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Honest attempt at the JRPG big leagues.

  • zDS
  • 03/01/2017 09:15 PM
  • 699 views
(disclaimer: I didn't find the time to take a bunch of pictures while playing, so this review will be only text. so prepare your reading glasses!)

This one is a beast. Shadows of Adam is a JRPG with every resource and I believe engine crafted by scratch. I was first interested in this a bit more than a year ago via rpgmaker.net from the super nice looking pictures. I became almost fiercely passionate to buy and review this once I saw some backlash about it being “typical RPG Maker trash” by some people despite it not being RPG Maker. Seeing that upset me more than reading about shady politics. I am a video game developer who actually uses RPG Maker to make JRPGs for it is my favorite genre and one I am quite passionate about. It is a dream to be successful and release the vivid JRPGs that form within my head. Shadows of Adam is quite high up there in that dream. It is my duty and pleasure to have played and reviewed this one.

Shadows of Adam is an attempt to bring the past into the future. It is a huge project and it was a clear design decision to keep things simple and nostalgic. Quite a many things worked with this approach, others did not. I will point out as much as I can as a huge JRPG fan and a JRPG developer myself.

The dungeons of this game are really well crafted. I am especially fond of the art style of the tilesets and the mapping itself is quite well done. However, I feel a few of the dungeons dragged on too much. The Water Gardens, the first mine cart cave, the volcano, and the last dungeon come to mind. I feel like they would have been fine with a few less sections (especially that last dungeon).

I quite liked the puzzles. They were simple yet clever enough to require thought and a study of the environment. I got stuck a few times but I always felt a “ah HA” moment upon solving. As I said with the dungeons being a bit too long, the puzzles are a part of that complaint. I felt there usually could have been a puzzle less or so while within a dungeon.

You encounter enemies via the dungeon by walking into sprites that block your path. Part of me believes this is better than random encounters or its variation, but another part of me feels this takes away some of the tension one finds within a dungeon. However, I believe it was totally the right call as most people do not appreciate random encounters these days.

The battles themselves are the main point of the game. It is a well pulled off system that feels satisfying in many ways and creates a possibility for a lot of depth. Satisfying and swift. The best way to do JRPG battles in my opinion. There are lots of ways to break the characters, which is like the funnest part of older rpgs in my opinion, that feels more satisfying for having the knowledge to do so. Having breakable characters in a game is a thin rope to walk across. There is a line that can be crossed from being satisfying to feeling utterly cheap. I'm happy to say Shadows of Adam did not cross there. The battles were very well balanced in that regard and I salute the team for pulling that feat off.

The battles do suffer from some annoying mechanics, particularly the fast enemies that use a mirage spell to make it harder to hit their naturally high avoid rate selves that also use accuracy decreasing spells upon the heroes. Or the howling wolves. I felt that there were too many repeated battles in the dungeons themselves. Some less encounters would have done some good.

Overall the battles were quite good. Felt so great Berserking Kellan after he Heartbreaks the foe and have Talon Double Up him so he could sometimes attack the enemy like 4 times in a row. Or Double Up-ing Asrael when her magic is buffed up and have her unleash her ultimate spell. I could go on for a while like this.

Shadows of Adam aimed to be a well polished simple JRPG experience. In terms of battle and dungeons, it is really well pulled off. However, my issues with the game are with the rest of it: Story, writing, world, and music.

The story itself probably would have been much more enjoyable if the writing done better. I totally understand the feel to make a simple experience, yet the whole story just felt like something I've seen before and a hollow version at that. It had some ups, but mostly I felt it was downs.

The main character, Kellan, is kind of the every JRPG main character. Simple and in desperate need to find his father. I honestly feel no attachment to him other than his great battle mechanics. He cares for Asrael, the female main, and disliked how his hometown treated her. He needs to find his father to save him. That's about as deep as he gets. Most his dialogue is one liners and light bickering with other main characters. I don't really know who he is. The game never focuses on him that much. The only thing I know about him is his summary. Needs to find father. Friends with Asrael. Kind of competitive with Talon.

Asrael, is the typical 'girl knows magic, people hate her for it, feels she has responsibility to save world from the guilt of having strange power'. I'm fine with cliches, especially in a game that is about refining cliches, but I feel her character may be the biggest flaw in the story side of the game of it all. The whole trip she seemed to be casually afraid and not wanting to be there. I didn't feel any charisma from her. She is supposed to be the driving force of the game. The most important character. Yet her only personality I remember other than fear is being mildly annoyed at the stupid male characters. “Ugh, boys.” I did not feel immense sadness from her about the evil of magic. In fact, I did not feel any sort of weight behind the back stories for the characters. (Well, Curtis has a cool story at least.)

