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Chase the dream.

  • nhubi
  • 11/13/2014 06:22 PM
Chase for Divinity is Unity's entry into the Revive the Dead event, the premise was to take an old abandoned game and revive it in a month. Unity chose one of her earliest, if not her first, game started in 2002 and now 12 years later finally released. By its very nature Chase for Divinity is a throw-back to the early days of RM and it shows, not just in the graphics which are almost all classic Rm2K but in the epic 'from little things big things grow' story progression that today is the subject of many many tropes. This is old school, but it is old school with a Unity twist. It's funny, not in a laugh out loud I can't breathe type funny, more in a clever layering of sarcasm, which in truth appeals to me more. I like my characters to have a backbone of general mockery. The overall tone is light-hearted but with that serious undertone that you know means there is so much more than is seen on the surface. It almost reminds me of the old Dragon Lance and Forgotten Realms I used to read (and occasionally go back to, Raistlin has a special twisted place in my imagination) with the interaction between characters and the somewhat self-depreciating behaviour of the people you are guiding on this journey.

Still, the game begins with almost no introduction, a very short cut scene of a demon vs. hero (or perhaps anti-hero) battle to the death, a flash of '10 years later...' a quick 'use arrows to move' tutorial that was de rigueur back in the day and our female protagonist, yes I do make a note since female leads in 2002 whilst in existence were much rarer than they are now, is off hunting down a bandit leader in their cavernous lair. Yes ok, so I'm mentioning it twice, Vittoria is not only female she's also a mercenary, no softly spoken priestess or white magic girl here. This woman is a seasoned warrior (she starts at level 4 after all) equipped with a war axe and the facial scars to prove it. Yes there are custom face-sets in this game, drawn and according to Unity redrawn over the years this game languished in development limbo.

Is it a little weird that I'm already enamoured of her and I'm only 3 minutes into the game? Pfft, whatever.

So Vittoria of the Axe heads through the bandit's lair fighting off visible evil armoured bandit knights with awful cockney accents and really bad decision making skills, dropping the occasional snide comment along the way. In addition there are random encounters, arrrggh invisaenemies! No sorry, I actually don't mind random as long as the frequency isn't ridiculous and Unity has managed to hit a pretty good balance in this first dungeon at least which does speak well for the remainder of the game. The encounters are spaced enough apart to allow for breathing room between them and to not deplete available spells and healing items too much, but enough to give you a chance to go up a level before you square off against the first boss.

The battle system is the classic turn based front view but it’s RM2K so you’d be hard pressed to find it anything else, but Unity has added a slew of custom monster sprites to the mix with some imaginative names along the way, it’s kind of shaming to have your figurative arse handed to you on a platter by a disgusting slime and a pet rock after you’ve taken on bandit knights, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Though personally I think ‘wandering dead guy’ has to be my favourite monster name, that or ‘serious problems bat’.

However the preponderance of multiple member enemy parties that can cast multiple target spells against the party does get a little tiresome later in the game, especially when the number of multiple target spells available to the party is few or non-existent.

Protip: Interact with everything, most times you'll just get a little dialogue but not all the money and equipment is hidden in well signposted places like chests and pots. This game is an explorers dream. I'm bumping into walls just to see if there are secret tunnels anywhere, because it feels like a game that should have them....and it does, well at least one.

So after defeating the bandit king Ishmael, who drops some prophetic comments before expiring with the normal level of amazement that bosses usually exhibit "how could YOU puny humans defeat me?" type diatribe it's off back to the village of Mapledell, checking out the trees and rocks along the way, to numerous quips about what isn’t in them. Though there is at least one with a useful item so take the time to check them out, along the way we get the obligatory exposition moment between the two newly met party members, with a very Vittoria slant on the conversation.

Not the face, not the face!

Soon after you make it to the city of Mapledell and after a quick series of fourth wall breaking conversations with helpful NPC’s and a bit of catty tête-à-tête with the item and weapon shopkeeper you head off to see the Duke and we get our main story quest. It seems the Duke has been visited in a dream by a vision of one of the ancient goddesses and informed of the return of the terrible Buramuirge Castle which holds within it the secrets of the gods and will bring about the end of the world via a war to obtain those secrets. In a rare moment of applied logic he admits that everyone he has spoken to has basically called him delusional and other not so polite terms and in order to carry out the wishes of the goddess he has to fund an expedition out of his own finances with a small group of non military personnel so as to not get in trouble with the council and the king. He’d like Vittoria in that group and her new companion Bram is raring to go, so with little but gut instinct to go on and a thirst for adventure our heroes embark on a trip to thwart the return of the demons and save the world.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.*

Popping back through town and engaging in conversation with the available NPC’s again, yes multiple conversation are not only possible they are actually recommended to ensure all the clues available are harvested, nets you a couple of useful items and the feeling of having helped out someone in need, which really is what this hero business is all about after all.

