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When Victims Of Circumstance Triumph And Fall, Or How A Bunch of Villains Made Me Love RPGs again.

Let me just start off by saying two things. First of all. I bloody love playing RPG fantasy games. They were the building blocks of my interests in gaming when I was but a young naïve child of 10. It all started first when I played the popular Aveyond, and its concurrent sequels and I was fascinated by its sweeping tale of heroes in a fantastical setting, and they go through this awesome adventure and eventually have to find a way to stop the all-powerful bad guy. I was further fascinated when I stumbled upon arguably better games like the Laxius and Millenium series that both respectively had a colorful cast of compelling characters, a grand sweeping plot that delivered in spades, near countless aesthetics that left me speechless and varying music that tickled my fancy to no end. These games were the very reason I became enamored with fantasy fiction in general where I could immerse myself into a world that belied my imagination with colorful characters, a sweeping land beyond reality and a storyline of pomp, romance and swords and sorcery.

Over time however…the formula of the fantasy genre of fiction bored and nearly annoyed me. Bad guy, evil organization, corrupt government, every damn time in the end gets toppled by the hero by some means. I found myself less fascinated and more of a challenge to play these kinds of games and often times judged fantasy stories with cold logic and a critical eye. Internally I had craved something different for once, something to truly make me remember what it felt like to play an RPG that could simulate the exact level of enjoyment I had when I first got myself into these games in the first place.

Now the second thing here is that I’ve always been more appealed by grey characters and a number of unique villains in fiction because their motivations resonate with their own conviction towards their goals in mind, and they have an atypical way of functioning and acting, and often times have a complexly layered personality that gives them a more realistic picture of a character who isn’t a two dimensional yawner and more of someone you can relate to in a way that appeals to your sense of being.

Thirteen months ago when I scrolled down the RPGmaker website in my bored attempt to find a decent game to fill my time I suddenly felt a rush of excitement crawl up my skin in a way I’ve never felt before when my two eyes caught this title known as Umbral Soul, A game that defies the trope of the RPG games I used to play as a kid and gives us the taste of villainy on the front lines of a fantasy story.

How could I refuse that?

I promptly downloaded the game and got to playing it immediately to satiate my newfound curiosity. And it took me about thirty hours of gameplay in total and six days to finish it. (Yeah I had a lot of time LMAO)

Gameplay and Mechanics (7.5/10)

Pretty much adheres to the typical top down RPG experience, however coming with a careful calibration for the playable characters of this tale with a premeditated set of abilities and equipment that isn’t changeable by any means. This aspect of the game forces the player to creatively utilize these limited factors to the best way possible in the tides of battle, and utilize the best strategy for each enemy.

Pandora’s monster summoning mechanic that is vaguely reminiscent of Pokemon was a bonus to the strategy aspect that was fun to experiment with depending on your choice, and it gets better once you get to upgrade these monsters and familiars with the power of Darkness Points you collect after finishing quests.

Writing, Characters and Story (8/10)

In this game, you play as the dark mage Pandora with a tragic past who serves a fallen evil god, who along with a slew of other characters either scorned and dismissed by society or having views that don’t align with the natural order of things who all collaborate in order to overthrow the kingdom and bring about a new world order to the land.

What blew me away in the story department was how meticulously detailed it was in the span of 30 hours, and the themes around the story concerning morality, revenge, humanity and the convictions of every one of these characters are its prominent driving factors. The villains, our protagonists so to speak, are fundamentally just beings of circumstance, and they are weaving their own destiny against the very world that has rejected them. Pandora, the vengeful dark mage. Lanith, Pandora’s loyal succubus, Damien, a sociopathic soul weaver, Azrielle, the misanthropic demon lord, and many more who each carry pasts that inexorably links them together in their effort against ‘good’.

The ‘heroes’, our antagonists of this tale, who are trying to protect that very world against these scorned and despised beings and are too victims of circumstance when destiny pits them against the villains, inevitably bringing tragedies as a result.

