Fikemen, give me some "Tactics"!

  • Marrend
  • 07/02/2012 12:20 AM
Game Title: Synthetic Odyssey
Engine: RPG Maker VX
Status at review: In progress/demo

Being one who has some interest in alternate realities, what drew me to this game was it's supposition that there would be characters in this game who originate from other games made by developer team. Perhaps I am being presumptuous, but, looking at the list of games where the characters come from, I assumed the dev team were using characters from the "flagship game" from each developer's repertoire. Six developers, six different approaches to game design. How would this work? Only a game release could really say for sure.

As a side-note, of the games that were listed, I've only actually payed Balance of Requiem, so the concept of idea clash ("Too many cooks spoil the soup.") could, in fact, be totally in my own head, and not based on reality at all.

I like that the game has a graphical consistency with it's faces. Which is more than can be said of other developers. I can appreciate the time and effort Clareain_Christopher set aside to make it happen. However, I'm not going to lie. I'm not a huge fan of these faces, or the art style of them in general. I mean, it's good for, like, stained-glass windows, or the like. But, to use them with living characters? I definitely don't like the eyes. They give the characters and otherworldly appearance. Hell, maybe that's the point, as each of the characters are from different games realities? I can respect that kind of design decision. If they were made that way because somebody thought they "looked cool" or simply wanted to abuse the good faith of Clareain_Christopher, well, the tactic isn't working on me. I am but one voice in the multitude of voices on the internet, however.

I do like the mapping. I'm not sure who was in charge of that, or if the task was delineated by areas, or whatever. Despite this lack of knowledge on my part, kudos to whoever did these maps!

Oh yeah, sprites. Well, I know I've seen the Balance of Requiem sprites before, so, no surprises for me there. I can't really comment on the others, though, as I don't know if they are an improvement over their original source material or not.

One of the first things I do with any RPG Maker game is check out the Audio/BGM directory. It's a terrible, terrible habit of mine. The "credits" file mentions a few names, but I'm not exactly sure who made what. In any event, let's give a shout-out to the pieces that I enjoyed most, with some side-notes:

"Encounter1" - Feels like Final Fantasy combat music, but I don't think it's a rip.

"Nymphea" - Perfect concept music that would go very well with an underwater adventure.

"Rose" - Starts out kinda Castlevania-ish (mood-wise), but ends up rocking (Quite literally!) really hard.

After a brief interlude with I-don't-even-know-who-that-was-or-what-he-is-talking-about, the game starts with Zenna slapping Sana (both Balance of Requiem characters) to wake up. It kinda reminded me of the wake-up sequence I did for The Hole, actually. Though, neither of us should make commentary, as the tactic of having a protagonist wake up at the offset of a game has been done before. Anyway, Sana gets 'ported off to his doom somewhere.

The next sequence involved characters from Chaos Divine, which is pyrofiend324's game. They have their banter, then get ported off. The next character to get snagged is, I presume, somebody from Santoo Rinba, though I could be wrong on that. Then goes a character from Online Forces and/or Lithia (though I could be wrong on that, as well) after an obviously unwinnible battle. Then we flip back to I-don't-even-know-who-that-was-or-what-he-was-talking-about. I'm going to go out on a limb, and say he's from cokidoki's not-on-RMN-that-I-know-of Etheria. Or, maybe not, actually. He might be from *gasp* this game!?

Anyway, some rather odd beings (One of which has a face somewhat reminiscent of Micheal Jackson? Maybe it's just me.) have called all these people here for a tournament contest of skill, fortitude, and all that good stuff. They also blatted something about "helping you helps us", or some-such. Sadly, I wasn't paying too much attention, as I was writing notes for this review.

After the intro, the game has a main hub with two areas. One is called the "Chrono Library" and the other is called the "Time Nexus". The Chrono Library doesn't seem to serve much purpose in this demo, aside from random treasure-hunting, so the majority of time spent in the demo is in the Time Nexus oh, the IRONY, and what challenges it dispenses. The game's tutorial stages were the only challenges available to me. Let's go through them one-by-one.

Tutorial 1 - Basic combat
I already had a small taste of this with the intro, but that was an unwinnible fight. Anyway, ever play Final Fantasy Tactics? Then, you have a pretty good grip of what this is going to throw at you. If not, the combat engine places characters on the map (well, players get to place them, but minor technicality), with options to move, attack, wait, use abilities, and check the status of the character. Most strategy/tactics games I've seen have this unfortunate tendency to allow a move-action, or just an action. Very few games I've seen, such as the aforementioned Final Fantasy Tactics, allow an action-move, or a move-action. I'm glad to see this game can be counted with the games that allow for both an action-move and a move-action.

Thing is, nothing about this system is actually explained. Which, I thought, was what a tutorial was about? I mean, I used my experience of strategy titles to glean what information I'm relaying, and it's probably a good bet that it's correct information. If I was a total newbie to the genre, who needs the explanation more? Well, I dunno. Player exploration is sometimes a good thing, but being able to know that you can't take back your move action, once you confirm it, might be nice information to have up-front. Or, more helpful to the newbies, would be how the heck to take an action in the first place.