Most of the backstories involve the village of Adam as the center point. The character's grief tend to come from mild boy teasing (looking at you Talon) or silly stuff that is similar. Nothing grand. Nothing truly sad or tragic. Kellan had a jerk father, but I felt like I had to seek that truth more than I should have. Kellan never implied that he was a jerk. I feel like other characters mentioned it with a choppy flow throughout the game. Blind faith in a loved one is usually a trope in JRPGs that I dislike the most. I feel there was no consequence of Kellan having a lack of parental guidance.

Curtis, the monk who thinks he is Sabin, is pretty cool! The first half of the game I disliked his dialogue. I felt it was too brief and cheesy with a weak flow to it. Without giving any story details, his back story was interesting and his story definitely had a weight to it. Curtis is a bad ass in the story and I did not feel any sort of disappointment from him in the end.

Talon is the anti-social sickly kid who grew up to be healthy and faster than the rest. Being someone who was left out of a lot of stuff while growing up, I was not quite convinced of Talon's dislike for Adam and Kellan. It seemed rather small for him to go from being a normal village kid to fighting giant elemental guardian dragons on his own. His whole interaction with Kellan is poorly written pissing contests with one another and I swear that most of the party interaction was that.

If the game had no battles, I would not like any character besides Curtis. Thankfully I love all their battle mechanics. I had a great time fighting with them.

The story and writing suffer in other ways the the main characters. I'll try not to scatter this review too much. Malvil, without giving away too much, was a worthless Kefka wannabe who reminded me of that one rose general in Suikoden as well. The issue was, besides ripping off Kefka too much, Malvil had no weight. I did not fear him. I was just annoyed by him and how blatant he was.

Malvil's minions drove me absolutely crazy. You have to fight them so many times. They are like freaking Team Rocket in the Pokemon anime. They say stupid jokes and then you fight and it happens way too much. All of Malvil, his soldiers, and his side kick story line... I felt the game could have done without. I also want to point out that I feel like a lot of the first half focused way too much on silly nonsense stories. I had no motivation to continue story-wise and did because I enjoyed the dungeons and battles.

The dialogue in general felt like it lacked a good flow and a lot of the time I felt like the dialogue boxes were unnecessary information. I might be too harsh on the story side in general, but the game did put a lot of emphasis on it. A good chunk of the 10 hours I played was story.

This is a subtle detail, but I noticed you can travel the whole world in the game and it all feels so small. There is one castle, a few towns, and a little history. It would have been better off if it was just a continent. I don't think there is any way I can characterize the world other than “bland JRPG copy that looks very pretty”.

I won't give away details, but I did enjoy the end story. Sure, I predicted it within 5 minutes of playing, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

I know the developers wanted simple and sweet with the story, but there are a million ways to do that without seeming like a hollow rip off of what came before. We indie developers have the most freedom in the world to make anything we want. I think next time there should be more of a focus on the story and overall charisma of it all.

Finally we reach music. Music in a game is extremely important to me. I can write, make pixel art, design a game, but I consider myself a music composer first. The music is enjoyable. Yet, there is nothing that stands out in it. It almost feels like it was made for an RPG Maker RTP rather than a game with its own unique flavor. The music feels like hollow echoes from old Final Fantasy games. Some did stand out, most fell flat. (The songs also had looping issues.)

I could probably go and list every song of the game and list off what I like and dislike about them, but I don't think most people care about that so I can skip haha. I do appreciate they were all made for the game rather than finding some random person's free to use song. I appreciate that a lot. Lots of bonus points from me for that regard.

Shadows of Adam has its flaws, yet there is lots of good here. The better a game gets, the greater its flaws become. Instead of a small 2 hour experience the team went for a 10 hour journey with its own engine, battle mechanics, graphics, etc. The balance of good and flawed is very hard to manage at that scale and I felt the team did a really good job despite my distaste for the story. The game is flawed, yet a lot of fun. Great battles and dungeons. (I hope I didn't seem too harsh on the story lol)

I hope the likes of Shadows of Adam, Ara Fell, and Soma Spirits will be the dawn of a new era of quality JRPGs that I want nothing more than to be a part of.

Posts

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Thanks for the review. We made a boo-boo when going to V.1.0.2 with music size, which caused a slight lag when it reached loop point. Will be fixed in V. 1.0.3!

Thanks again
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