Umbral Soul pulls the heartstrings from both ends, and I found myself in turns rejoicing and feeling guilty at Pandora and her friends triumphing over their adversaries, constantly fearing they would somehow be defeated by the very forces of ‘good’. The author expertly juxtaposes the emotional and mental aspects regarding the motivations which have set the protagonists on their paths, and their convictions for their beliefs, with weaknesses imposed because of circumstances beyond their control and the very destiny they are striving to achieve under any means necessary, and it makes the already interesting characters building and adding on with the tale. While the concept of circumstantial villainy taking precedent in stories is not an original concept, I really love the way Umbral Soul maintains a sense of narrative tension from start until the very end regarding how things will possibly turn out for all the characters, which leads to a great payoffs in crucial plot points of the game, and the fact that it humanizes it’s characters in spite of their motivations, and I think what really gets the audience hooked to this story, is the way the cast of ‘villains’ and ‘heroes’ choose to define themselves as people in the grander scheme of things.

From me to you, I find Damien personally to have the biggest potential as the breakout character with how nuanced he really is compared to the rest, next to Pandora anyway.

What further drew my interest was the inclusion of the optional extra scenes that you can unlock after completing certain quests that brought a more in depth look at the characters and added well into the game’s lore and provided exposition that you can discover and learn at your own leisure.

The overall writing in this game has but a few errors in its grammar, but it doesn’t detract the aspect of the storyline too much.

Music 6/10

Okay I guess. Nothing to shout about besides it adding to the scenes of the story and battles. But the incredibly fitting ending theme by Machinae Supremacy really ended things in a banger.

Overall Enjoyment 9/10

With the exception of some mindless grinding and further development of some characters, and Pandora’s evilness sometimes coming off as annoying, I really enjoyed every bit of this game from start to finish and might consider a replay someday in the future, as it without exaggeration made me a believer in how great RPGs can be given the time and effort to craft something great, probably even excellent.

I certainly hope for a sequel but that’s up to you dude. But for now, thank you for giving us an RPG for the ages and thank you for making me fall in love with this genre again!


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What's this? Two reviews back to back? Wait a second, am I on that tv show where they play elaborate pranks on random strangers? What was it called? Punked? Am I being punked right now?

Ah yes, I remember you mentioning posting a review a while back Raven. I also remember being terrified of your impending judgement. After a while, I figured you had seen that the game had already received a bajillion (clearly a real number) reviews, and decided to change your mind. Now that the review's finally here, I'm sure glad you didn't!

Becoming jaded and/or disillusioned with fantasy rpg's over time is perfectly natural. Once you've spent a certain number of years playing the same genre, the magic and wonder you once felt as a sparkle-eyed child fade a bit. I don't think I've reached that point just yet since I haven't played as many games as the average gamer, but I can certainly understand how people end up falling out of love with certain genres. I'm glad that you've managed to reclaim a bit of that joy, and humbled that I could be a part of that process.

I'm even happier to hear that you've come to realize that rpg maker has an immense amount of potential. I don't know if you've messed with it yourself, but I'd suggest giving it a try. There's a little bit of a learning curve, but once you get over the hump, you can have a lot of fun bringing the stories in your head to life. Just be prepared to dish out a lot of time if you do decide to get into it. Thank you for the review, and don't worry, Umbral Soul was meant to be half of a bigger story, so there will indeed be a sequel.

i ve just started playing this game, and its fantastic; wondering if there is a walk through or guide, not saying this game is hard, its just im kinda a completionist, and would love to get the most bang out of this game...

thanks in in advance!
Make the most out of the 30 hours that's given haha.

Always branch off the main quests for the side quests. Side quests will give you lot of good stuff for the endgame later, and seriously add on with the lore of this story.

Look at every fricking box, pot, and chest, and interact with alot of characters, NPC and otherwise, several times unitl you exhaust your options.

Experiment with different party members in your team during quests. More dialogue options and interesting scenes will happen because of it.

And seriously focus on maximizing them Darkness Points. SERIOUSLY. And investing them in the right monster makes for a great strategy when fighting certain enemies.

Grinding is somewhat necessary at the mid point of the game if you want to unlock the rest of your character's skill capabilities. Do it a bit and you'll see how it really benefits in the endgame later.


Just cover all the grounds the game has given to ya and you will heccing enjoy it.

All the thanks goes to Mr Zero of course. The game was worth investing over and it delivered well for what it is.<3
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