A short, simple game, marred by poor writing

  • Gibmaker
  • 07/09/2012 10:25 PM
Before we begin this game, let's not forget what it is: a short game made for NaGaDeMo, professed by the creator to be "not the best" and "not that long."


There's no beating around the bush: the first and last words said about this game have to be about the almost psychedelically poor English. From the first text box in the introduction to the final exposition in the ending, every line of text is blunt and awkward, oddly punctuated and full of spelling mistakes. I'm willing to make guesses about redwall10's age to try and explain it, I'm tempted to try and forgive this game on account of it being a "practice" project, and I'd like to commend Enterbrain for creating a tool that lets kids assemble full RPGs before they can even distinguish are from our, but there's just no denying it: the writing is thoroughly, spectacularly bad.

But it's not boring. Underneath all the staggering dialog is a simple hero story that moves quickly, and other elements of the game, such as dungeon and battle design, are merciful on the player. I can't possibly recommend this game to anyone looking for something genuinely good, but since it avoids many of the most frustrating RM foibles, I actually managed to finish it without punting my computer across the apartment.

The game page emphatically describes how "magic has existed but has remained hidden in the depths of the world" but this really doesn't come across in the actual game. Magic is nothing but a battle command. Really, the story is just about a guy and his sister, whose town gets invaded by an evil empire. Their leader kidnaps the kids and the town "cheff". (One of many persistent spelling errors.) The kids escape from prison through a particularly large and conspicuous crack in the floor, and after returning to their hometown, they spend the first half of the game travelling back through the world to rescue the cheff.

Despite the geographical inconsistencies at work here (a short waterway-themed dungeon takes you to your hometown, but it takes an extensive overworld journey to return to the castle?) I actually like this concept. There's something compelling about the idea of having to struggle to return to the site of a previous failure, getting stronger along the way.

One pitfall is the fact that you trigger the kidnapping event simply by entering your cheff's house, and if you do this right away like I did -- given that it's the house right next to your own -- you'll miss the opportunity to shop for items. The first waterway dungeon contains many enemies that inflict a poison status that I was unable to remedy.

After enough time of being exposed to dialog like this, I begin to assume that everyone in this world is insane, and the game takes on a surreal character akin to David Lynch's Rabbits. I guess it's no surprise then that Japan exists.

After rescuing the cheff the kids get teleported to a second continent to rescue their mom. There's some business with having to take out a den of thugs, but there's no story built around them. The only reason you're fighting them is because a giant black marble is blocking your path, and the big red button that makes it disappear is in their den. And no, that is not an oversimplification of the situation.

So what's good about this game? The best feature of the game is the soundtrack. Redwall10 wisely ignored all the teeth-grinding midis and made the soundtrack out of some truly excellent selections from Romancing Saga. I'd complain that these tracks should have been better prepared for game use (some of them fade out instead of looping) but they definitely helped to make the time I put into this game tolerable. It's not often that I find myself browsing through a game's BGM folder and copying all the tracks to my cell phone.

And maps? The map design in this game is simplistic, but not offensive. Towns have easy-to-locate inns and shops, and not many other features besides that. The dungeons, while cosmetically underwhelming, are relievingly short, as redwall10 avoids the pitfall of thinking that 200 extra tiles in every direction is 200x the fun. That's really all there is to say about dungeons; there aren't any puzzles or special events, so thank goodness they're brief.

And battles? Well, all basic encounters can be defeated by spamming Attacks. I didn't have a choice about this at first, as my characters didn't develop any magic skills other than healing for quite some time. When the Japanese character joins, she has a "Life Drain" skill which is in fact one of the most reliable offensive skills in the game's arsenal, even without its healing effects.

And bosses? Well, they're actually quite reasonable. Boss HP levels are set perfectly, I think, being high but not ludicrous. Some of them do have annoying over-powered multi-attacks, but there's one thing that prevents them from becoming unbeatable roadblocks: Ashley's Heal II spell. It's a full-party healing spell that costs barely more than the single-target healing spell, which she learns very early. My strategy was to have her pre-emptively use Heal II every single turn, to protect against whatever the boss might dish out, and have another character use items to keep her MP full.

And that note refers us back to what I said about the role of magic in the story, or rather the role it's claimed to have in the description, which just doesn't come across: magic in this game is simply a tool, a textbook RPG staple that the characters learn without fanfare as they level up, and nothing at all like the unfathomable, forbidden entity the description makes it out to be. I didn't sense that the titular "Out Casts" were truly cast out in any meaningful way at all.

I have one more criticism about this game which refers to a particular event at the beginning of the first castle: a guard approaches Chris and starts a battle against two Dark Knights. After you defeat them, the battle immediately starts again. And again. And then again. The first time, I thought I had come across a bug where the guard had turned into an "On Contact" event that didn't properly erase itself after firing, and hence I was stuck in a loop battling Dark Knights forever. It turns out that I simply had to fight the exact same battle four times in a row, with no dialog or development in between battles, which isn't a good design decision. It's telling that I mistook this event for a bug. Later there is the same sort of event with thugs, but I'd wizened up to it by then.

Ultimately, every reaction I had to this game comes back to those bloody writing skills. Without a command of language, it's impossible to create an RPG, a type of game where text and dialog are so important for conveying what matters most. It's impossible to characterize the protagonists, since they all sound like aliens gibbering into a blender. Without characters, there's no way to build a sense of urgency or truly make the player care about the story.

I hope I've made it clear that this game doesn't commit the kind of offenses that make me wonder if the designer even playtested through it a single time. It's obvious that redwall10 tried. But, the standard of writing is so far off the mark that it completely drags down what might have been a nifty, if quite traditional, short game.

I score this game 2/5, which is generous considering the actual product, but I'm taking into account the fact that this was made in a month for a contest, and redwall10 would benefit from being encouraged to improve.


Best feature: Soundtrack

Worst feature: I think I've made my point.

Number of rape jokes: 3


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Some people just love to throw down rape jokes!
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
Horrible grammar and rape jokes? This must be the best game!
Rape jokes? This must be the best game!
I couldn't agree more!
Lol, not that I'm for rape or anything..
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