get 4, one each at Levels 1, 9, 17 & 25. Mages and Clerics get more specialised magics of course, but since I didn't run across any magic users for quite a while most battles early on were pretty much a button mash with the occasional monster specific skill thrown in when pertinent.



So these guys are creepy, and I wanted to kill them deader than they already were.

The music is mostly sourced from presence of music with a handful of default tracks and it is used well for the most part; Bucolic and gentle in towns, upbeat and jaunty on the high seas, dark and foreboding in dungeons. Of particular note is the post-graveyard dungeon where there is some freaky music/whispers/screaming voice melange happening that really makes you not want to be there. It's a little less than subtle but it gets the point across. There are some definite horror elements in this section, which whilst out of the ordinary for an RPG, do fit the scenario.

There is an in-game banking system, which although it doesn't grant you any interest is not a bad idea, since the muggers, thieves, rogues and ruffians you meet on your travels are all light-fingered cutpurses who will steal your money in battle. It's generally not a good idea to wander through the wilderness at night with a full purse; you won't have it by the time dawn breaks. You can't buy weapons in your home town, but the remaining towns do have weapon/armour shops, and most also have banks, so you don't find yourself short of cash when you need it for the next upgrade.

Just in case you were getting bored with all the optional in-game attractions, there is a small farming simulation as well. Seriously there are quite a number of things you can do that have nothing to do with going out and killing stuff. You can buy a chicken pen from the farmer in your home town, though he doesn't actually have any chickens to sell, but as you progress you can find a breeder willing to sell you some along the way that you can then deposit in the pen when you return home. Chickens enable you to harvest eggs, and occasionally chickens themselves, which as there is a Hunger and Thirst system built into the game, can save you a fair bit of money.

Now the Hunger/Thirst system has a glitch which the developer knows about but as yet has been unable to remedy. There is no way to ascertain your level of satiety in game until such time as it begins to affect you adversely; so the rule of thumb is to make sure you eat before you leave any town and to take food/drink with you. You'll need both because you can be affected by dehydration just as much as starvation. I understand at the moment the developer is trying to work out why the Date/Time HUD works but the Hunger/Thirst one does not. Hopefully it will be resolved as it can easily slip your mind until your party starts falling over and its implementation without notification is quite a negative aspect.

Maps are well put together, without obstacles unless they are required. The default tile-set is used in the majority of maps, with some greater diversity shown in the towns and cities. It is used practically and appropriately and well suited to its purpose. Meadows are light and airy, unless it's raining, forests are sun-dappled or cast into shadow, towns are colourful, mountains stark, deserts bleak, beaches sandy and swamps dank. Until such time as you get a boat the only way to travel is via foot and therefore you are required to traverse environments multiple times to travel back and forth so the diversity of the settings is appreciated. Though speaking of the boat it really needs to have its movement speed increased, it's painfully slow.

I only ever found two passage issues, though I wasn't looking for them. In the snake forest you need to step sideways off the footbridge rather than walk forward, and in the town below you can walk up the flowers on one of the houses, but it doesn't detract from the game.


I hear you, sister....though I don't think you get chess-playing horses in cities.

There are a diverse set of mini-games available, with reflex based such as polishing gold whilst dodging rabid rats, to memory based where you need to remember the orders of a group of cafe patrons and then supply them without error. There are also a few games of chance where you can double or even sextuple your money if you choose correctly.

The game has multitudes of possible travelling companions to recruit, and a maximum fighting party of six, which can make battles a bit time-consuming and repetitive, especially when you run up against low-level enemies. It sometimes takes longer to choose your actions than it does to slay the monsters. This game made me long for that old 'autobattle' command in the latter stages.


Hmmm, who shall I take with me today?

Reserve party members get EXP, but it appears to be quite a low percentage, perhaps 25%, so this does require a bit of party shuffling if you want to keep all your possible members concurrent. As usually happens in that situation I tended to pick the ones I liked the most and that complemented each other and simply used them over newer additions to the entourage. Gaining new members isn't a simple case of, "Hey, I'm off on an adventure, do you want to join me?" You generally need to have completed a quest or have a particular party member or item before the new convert will join. Which makes gaining them a lot more rewarding whether you end up utilising them or not. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, but their reasons for joining the moment Casia asks is perfectly understandable and within character.

If you're a completist I believe there are 21 to collect recruit.

This game isn't open world in the same way as say the Infinity series is, because there is an overall story arc with a definite end. However it does incorporate some of the better parts of that game type with freedom of movement and adventure, multiple paths to walk and different ways to spend your time within the game world than just 'sticking them with the pointy end'. And once the story is done, you can stay in the world and visit all the places you may not have explored the first time around, and hopefully finish all the side quests and collect all the companions.

The addition of interesting dynamics such as the weather and time modifiers as well as a plethora of optional extras like cropping, animal husbandry and butterfly hunting shows just how much thought and effort the developer has given to this game, it's just a shame quite a bit of that appeal is lost with the malfunctioning hunger/thirst system.

I like open-world games; they take me out of the linear game play mode and allow me the freedom to just explore, though it does, obviously, sometimes take me a little while to break the directive approach. The amount of work a game like this takes is phenomenal, and the risks are great. Being able to allow a player to just wander and potentially uncover information before its time is a constant hazard, and involves a great deal of planning and redundancy within the game to manage. In this particular area I believe the developer has achieved her goals, and I for the most part enjoyed my time in her creation.

Oh, and yes, we do find out what happened to Luuk. If you want to know, play the game.

Posts

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Thank you for the review, it's always nice to know what others think about the game. I am happy to say that the hunger/thirst issue has actually been solved in the newest edition, so that you actually see the hunger of a character via a state before it's too late to feed them.
nhubi
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
11099
Wonderful! I'll grab a copy of that when I get a chance. Will an old save still work? I'd like to spend a bit of time with it without having to replay the game.
I can't guarantee that the old save files will work. The changes are not major, but you never know for sure. I would say it probably works though.
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