Can you spot the odd villager…hint it’s NOT the lion.

So after a brief stop to visit dear old dad Vittoria and Bram head to Eelhaven Port, the small town where they will meet their next companion, and embark on a voyage to Leenslay to check out the rumours of the return of the citadel. To add to our currently swing heavy party the newest member is a mage named Levron, supposedly he’s a little insane, but then who isn’t? But before we can get to Levron we have to go find him, it seems his insanity manifests itself in doing foolhardy things on his own, so with the help of a local rogue and a bit of luck into the local haunted house we go to find our errant spellcaster and get this quest on the road....erm, sea.

It seems Levron isn’t a little insane, he’s certifiable and arrogant with just a touch of megalomaniac to throw into the mix, but hey this group is heading out on the unsubstantiated vision of a driven nobleman with certain destruction staring them in the face and no real indication if they can succeed on their quest, so no-one sane would attempt this.

Still we’ve got two warriors and a mage, looks like all we need is a cleric, so queue the nautical music. A shipboard scavenger hunt and an attack by a sea monster later and our latest companion joins the fray, the lovely Sarah, envoy from the princess of Shevacrest and healer extraordinaire and our classic quartet is complete.

This made me laugh more than it should. Though I do wish Unity had got around to the NPC face-sets.

So now that we’ve got a full complement it’s time to venture into the heartland of Leenslay to find the returned castle and wrest control of the power of the gods from it’s grip before the demons of the underworld can do the same, because as we all know putting unlimited power in the hands of Duke's and madmen is such a good idea! Still the quest for power is not what drives these brave souls, well it’s not what drives three out of four of them, Levron is in it for the power, but at least he’s honest about it.

Along the way to this citadel and the challenges it encompasses out brave group also find a mix of companions to join them in their quest, some new, some they have met before, but all with unique skills and character traits that make them quite a joy to play. There is no swapping out of party members available in RM2K so the dynamic by which you choose who will accompany you on the various parts of the quest reverts back to the tried and true hero HQ, or in this case the airship. Still an overabundance of character choices, not to mention the actual airship is still a little ways off as you traipse through the continent of Leenslay meeting and defeating elemental enemies, getting a few more portentous comments from defeated or temporarily defeated foes, and on at least one occasion getting your pride handed to you with pretty little bows on it from a snarky dragon’s plaything.

After being forcibly separated, a dynamic that not only requires a rethink of battle strategy and skill deployment but also allows the introduction of new player characters, your party manages to fight its way free of its current predicament and starts to realise there is more to this quest than first met the eye and whilst it was never going to be a walk in the park, the simple ‘go here, do this, hit things on the way’ formulae will not serve you well this time around. Something with a little more cunning is required to achieve your goals and save the world form demon control…or Levron control, that can sometimes be a little ambiguous.

Which side are you on again? Oh, right, yours.

Slowing down the demon’s progress towards world domination is one thing, but stopping them in their tracks will take a bit more work, and what better to aid you on your quest than a priestess from an ancient temple on a long lost continent. But wait you say, I've been paying attention and checking out every interact-able object in the game, there’s an ancient temple marked clearly on one of the many world maps interspersed all around the place, how lost can it be? More than you realise obviously, because Unity is being sneaky.

Getting to Lisosia isn’t going to simply involve sailing up to the door and saying, ‘Hey, we're on a bit of a world saving quest you wouldn’t mind if we borrow one of your priestesses of ancient and noble lineage, would you?’ Though if I was the abbess that wouldn't be the worst reason to hand one over. Still the addition of a sailing ship to your repertoire does open up the world to exploration possibilities. Up until this point the game had been pretty linear both in story and locations, but now you have the opportunity to explore and see a little more of what this world has to offer.

Can’t say you weren’t warned.

I would suggest however following the seer-prescribed storyline for just a little longer as your current crew complement is a little less than optimal, and as with all mix-and-match character arcs you do run the risk of undeveloped characters being wiped in the first battle if you don’t pick them up early enough to train to within a couple of levels of your mainstay characters. I will admit to having a dislike of this particular dynamic, not just in this game but in all that use this ploy. It’s a great one for character growth and introduction, but less than ideal for in-party balancing. Unity has mitigated this somewhat by having the new or returning characters join at a higher than starter level, but it's still a juggling act, however that’s most definitely a personal peeve and is outweighed by the benefits to the story.

