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Penance aka "Michael Bay's JRPG"

Penance is an interesting title. I'll admit to avoiding it for a good while before finally caving to my curiosity and trying the game for myself. I found myself pushing forward on the same curiosity that lead me to download the game and what I came out of it was...something. Whether that something is good or bad is up to the player.

I'll be approaching this review in the format of: Gameplay, Presentation and Story.

Gameplay

At its core, most rpgmaker tsukuru 2003 games play the same to me: Grind, level up, buy equipment, rinse and repeat. Penance throws that notion right out the window by doing away with the grinding and leveling and purchasing of equipment and leaves you with one simple objective and that's to collect items called “Crystallines”.

Throughout the game you'll find yellow ones that boost party stats by two, red ones that boost them by 10 (and later by insane amounts) while giving you a few spare ones to distribute (and these can be found in the field, too – for the ever observant) as you see fit to power up your characters. There are story bound stat bumps but the game encourages distribution of your own accord...

And unless you want to balance your team, Grey and Isabelle will eventually outshine the entire party as your main damage doers. Zaun ends up being...relatively useless once his one time use abilities are expended, but he can be the backup healer (which was odd for a monk character but hey – its manageable.) George is capable of dealing consistent damage if you spec him right, but he's the slowest so don't expect greatness from him (unless you pump his speed up)

Outside of sidequests (which are hinted to be mandatory for the best ending)...the game lacks substance. Which leads me into the next section.

Presentation

The world of Penance has some of the emptiest maps I've seen, with encounters being few and far between (and touch based with the option of fight or flight before the actual fight...like I said, no need for grinding in this) and the few towns you meet are more less story fodder. And so far it sounds boring, right?

Well, if it weren't for the absurd and often humorous interactions (or the attempts at it – doesn't always work but I found myself chuckling and going 'wtf even is this game) of side characters, the game could've been a much stiffer drink to swallow. You've talking cats, exploding robot sentinels, Batman and Robin, a pair of skeletal bros, harpy ladies, naive babes reviving primordial beings...

You get the point I'm reaching for?

The world maps -may- be empty, but the story is told at such a brisk pace that you don't have a long time to dwell on it. The way the stat gains are designed to focus more on the story than the grind helped this to be an easily digestible although limited in venture. More often than not I found myself smiling, shaking my head and laughing at the characters and the interactions that'd pop up...which helped when it came to trying to get into the story.

Story

This is where your mileage with the game may vary as there are NINE different endings. I only played through the game once and obtained the True ending, but for those wanting to experience all it has to offer, you couldn't go wrong blazing through the game in a weekend to see what it has to offer. As stated in presentation, it goes so quickly that you'll know how to make time in the game. The game also boasts of choices, and they do influence the direction your story will play out.

But that's also where I feel like the game is at it's weakest is that sometimes...characters are just there for exposition. Others are there for cameo/story fodder. And the cast of heroes barely interact with each other outside of main story beats. I'm not into spoilers, so I won't give away anything, but if you've ever watched anime, expect some tropes from the most popular shonen to pop up a time or two.

Miscellaneous Notes

I've refrained from putting my thoughts down on the music because I felt I would've derailed the presentation section but...The music choices ranged from rips from JRPGs to a slew of remixes (possibly even the original tracks) from Undertale. Granted, the dev themselves made it clear that Undertale helped inspire them to finish this, so I'm not knocking that. Just that you'll hear the same tracks a few times over but only slightly changed from previous versions. It would have been nice to have more variety in tracks but this is a subjective thought at best.

Despite seeming underwhelming in it's mapping, it's competent enough to serve the overall story but don't expect amazing set pieces.

And the typos...dear gods, the typos. Normally that'd detract points but with the humor in the game itself, I laughed these off (though some more hunting for them and correcting them are in order, but it doesn't ruin the game. I've played far worse in terms of typo/translations)

Final Score

While Penance didn't set out to reinvent anything, what it does provide is an almost campy story of four heroes trying to do what they feel is right. Is it perfect? No. Is it entertaining? Yes. Would Michael Bay endorse it? Probably, just for the explosions. And while it may be a bit too simple for my tastes, the game still managed to get me to laugh and pull me through its paces. I'd recommend giving it a shot and experiencing it yourself, but go into it with no expectations...and enjoy the ride.

I'm giving Penance a...

3.5 out of 5.

Posts

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I'm glad you enjoyed Penance and from what you've said I think the game achieved its purpose. I will take your words into account when making my next game. Thanks for this useful review ^^

P.S. playing the "chaos" mode is like playing a different game. Maybe you should try it out as well. It's not going to change anything, just add a little more to the story.
author=BluePhoenix
I'm glad you enjoyed Penance and from what you've said I think the game achieved its purpose. I will take your words into account when making my next game. Thanks for this useful review ^^

P.S. playing the "chaos" mode is like playing a different game. Maybe you should try it out as well. It's not going to change anything, just add a little more to the story.


I'll definitely give that a go when I've some free time then :D I'm just glad that my review was well received. I do look forward to seeing if you expand on the Crystalline mechanic because I very much enjoyed the freedom of stat growth. Reminded me of Legionwood and it's free-form stat growth and I'm always a fan of those.

