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Lessons to be learned from ABL

  • calunio
  • 03/04/2010 02:50 AM
I'm both curious and suspicious when it comes to legendary RPG Maker titles. A Blurred Line is certainly among the most popular ones, so I decided to give it a shot and try to understand why so many people love this game so much.

I say this all the time, and I might as well say it again: when I'm playing an RPG Maker game, I don't change my standards just because it's an amateur game, or because it was made by a single person (compared to commercial games). Games must be fun and entertaining, whether they're professional or not. So if I like a game, it's because it's good (IMO) even compared to commercial ones. And A Blurred Line is just awesome. Extremely innovative and ahead of its time, and definitely worth playing AT LEAST once. Here's what's great (and what's not so great) about it:

In ABL you take the role of many different characters connected in a single plot, but the main character is an ordinary guy called Talan, who is falsely accused of killing the leader of the supreme organization in the world, the Agency. The story progresses as Talan tries to escape from the Agency, meets new people and learns about important events.

Story progression is deeply affected by the player's choices, and that is great, because it enhances the feeling that you're PLAYING the game, not just watching it. When playing ABL, I always had the feeling that each minor decision I made, even getting late to work, or not shaving, would have an important impact on the flow of events. It made me feel responsible, careful, and involved. That's one of the greatest aspects about this game.

The world of ABL is very rich, the dialogs entertaining and well written, and the story is very intriguing and appealing. Can't say much without spoiling anything... but what I CAN say is that the story works so well not just because they way it's written, but because of something else, which is...

Many people say the greatest thing about ABL is the story, but in my opinion, it's not. It's the gameplay (and let me make it clear now that I'm detracting battles from this). The fun thing about this game is that the important events of the story are not just TOLD, they're PLAYED. If, say, a character has a flashback about something of his past, you get to play his flashback. If a computer is being attacked by a virus, you get to play the virus attack. If you're trying to sneak past the guards in prison, there's also a minigame for this, and so forth. There are dozens of different minigames/challenges in this game. Most of them don't compromise your progression in the story, they just give you good items if you succeed. This, along with the fact that you get to use many different characters to take different angles on the plot, makes the game extremely dynamic. ABL never feels boring, never feels repetitive, and that's something every game should aim for.

That's why A Blurred Line is a great game: because it excels on gaming aspects.

Battles are RM2K DBS, which I don't like. ABL had some twists on the battle system, which make it good, but still not great. Each character has a different skill set, and each skill set functions differently, and that's good, because it adds a nice and needed touch of uniqueness to each character (since there are so many). I have to say I was really amused by Talan's skill system: each battle he can Detect Aura and Absorb Aura from his enemies, and each Aura carries different skills. When you absorb a skill aura enough times, you learn that skill. That's very clever, because it makes you WANT to battle so you can learn new skills, even though the battles themselves are somewhat unexciting and repetitive.

ABL graphics are a huge turn off. First, because almost everything is RTP, so every character and every map have that "I've seen this before" feeling, and it doesn't help creating the atmosphere of a different world. Second, mapping is just ugly. I mean, there are some ok maps, but barely anything eye-catching, and some are just hideous.

I gotta emphasize that I'm mostly not complaining that it uses RTP or rips, but because they're badly used. It really looks like there was no effort put into this, or at least mapping is not one of ABL's creator strong points. I mean... what is this?

It also detracts from some cool elements of the game, like Talan's skill system. At any time you can check a list of every skill Talan can learn, and how close you are to learning them. It's a cool feature, but looks plain and awful. It could look so much better with very little extra effort:

I think what bothers me the most about the graphics of this game is that everything else is so great. I got myself thinking all the time things like "wow, this scene is so great, I wish it had batter graphics". Or "wow, this character is so cool, I wish it didn't look like that RTP char". Or "wow, this minigame is so clever, too bad it looks terrible". Graphics are what prevent me from giving this game 5 stars. I seriously think this game need a complete graphic remake, even though I understand how hard it would be to do such thing, especially because the game is BIG (project folder counts 358 maps, some of them are huge).

I didn't like the music from this game either. Battle theme is very annoying, and you get to hear it all the time. Apart from the ending theme, there was no "I like this song" song. And some of them were kinda irritating.

Two more things you should know about A Blurred Line
-Immense replay value. While playing the game, you always have the feeling that things could be much different had you chosen different paths.
-The story doesn't have a decent ending. When you beat ABL, it says you gotta play the sequel, Line's End, to see what happens. And it seems this sequel will never be released. Me no likey.


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Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
At this point I'm more interested in reviews from people who DIDN'T like ABL to understand how that would be possible. However, I can see how this review would be useful to people who have never played the game before. I think your review makes a good point about the graphics, as well, although the sad thing is, if Lys is anything like me, the fact that the CMS looks terrible doesn't necessarily mean he didn't put (a lot) of effort into it.
I liked the music and battles a lot in ABL.
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