Tutorial 2 - Area of Effect Abilities
This tutorial started off saying that it would be a good idea to use an area-of-effect ability, as the opponents here had few HP, but high damage. This struck me as odd, as the only damage-based ability that this character in my party has that qualifies as "area of effect" effects two tiles in a straight line from his position (AKA: "lineage"). I was better off killing guys one-by-one, allowing my counter-attacks to be less actions I have to specify against my opponents. I kinda needed to heal at the end of the fight, but I managed without doing so. So, in the end, this tutorial failed in it's function. At least for a player like me. Maybe a less experienced player might get more out of it.

Tutorial 3 - Hard/Special Enemies
The tutorial starts by saying that there are enemies that require a special item to defeat. Thankfully, the item that is required is "near" said enemy. Except that the tutorial goes on to say that I can go straight for the special enemy. So, curious to see how I fare against the enemy without treasure-hunting. That strategy was pretty much nixed when I saw that they had 2110 HP. The item the stage has me hunt causes 2000 damage to them, so I figured the remainder could be done in a physical attack. Not quite! Their counter-attack on me deal more than half my health, so I died pretty quickly on that run-through.

My next attempt was to rush to the items I needed, then use them on the guys. Obvious, right? Didn't quite work out that way. Well, I did manage to get both items, but I ended up being trapped on a staircase with one of those special enemies practically staring me in the face. For reasons I cannot explain, the AI allowed me to get enough turns to take it out with my AoE skill. I mean all that guy needed to do was move exactly one square up (There was nothing blocking it!), and I'd be as good as toast. For full disclosure, it did move up to attack me, but I had, like, three or four attacks on it before it finally decided to retaliate. Anyway, after I felled that one, I went around to the other one, used my item, then used by AoE skill to finish him off. The rest of the stage was child's play.

This tutorial was a weird experience on many levels. The tactic the designers seemed to intend was to have players get the special items, and use them on the hard enemies when they are close together (the item has an AoE effect). Then, follow up with the character's AoE. If the AI wasn't messing up on the staircase that one time, I would suppose that's exactly how it "must" happen.

Speaking of tutorial 3, clearing it is when the demo ends. Also, about the time I turned off map-scroll. It was pretty dizzying before, with the map camera zooming off to whomever's turn it is. I'd hate to see it enabled with more enemies on the field. So, as awesome of an idea it might be on paper, do yourself a favor, and turn it off. Or the dev-team can take it out entirely, since we're talking about a demo.

Overall entertainment:
The first two tutorials were pretty decent, entertainment-wise. The third, well, I had some trouble with it, and saw some (presumably!) unintentional weirdness. The story? Well, nothing is really explained about why these characters from those other games worlds are here, or even messes much with them after they arrive in the Chrono Library. Of course, I didn't expect the game to explain much, since that's how RPGs have worked since the beginning of time if not before. Does it make me want to see more of the game? Now that's an interesting question. I do want to see how those other characters get involved, and what the heck this "new" group of characters are actually about. Also, I'm not sure if I saw any of cokidoki's influence in this demo. The thing I'm most worried about is the combat engine, and how complicated things might get when there's multiple party members to account for. Just just for AI targeting purposes, but possible path-finding weirdness.

If you want a throw-back to Final Fantasy Tactics, look no further. And come to expect the unexpected.



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Lol to your developer link Marrend.
Cool review, Marrend. I like your writing.
haha, " otherworldly appearances."
I don't know how to fix that, other than redraw some chars.
I'm glad you like the mapping. Hopefully, the battle system will find its ways.
Some problems can't really be fixed, since I'm not a scripter, but we'll see when time passes by.

Edit: Wow, Micheal Jackson ^o^
Also, I'm not sure if I saw any of cokidoki's influence in this demo.
Lol, yeah Coki hasn't exactly contributed all that much. He did one map, and his characters from Etheria are Eleazar, and Wallace, though we haven't really seen him in a few weeks.. :o
I would have loved it if there were some more character-character interactions in the game, but that pesky time limit got to us! Ah well.

Cant really say I was a fan of the battle system (hell, I think this would have been a longer demo without it, but I digress), but it IS pretty fun in a weird sort of way.
Guardian Angel of the Description Thread
Maybe it's just me talking, but the "Basic Combat" tutorial should probably have been done with the first fight with SweetHunny and Bun-Bun, even though it's supposed to be unwinnible. Hell, you could do a small blat about AoE with that fight as well, as SweetHunny's AoE is ten times more useful in that scenario than any of the situations I found Bruce in. Maybe even having some text up-front that says "Sadly, you cannot win this battle, but we can still teach you some basics for the next time!" Or something. Having it be later on would probably cause newbies to be like, "Guys, why didn't you tell me this stuff earlier!?" I could just be focusing a bit much on the newbie angle, though.

Also, maybe I was just imagining things, but facing doesn't seem to matter all that much? I was able to get a few back-attacks in, but there didn't seem to be much bonus, either with damage, or with accuracy, in doing it. Maybe that's just something else you guys were working on, though.
Lol, well like Pyro said, the time limit bit most of us in the ass! (Also, about half of us, myself included were more focused on our own projects or went mia like Coki lol, so we couldn't get much in on this.)

Still, I do agree that the first fight in any game should include at least some kind of tutorial just to help out the beginners~ :)
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