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No need to tell it.

  • NTC3
  • 03/08/2015 04:50 PM
  • 451 views
As its game page will tell you, Live to Tell the Tale was originally created for the 2014 IGMC contest, which was later won by Remnants of Isolation. It wasn’t finished in time to contest, however, and yet the game apparently remains unchanged bar testing-related fixes, an approach I’m personally not a fan of, as someone who values overall quality over fidelity. As it is, though, I can safely say that IGMC judges didn’t miss out on much.

Aesthetics (art, design and sound)

Since it was done under a time limit, all of the resources used are VX Ace RTP. The graphical assets are all very competently used and everything looks nice, while the music is forgettable as usual. The level design is also alright; some areas display a questionable fondness for narrow corridors, but that’s about it.

Storyline

Basically an excuse plot about a demon invasion that is set to attack the town in 40 minutes, forcing you, the Sheriff, to muster up defences as best as you can. It’s better than various “save-the-princess" plots, I’ll give you that, and that’s pretty much its only merit. The sidequests along the way are equally rote and rudimentary. Now, it’s possible to have minimal plots that are still enjoyable and get the player to care: Okiku, Star Apprentice, which I played immediately after this, is a pretty good example. Here, however, the writing is clunky, with lines like “I’m happy you believed me. But more evidence is needed soon.” and “I need to find a way to make them stronger to survive this threat.” You’re allowed to name every nominally important NPC yourself, in lieu of the developer giving them personalities or memorable dialogue of any kind. I did take the opportunity to name my Bodyguard Hassan and give some other names, but I soon lost interest and let everyone else keep their default titles. Quest-giving NPCs in the tavern are even worse, as they lose their interactivity once they give you their only quest. Speaking of interactivity, there are no items you can examine on the map to read the flavour text, and the item descriptions are just damage numbers and such (in contrast to, say, Fragile Hearts games, which milked them for all their worth.) All of it ends up creating a lot of emotional distance between the player and the village they’re supposed to be saving, and soon I only wanted to finish as many quests as possible for their own sake.

The only other aspect I did care about was the ability to purchase upgrades to city’s fortifications, and I took effort to get all four of them built as soon as possible. I knew that seeing them on the world map was possible but unlikely, but I still hoped to see them matter when the time came for the final assault. Instead, it turned out that they contribute less to town’s defence than the companions you leave to guard it, and there’s no bonus for having them all in place. Not a big issue on its own, I know, but it feeds into much problem that there isn’t really much pay-off for the work you’ve done at the end. In my only play-through, at least, you never see the demon horde or the fighting against it; all of it happens off-screen, with only the burning buildings on the map to show for it, while you’re sent away to protect a Viscount who was never mentioned before. Three one-on-one battles later, and you’re face-to-face with the final boss, followed by an unforeshadowed betrayal from another character I don’t care about. To be fair, that was one of the bad endings because I failed to complete all of the quests on time, but I had little desire to stay for the good one after that.

Gameplay

Live to Tell the Tale is supposed to be a challenging experience where you cannot do everything in time before the invasion and have to choose carefully between the options presented. It’s a nice idea, but it’s utterly undone by the unchallenging, shallow combat. It’s so poorly balanced that fairies in the starting area won’t inflict any damage on the “Sheriff”, while he kills them in one hit, a situation that won’t change a whole lot for the rest of the game. The game later introduces ghosts and various fire/ice/lighting creatures, who are typically immune to physical attacks and must be hit with the required element. That's a fine concept, but it’s easily circumvented through buying one magical weapon for each element and equipping them as appropriate, after which it’s back to one-shotting grunts in your way. If you’re in doubt, Priestess’ Holy often works just as well as the appropriate elemental attack. She’s good at healing too, and so there’s never a reason not to bring her along.

The above is the most thinking you’ll ever to do during the fights. Now, I got somewhat used to games where bosses are the only enemies to have skills of any kind (although I still consider it a significant shortcoming); what’s new to me are games where mages/priests are the only party members who have any skills at all. You are technically allowed to buy elemental spells for them, but the aforementioned magical weapons make it a waste of your hard-earned gold. Same applies to buying experience tomes and such; it’s far more efficient to just buy the best equipment at the shops, and send a Scout out to discover rare equipment. You won’t have any trouble getting the top stuff if you ignore the unnecessities and make sure to release a Thief from prison to open up locked chests along the way. If you get a thief, a priestess and whichever interchangeable melee companion you like the most at the start, as I did, then there’s no need to change party layout, as everyone else you find will begin at level 1 and will soon end up significantly out-levelled by your other members. In theory, you can also get a treasure hunter (I think?) who can find and open hidden doors, but I ran out of time for that on my only playthrough.

Conclusion

Live to Tell the Tale had a good premise, and it could have been akin to a bite-sized Majora’s Mask with better execution. Unfortunately, the current version is just too bland and insufficiently challenging to be more than a forgettable distraction.

Posts

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Hi NTC3,

I finally got myself to thank you for playing, the review and for the points you listed out.
Generally, if this game wasn't time sensitive, I would agree with you almost completely. However, I think that when you make a game that has a (very short) time limit, is non-linear and has a few endings depending on what you did during the (short) playthrough, some things are unavoidable.

Cheers,
BP

PS. Please try to get the perfect ending and let me know if your opinion on the "lack of challange" has changed ;)
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