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A lot of possibilities but a broken combat system

  • Irog
  • 06/18/2017 01:48 PM
  • 259 views
Presentation
Nether Quest is a RPG strongly influenced by table top RPGs. You create a party of 2 to 8 characters to journey on your quest. You have a large selection of classes to choose from. You can also choose gender, native town and portraits. Unfortunately, the character creation window doesn't display character statistics and weapon proficiency. For example if you want to build a good archer, you'll look for an elf... but there are 5 types of elfs. And there is an appealing class listed that you can't select. If it was hidden and made available after completing the game, it would add replay value but visible and unavailable makes it frustrating.

Atmosphere
The game world has a lot going on and the designers put a lot of work into it. It's like a whole D&D campaign was built for you. RTP assets make up the majority of the game. Some custom elements were added but they have below average visual quality and thus contrast too much with the environment. The music selection is great. Tracks perfectly fits the action or calmness of towns.

Gameplay
You can do a very wide variety of actions in Nether Quest: talk to NPC, ask questions about a specific topic to them, attack them, read their minds, steal in the shops, detect traps, pick locks, fetch distant items with a boomerang, bring rope to climb mountains, ... All these possibilities are really nice. Such selection of possibilities builds a very complex system of menus and sub-menus.

Managing item and equipment is really tedious. Each charter has a maximum weight he/she can carry that depends on his/her strength. Character charisma influences the amount of information he/she collects from NPCs as well as trade prices. So you'll naturally want your charismatic noble to trade and then give the equipment to who's going to wear it. But some character refuse to give items to another and the ones who give items to others will at some point refuse to do it again. In a table top session, this creates interactions between players but in a single player video game this creates frustration. In the inventory, you can add bags whose purpose are to remove the weight of the items placed in the bags. But the transfer screen to put items in the bags does not display item weights.

Some menus give the impression that an action is possible but actually isn't. When you talk to an NPC, the action menus give the opportunity to use equipped items (like a weapon) on the NPC. You can kill an NPC this way. But when you have a rope equipped, you can't tie up the shopkeeper to rob the shop. You can use a boomerang to retrieve distant item but you can't target a distant NPC.

After fighting my way through the character exchange system and their unwillingness to share, I finally got everyone equipped for the combats. But when I engaged in a first battle, I realize you only get one action per turn and not one action per character. This breaks any strategy building and the need for more than one character. The AI also get only one action per turn whatever the number of monsters involved in the fight. So just send your strongest fighter in the middle of them. Furthermore, there are no obstacles on the battlefields to build some variations. The only element of strategy that would be left is equipment and weapon choice but you can modify equipment during battle at no cost. You can move, put away your boomerang, equip a hammer and smash the enemy with the hammer in the same round!

When you navigate the map, enemies are visible so you can avoid combat and this is a good point. Some well identified tiles are poisonous. One of the class is immune to poison but the whole party has to stay together. For numerous party, this represents a huge cost in healing items. The poison immunity would be better used if the poison-resistant character could move alone and retrieve treasure across poisonous tiles.

At that point, I restarted the game and built a 2 members party: a barbarian to deal with the combats and a noble to handle the talks and trades. This team worked much better that the diverse 8 members party I originally assembled. But the game only gives XP to the barbarian. It rewards killing but not socializing. And my previous thief did not XP by picking locks.

Later, I saved right after a fight and didn't notice my barbarian was poisoned. I loaded the save and looked though the inventory for an antidote and the barbarian died while I was browsing the inventory. Apparently, poison keeps running while you are in menus. I reloaded several times but could never get the antidote fast enough. Then I reloaded and immediately ran into the nearest monster to trigger a fight. There in the turn based fight I had ample time to drink the antidote and a some healing potions.

I reached the second town, bought and equipped new gears and talked to town folks but my interest in the game dropped so low that I quit.

Overall
Nether Quest has a deeply thought-out world and offers a lot of possibilities but many are cumbersome to use and the combat system is broken.

Posts

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It looks like a lot of time and energy went into this game, but it´s sad how the combat is :(
@Irog:

Hmmm...2 Stars :(

I'm wondering about the adjective you used there...'Broken'...to describe the battle system. Is it broken? Or is it just not what you've come accustom to? I don't recall from reading your review that you found something missing or malfunctioning. Is that right? Only that you didn't prefer what you were playing. I'm sorry if that sounds defensive, but I think this review's adjective can give a false impression of what the issues you found were. The battle system runs fine, the way it's supposed to. It doesn't allow 1 button spamming, or 'everybody gets a turn' kind of thing, but does that mean it's broken? I just want to clarify that.

Okay, now for the response to your review...and I LOVED reading the review! I love when anyone takes the time to make a review of NetherQuest. I have literally poured my heart and soul into this game, teaching myself to code along the way, with the intention being that my game doesn't play anything like the 100s of other RPGMaker titles. I always thought that was the point of creating video games, to make something new and refreshing that alter the mundane concepts of how a game should be played.

Anyway, Here's some quotes and some answers from your post:

Unfortunately, the character creation window doesn't display character statistics and weapon proficiency.