Now, I didn't address it but the magic in the game - is it supposed to feel underpowered outside of Mana Burst? I found myself not using any of Isabelles magic outside of her OP healing one and Mana Burst.
author=Punk_Kricket
author=BluePhoenix
I'm glad you enjoyed Penance and from what you've said I think the game achieved its purpose. I will take your words into account when making my next game. Thanks for this useful review ^^

P.S. playing the "chaos" mode is like playing a different game. Maybe you should try it out as well. It's not going to change anything, just add a little more to the story.
I'll definitely give that a go when I've some free time then :D I'm just glad that my review was well received. I do look forward to seeing if you expand on the Crystalline mechanic because I very much enjoyed the freedom of stat growth. Reminded me of Legionwood and it's free-form stat growth and I'm always a fan of those.

Now, I didn't address it but the magic in the game - is it supposed to feel underpowered outside of Mana Burst? I found myself not using any of Isabelles magic outside of her OP healing one and Mana Burst.
Yes, I know :(
I found it hard to balance the magic spells in this game. Outside of exposing some weaknesses on specific enemies, most of the other skills are pretty useless (unless you have 999 Magic on Isabelle and use Sharp Mind). I made Mana Blast because the casters were underpowered when comparing to Grey and George (who can do a lot of damage with their weapon attacks).
That's why I added a skill-level-up system in the game I'm working on now (which is *sort of* a prequel to Penance).
I didn't remove the Crystaline mechanic, but I returned the level-up system and added some more stuff so people will be able to grind for levels and items, but ALSO customise the heroes.
author=BluePhoenix
author=Punk_Kricket
author=BluePhoenix
I'm glad you enjoyed Penance and from what you've said I think the game achieved its purpose. I will take your words into account when making my next game. Thanks for this useful review ^^

P.S. playing the "chaos" mode is like playing a different game. Maybe you should try it out as well. It's not going to change anything, just add a little more to the story.
I'll definitely give that a go when I've some free time then :D I'm just glad that my review was well received. I do look forward to seeing if you expand on the Crystalline mechanic because I very much enjoyed the freedom of stat growth. Reminded me of Legionwood and it's free-form stat growth and I'm always a fan of those.

Now, I didn't address it but the magic in the game - is it supposed to feel underpowered outside of Mana Burst? I found myself not using any of Isabelles magic outside of her OP healing one and Mana Burst.
Yes, I know :(
I found it hard to balance the magic spells in this game. Outside of exposing some weaknesses on specific enemies, most of the other skills are pretty useless (unless you have 999 Magic on Isabelle and use Sharp Mind). I made Mana Blast because the casters were underpowered when comparing to Grey and George (who can do a lot of damage with their weapon attacks).
That's why I added a skill-level-up system in the game I'm working on now (which is *sort of* a prequel to Penance).
I didn't remove the Crystaline mechanic, but I returned the level-up system and added some more stuff so people will be able to grind for levels and items, but ALSO customise the heroes.


Ahh, okay. See, I thought that was the case but since I had no definitive proof, I didn't mention it as part of the review in case it was a limitation based on the software or what have you.

Still! I'm excited to check out your future endeavors :D I'll be keeping an eye on ya.
author=Punk_Kricket
author=BluePhoenix
author=Punk_Kricket
author=BluePhoenix
I'm glad you enjoyed Penance and from what you've said I think the game achieved its purpose. I will take your words into account when making my next game. Thanks for this useful review ^^

P.S. playing the "chaos" mode is like playing a different game. Maybe you should try it out as well. It's not going to change anything, just add a little more to the story.
I'll definitely give that a go when I've some free time then :D I'm just glad that my review was well received. I do look forward to seeing if you expand on the Crystalline mechanic because I very much enjoyed the freedom of stat growth. Reminded me of Legionwood and it's free-form stat growth and I'm always a fan of those.

Now, I didn't address it but the magic in the game - is it supposed to feel underpowered outside of Mana Burst? I found myself not using any of Isabelles magic outside of her OP healing one and Mana Burst.
Yes, I know :(
I found it hard to balance the magic spells in this game. Outside of exposing some weaknesses on specific enemies, most of the other skills are pretty useless (unless you have 999 Magic on Isabelle and use Sharp Mind). I made Mana Blast because the casters were underpowered when comparing to Grey and George (who can do a lot of damage with their weapon attacks).
That's why I added a skill-level-up system in the game I'm working on now (which is *sort of* a prequel to Penance).
I didn't remove the Crystaline mechanic, but I returned the level-up system and added some more stuff so people will be able to grind for levels and items, but ALSO customise the heroes.
Ahh, okay. See, I thought that was the case but since I had no definitive proof, I didn't mention it as part of the review in case it was a limitation based on the software or what have you.

Still! I'm excited to check out your future endeavors :D I'll be keeping an eye on ya.
Yeah, rpg maker 2003 has a lot of limitations there, but I'm getting used to them and learning ways around them.

Thank you for your time ^^
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