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Harro's Review on Etheria: A demo with unused potential

Etheria is a small RPG demo with a lot of issues but still some charme. I can not promise that this review will be spoilerfree in its entirety.

The Story
So we've got Marsha, who unfortunately dropped of a sinking airship and landed in a snowy desert. We decide to look for the wreckage of the airship. This is basically the story of the demo. Pretty basic stuff and I think it will not be part of the main story for too long. I think that the main story begins after that airship is found so why end a demo right before that happens? This is the first big issue I want to touch on here. The acts also lack everything. Every action of the chars seemed completely forced and even the character description of Marsha which we got half way through the demo was not surprising since it was way too forced. We also didn't know Marsha long enough to actually get affected by something like that. I get deeper into the characters in a bit.
The story gets 1,5/5 points from me. A bad told story is still better than something which would be complete nonsense, so I can at least give a point on that. Another half point for half-good writing.

We do not know a thing about Marsha until half way through the demo. She also has no real trait except for being pretty formal and polite.

No real character here in my opinion. She was just there for the sake of being there.

Therese & Lucius:
Rating them together because they make up a awesome duo. Therese being the girl who always tends to be mean with Lucius restraining her.

Complete idiot with some shining moments. He is the Patrick Star of Etheria.

Harold, Marsha, Therese and Lucius are the default characters in every MV project. They also have the same classes and equipment as the default starters. No creativity in those picks. We only have flat characters so far, too.
The characters get 2/5 points. The last 3 characters saved the game for me.

This game uses the MV RTP which isn't a bad thing at all. How it is used is only solid in the Ancient Forest. Every single region apart from the Ancient Forest looks very bad as the maps have sometimes unmatching tiles or are just waaaaay too big with no space really being used. There were also no battlebacks sometimes so the maker used the Map for it. On the first map, the battleback also didn't fit to the Map completely.
The Graphic part is still worth 2/5 points though since the Ancient Forest was very good.

The audio consists of mostly RTP themes with little exceptions. The music was used in fitting situations though so it is fine.
Solid 3,5/5 points there.

The gameplay was where the game had the most issues. First of all: No item and almost no skill had any description so you have to guess what item does what. Potions heal for 500 HP, Magic Water for 200 MP, Stimulators revive... I guessed all of those because I know the Maker. Descriptions have an impact on Gameplay because they are like a tiny Trial and Error system for the players. Same goes for the spells. Sometimes the Icons were deceiving too. Try to match Icon to what the spell does. The Holy spell had a Fire icon for example.
Also the balancing was very bad. In the first fight, you have to waste 30 MP to barely win the first fight against 2 Bats. There is no way of saving your MP in that fight. Luckily you put some Magic Waters and Rest points here and there. That would've been not much of a problem if the difficulty of the game would not change that often. As soon as Clara is in the party, the difficulty changed from hard to very easy, because Clara only took a tenth of the damage Marsha took. Also for stats: Every single character has the same stats. Every difference is made by items. Also the Lv Ups are pretty much worthless. I skipped every skipable fight and the final boss of the demo was still a piece of cake. Also: You can skip fights by simply escaping.
Gameplay-wise, this game has a lot of weaknesses, a lot of unused potential. Good things were: Magic is learned from books. Enough healing points. That's it.
I can only give 1/5 points for the gameplay because of its weaknesses. The only thing which wouldve made this rating worse wouldve been a Gamebreaker.

The game wasn't bad. It just wasn't good. It was below average as the characters were poorly designed and the gameplay was having a lot of flaws. Most of the issues couldve been easily solved though. For the final rating:
1,5 + 2 + 2 + 3,5 + 1 = 10. 10 divided by 5 are 2. And that's my rating. If you invest some time for the characters and the gameplay and maybe some better mapping, this game might easily archieve 3+ points. But in this state, it is just worth 2.
I hope you take this criticism as a help for you to make an awesome game.


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The TM is for Totally Magical.
Hi! Thanks for the review.