I have actually heard this complaint before. And there is an improvement in the works for Version 0.83, which will be the next release. The plan is not to give direct, "This is how good your guy/gal is going to be", but to give a "this is the bonuses you receive for choosing this class" kind of thing. I'm thinking a small window in the scene which pops up dependent upon which class you're hovering over.

And there is an appealing class listed that you can't select. If it was hidden and made available after completing the game, it would add replay value but visible and unavailable makes it frustrating.

Here again, something that's in the works. The 'Obscure' class will be available to the user upon starting the game when I'm done with the class's development. I need to get to the point, where the Obscure class can develop through a certain level, changing forms along the way. The issue with the class is that it is a sort of doppelganger which can take the form of enemy creature on command, adding new minion changes to his/her arsenal through leveling up. There are only 90-something minions right now in the game, I think that would get them to about level four of possible development. So the question is ultimately, would the player be more disappointed with a non-select class at the beginning, or a class that only 'works' through level four? I believe the latter. As there are easily 70 hours of gameplay, and in playtesting, we've reached level 10+ with our characters.

you can add bags whose purpose are to remove the weight of the items placed in the bags. But the transfer screen to put items in the bags does not display item weights.

Point taken. Maybe for 0.83 or 0.84. I agree. Thanks for the input on that.

When you talk to an NPC, the action menus give the opportunity to use equipped items (like a weapon) on the NPC. You can kill an NPC this way. But when you have a rope equipped, you can't tie up the shopkeeper to rob the shop

What an awesome idea!!!
Not all things work everywhere, but some things work somewheres. ;)

You can use a boomerang to retrieve distant item but you can't target a distant NPC.
Yes. Boomerangs, whips, etc. Cannot target human NPCs (at least so far), but perhaps later. :) And what about animals. (at some point, this may also be the case.) Don't give up trying these things. The retrieval of items is based on an item's "PKUP" (pickup) ability.

Furthermore, there are no obstacles on the battlefields to build some variations.

This just isn't true. You just haven't gotten far enough.


After fighting my way through the character exchange system and their unwillingness to share


You cannot give something to someone if the item will put them overweight.

This breaks any strategy building and the need for more than one character. The AI also get only one action per turn whatever the number of monsters involved in the fight. So just send your strongest fighter in the middle of them

I disagree. What it does is makes it so you have to use different tactics than those you've become accustom to in turn-base tactical battle systems. That's all. And if you just send out your strongest guy/girl. They will get all the experience. This system makes you look out for your weaker members. A better strategy is to beat up the strong minions with the strong members and feed them to the lesser members, so that everyone levels together.

Here again, I think this may be the essence of your "Broken" adjective. It just isn't the case. Things work. They just don't work how it feels comfortable to you. How about an adjective like "Odd", or "Wierd", or even "Strange". But not broken.

You can move, put away your boomerang, equip a hammer and smash the enemy with the hammer in the same round!

Yes!!!! POWWW!!!

I reached the second town, bought and equipped new gears and talked to town folks but my interest in the game dropped so low that I quit.

Too bad...

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I will continue to create NetherQuest despite the 2 Stars. I have played countless RPGMaker games in my day, and have found that many are the just mirror images of each other. Named characters, same menus, same battle system, etc. If my game gets two stars because it is complex, robust, different, odd, wierd, or strange...I will gladly accept and be driven by those adjectives.

Only...my game is not broken...

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@lianderson: Did you play the game, or just read the review? I think this is the danger of false headlining.

Indeed, your game is not broken. The adjective only refers to the combat system. And to me, "broken" means "It can get fixed". I'm a bit hardcore on strategy so combat experience has a very significant impact on my play experience hence the slightly below average star rating. But I don't want you to abandon your project. Far from it. I initially wanted to review NetherQuest as part of the Review Kingdom event. There was simply too much content and so many features in your game to review it in the short time frame available. I wanted to cover as much as possible and not rush the review. So I left it aside and got back to it after the event. I hope my review will help you to make your game great.

As for the combat system, we clearly have diverging thoughts on the matter. So I recommend you to A-B test both systems on as many players as you can find.
A: one action per turn
B: one action per character/enemy each turn
The B system requires a lot of work to get the balance right. The same encounter can be an easy victory for a 8 members party but a certain total party kill for a 2 members one. To minimize work load, you could build the test on a few encounters with a fixed party size.

Obstacles need some clarification from my side:
I encountered tiles that you can't stand on. But I only consider tiles you can't move through as obstacles. Obstacles create choke points that offers strategic advantage when the player use them well. Several adjacent obstacle tiles force the player to split his/her units to move around. He/she could also maneuver to encircle the enemy. I didn't come across any obstacle but I may have not gotten far enough. All units (player characters and enemies) could move to any tile withing range. None had to take a detour to get around the "can't stand on tile". I believe the criterion to determine reachable tiles is "is-in-range?". To create true obstacles you need pathfinding that takes them into account for moves. Developing pathfinding is a lot of work (I speak from experience) but luckily you're using a square grid. So this might help you. It is actually a great idea to make the enemy corpses a tile you can't stand on because no-one has proper footing on a corpse.
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