So with the aid of an old and somewhat less that savoury acquaintance, you get your next clue to the overarching quest and a direction, if not exactly to the ancient shrine of Lisosia then a stepping stone along the way. Towns of mages, desert hamlets and futuristic dimensionally adrift bases are just some of the ports of call awaiting our growing band, and the return of at least one of your errant original party members suddenly opens up some new possibilities for madness and mayhem, but eventually you'll make it to the shrine of Lisosia to rescue the last surviving priestess from the clutches of the demon minions.

From there it should be a straight line run to the dreaded castle and a confrontation with the demonic foe, but of course it isn’t and more and ever dangerous obstacles are placed in your path, but even if the challenge level wasn’t being ramped up by the game, following the developers lead directly from this point is not the best strategy. The acquisition of an airship opens up one of the better experience making areas of the game, the arena, and it's a good idea to train up your party members, all of your party members to a decent level before you take on the might of the demons, as by the end of the game you'll be split and if you've concentrated solely on a select group of four you'll have no chance of success. There is also the fact that along the way you actually lose companions, at least one of which is never playable again, so a rotating cast is the most strategic use of your time.

It’s not a cheap option by any means and as all of the battles are one-on-one bouts it will require a reassessment of skills and equipment, but it does have worthwhile benefits, in addition those mysterious rhapsody seashells you've been collecting along the way also open up a secret site which is packed with some higher level enemies, perfect for a bit of experience harvesting.

Grinding isn't strictly necessary as most fights can be overcome with a bit of applied skills, boss fights that is of course, monster of the week fights get to be a case of hit with strongest spell and then replenish via potions without a lot of thought once you've worked out the particular elemental weakness of a monster group. However having a few extra levels tucked away for safekeeping isn't a bad idea. Once you've buffed your party members up to something reasonable, this is RM2K though, so the maximum level you're going to get to is 50, it doesn't make sense to push yourself to anywhere near that level before you take on the demons, it's time to head to the castle and your confrontation with those who seek to subjugate the world for their own nefarious purposes, and from there Baramuirge awaits.

You tell 'em, Princess.

This is a 12 year old game, so the outcome isn't really in much doubt, but it's also a Unity game, even an early one, so it's not going to be that straightforward, and as always I'm not going to reveal the ending. Though I will say of the options made available to me, I did go with option three. Suffice to say that when I got there I'd enjoyed the trip. The ending itself is too abrupt, much too abrupt with a fairly rushed feeling and not a lot of closure which is something I would suggest Unity fix if she was ever going to overhaul any parts of the game, as whilst the trip to get there had its moments the final scenes are lacking in a feeling of satisfaction. It took 10 hours to get here, I want closure, dammit.

For what it was Chase for Divinity was a fun, though not short, romp. You are going to need to put aside 8-10 hours for this game, more if you want to reach the end with your characters maxed out, and you are going to have to overlook quite a few story elements that are now considered to be overly familiar, and some balancing issues that generally don't appear in the better newer games, but if you can do that, and I could, you'll enjoy your trip down Unity's memory lane.

* Margaret Mead, secret game dev.


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You're magical to me.
Thank you so much for this review! It was a delight to read, and I'm so happy that you enjoyed the game.

You're absolutely right about the ending, and it really does feel a bit unfair. It's so rushed because I wanted to meet the deadline, but the game really does deserve more. You have my word that I'll be expanding it to a fuller length, including adding the planned segment where you talk to all of your party members, but also separate epilogues to reflect that one very meaningful choice Vitt made.

Thanks again! Your reviews are always a joy to read, and getting one for one of my games is both a pleasure and an honor!
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
I can't believe I never responded to you, my apologies. I did have so much fun in this game, reading Piano's recent review simply reminded me. I shall take you at your word that you'll go back to it one day to add more substance to the final scenes and will await that day.
You're magical to me.
No worries ^_^

As for the redone ending, I got a little done on it, and then, as usual, I got distracted by something else (I think it was Last Minute Gift in this case). The planned segment where you talk to all of your party members is 90% done and I have the mapping done for the three playable segments based on which ending you choose.

I think I'll get back on this ASAP, because even though the game is listed as "Completed," I won't be satisfied with it until the better ending is released. Thanks for reminding me :D
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