Just wanted to point out that this was done on the trial edition of RPGMaker MV and as such, was done for the MVLympics event back when the Maker came out. As such, I was limited by rules of the event, namely, I could add any character I wanted, but the four main characters had to be Harold, Therese, Lucius, and Marsha. I was on team Marsha, so that explains why Marsha was the main character. I did my best to make them interesting, so given the limitations of the event, I'm not sure what more I could have done regarding character design.

I created Clara (she still used the RTP Main Actor graphics...it was a short event, after all.) initially not realizing that I had to use all four default characters. As such, her story ended prematurely, although I did try to get a laugh out of it.

Also the Lv Ups are pretty much worthless.

Actually, if I knew how to break the default system, like a lot of people do, I'd get rid of leveling entirely and make all skills, abilities, and stats dependent on in game learning items and schools (like the spell books). I just think it's a better way that gives the player more control over the character. If I had had time, you would have seen a lot more skill boosting items other than spell books.

Balance: I try to make a game hard, but for some reason, I always worry I'm making it too hard and try to make sure everything's passable.

Items and skills: Yes, I know. Database defaults only included four items, four skills, four combat items (literally: sword, shield, armor, and ring...those were the only equippable choices to start with.), and that was it. So while making the game, I was making skills and items as fast as I could, and a lot of the process got neglected.

Battlebacks: I used no battlebacks. I hate them. I hate all RTP battlebacks. I prefer to make them myself because I can make them match the tiles. I think they look terrible. In all RPG Makers, I only use them when I don't have time to make my own because the default makes my eyes bleed even more. I was very pleased to discover that if I don't use battlebacks in MV, I get to fight on a backdrop of the map I have the encounter on. At no point did I use a battleback. How are you getting a fight with a battleback at the beginning?
Hm, alright. Wasn't too familiar with the event.
As I said, I liked what you made of Therese, Lucius and Harold. Just Marsha felt a bit meh. The Clara story is a bit sad but okay.

Balancing is hard. Now that i know of the time problem, i can understand it more. If the non-mage items were a bit weaker in terms of defense, the game would have a decent difficulty imo.

For the battleback: http://imgur.com/Ha2zCpl. Very first encounter (backtracked a bit).
The TM is for Totally Magical.
Hm, alright. Wasn't too familiar with the event.
As I said, I liked what you made of Therese, Lucius and Harold. Just Marsha felt a bit meh. The Clara story is a bit sad but okay.

It's not that I couldn't have used Clara, I just felt that with the time constraint, five characters was a little too much to focus on. I suppose that's what I get for not reading the rules all the way through.

As for Marsha...I haven't been able to get the full version of MV (80 dollars isn't something I've been willing to spend on a program I don't like as much as VX Ace and 2003) so it's been a little while...I think I was going for quiet, shy, but determined. I'll have to consider a few hooks for her, at least to make her character a bit more relatable, but then again, she's just been in a crash, so she's not quite operating on all cylinders.

Lucius and Therese are my favorites in game, too. I've always liked duos in stories.

Balancing is hard. Now that i know of the time problem, i can understand it more. If the non-mage items were a bit weaker in terms of defense, the game would have a decent difficulty imo.

Okay. I didn't realize that the weapons and items were having that big of an impact...well, the items I knew, because I was trying to make it so that you had just enough items to keep you healed. But, of course, gaining the heal ability kind of broke that. Sigh...lot's of maths.

For the battleback: http://imgur.com/Ha2zCpl. Very first encounter (backtracked a bit).

Huh? How did I end up doing that?
Yeah, spending lots of money for a programm you don't like as much as its predecessor would be nonsense. Considering that she just survived a crash it is kind of alright.

Well, I didn't even use the Potions in battles, just between the battles. The only item i used in the fight against the vampire was a magic water for Lucius to continue casting LV1 Holy. The defense stats from the shields were the overkill i guess. Like... Bats: They deal around 50-60 damage to Marsha and 5 damage to Clara on the same level. It doesn't get better later. Marsha receives a lot of damage (which is natural for a mage), but Therese and Harold just wipe some dust off of their shoulder plates. Too much maths, agreed.
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