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Found 84 results

  1. Ocedic

    Review: Coats

    Title: Coats Author: Anothergoblin Version: Phase One v2 Review by: Ocedic Note: This project has been updated since this review; this review may or may not reflect the current state of the game. Introduction Coats is a sci-fi survival game that focuses on resource management and character-driven narrative in a post-apocalyptic setting. Presentation In terms of graphics, Coats does a fine job. Visuals are consistent and fit the modern-day theme of the game. There are splash screens littered throughout, and they look great (see above.) The tilesets and mapping are used competently. That doesn't mean there aren't areas that could be improved. A few mapping bugs exist here and there, notably in the observational building where you can walk on blood-stained tiles such as the tables. In general, objects like beds and couches should not be passable in my opinion. It just looks really weird. And while the game looks fine, it doesn't stand out visually which I believe may be the reason this game hasn't gotten as much attention as it could. However, what is there now looks fine and if the author is not interested in taking the graphics up a notch, there's really no pressing need to. Musically, the game has good music and it's used well. Silence is thrown in when appropriate, and the music matches the tone and mood of the game for the most part. I will say that I was a bit surprised by the traditional fantasy RPG style of the music though. I was expecting more sci-fi sounding tunes. Though I think the music works fine, like the graphics it doesn't necessarily stand out or distinguish the game from others. Also, the music almost always feels a bit... hopeful. Which is great if that's what the author is going for, but considering the nature of the setting, if the author intended a more desperate or dreadful feeling, the music should be looked at. Verdict: Good audio and visual Gameplay Coats is essentially a base management game in which you are the head of a research facility. You must maintain adequate levels of food and ammo while keeping your defenses fortified and all the while still making progress on researching the disease. It's certainly an interesting concept and I like the direction the game is headed, but there's definite room for improvement. The first issue is that there's a lack of player choice in general. These types of games should be focused on choices, usually the difficult kind in which there are several areas of resource tension. The most well-done resource tension in this game is ammo vs security vs food. You have a quartermaster who creates ammo every day, but if you want to keep your security up you will have to use ammo. You can also choose to cut into food supply to make your soldiers well-fed and increase security, but this compromises your research time. However, the system lacks nuance and after a few in-game days it becomes very management. There needs to be more variables to make things more interesting. For example, perhaps you need to monitor Skin activity outside your facility, Doing so will give you an idea of how much damage the skins may inflict that day and factor into your resource allocation. Or there could be a pest infestation that raids your food stores. Basically, things kept proceeding at a steady and predictable rate, which doesn't seem to reflect reality and more importantly, isn't very exciting. Another issue is the lack of gameplay variation. Besides managing supplies, you also do a fair amount of talking with your staff. I'll go in more detail on that later, but it does an okay job of breaking up what is otherwise a numbers management game. However, it's still not enough. About an hour into the game, you gain access to this Skin-shooting minigame: The game needs more stuff like that. For example, the above-mentioned pest infestation could require the player to catch the rats. Research could be more interactive. You could choose to take an active part in the defense of the facility, etc. Even something completely distracting like an arcade minigame in the living quarters. It also factors into the player choice thing. Right now, it doesn't feel like the player directly influences the situation of those in the facility other than making some decisions that change numbers. By getting the player more directly involved, it will help create the feeling of immersion. It would also let the player experience the tangible dangers of Skins, which is something that is currently lacking. We see a lot of talk about skins but other than the research section and taking pot shots at them from the rooftop, the lack of encounters doesn't help to give the player an idea of what they're up against. Having said that, what is there is an impressively put-together set of mechanics that makes the player think about at least some of his or her decisions. I found myself anticipating each new day to see what the game would throw at me (usually the usual, but there are days of special events spread out.) Verdict: Needs more interaction, choice and variety, but base idea and design is solid Story Coats takes place during a zombie apocalypse in which you and your team of scientists must find a cure to the epidemic while surviving against the onslaught. The setting does differentiate itself from normal zombie design by making them be skinless creatures known as Skins. It closely resembles Romero's Day of the Living Dead, in which a team of scientists and soldiers tries to survive the zombie apocalypse. Maybe I didn't get far enough, but Coats seemed to lack the science-vs-military theme of that movie. The story itself is interesting; like many zombie stories the reader is interested in finding out more about what happened, why it happened and whether or not the survivors will make it (some or all of these questions are often left unanswered.) One criticism I have is with the introduction. I feel that in a plot like this, you basically have the choice of an impersonal, almost omnipotent perspective such as the movie Contagion, or a personal story that follows one person (and by extension his immediate 'group') and how he or she comes to terms with and adapts to the situation, such as The Walking Dead. The story's introduction kind of mixes both, which I feel weakens the narrative. The main issue is with the pieces of exposition by an invisible narrator that basically tell you what is going on. These really aren't needed and the author should rely more on showing rather than telling. I know he is skilled and capable enough to do so, as the way most of the story is written is well-done. It's just those beginning bits of narration that I take issue with. The dialogue is pretty good, though a lot of characters seem to have cloned personalities, and almost everyone is friendly. A big theme in zombie survival stories is that in spite of the flesh-eating monsters roaming the world, man is still his own worst enemy, and I don't really get a sense of that from this game. Also, some characters completely lack interaction, such as Randall who I thought would be a character you saw much interaction with considering how he was introduced, but he ends up having the same two lines throughout the game. Meanwhile, a character whom you find and take in says the same thing day to day and does nothing else (up until an event involving that character occurs.) Other characters seem to have a large variety of interaction, so I think the author really needs to pay more attention to the lesser-explored characters or cut them. Is Randall really necessary? The soldiers also say the same thing; I get that they're just generic character soldiers but it would be interesting if what they said reflected the current situation and status of the facility. There are also a few typos here and there; the author really needs to export the dialogue (there is a script for this) and proofread the work. There's not that many which is impressive considering the amount of dialogue contained in this project. Another issue with the writing itself is that dialogue sometimes has an inordinate amount of pauses. For example: That piece of dialogue, for example, could be condensed to at least 50% of what it is. The author seems to add a lot of random, unnecessary clauses that could be cut out. Nothing breaking, but just ways to improve the flow of the writing. Verdict: Compelling story, well-done dialogue, some characters are flat or need to be fleshed out Recommendation I definitely recommend this project to those who are interested in story-driven games that try something new, or those who are interested in zombie or survival stories. Though there are certainly improvements to be made, it's still a robust and engrossing game that is well-crafted and well-written. I'm personally looking forward to future updates to this game, which is actually fairly rare for me.
  2. Ocedic

    Review: Crossing

    Title: Crossing Author: Xephyr Version: Chapter 2 Review by: Ocedic Introduction Crossing is a humor-based JRPG with an emphasis on writing. Presentation Graphically, Crossing is fairly robust. There are some custom tilesets, and the graphics in general are used to good effect. One big thing is I didn't notice any emotive facesets for the characters, though that did kind of fit their one-note personalities (more on that later.) It was also inconsistent which characters received facesets and which didn't. Most NPC's don't have facesets, which is fine, but then a few randomly do. The mapping is pretty good in terms of visuals. There is a healthy amount of doodads scattered about each map without looking too cluttered. There are, however, some strange mapping/pathing bugs such as this: Audio-wise, Crossing is about average. At this point, Aaron Krogh may be as common if not more common than default RTP music, but the author does change the pitch so these familiar songs sound a bit different. Ultimately, Aaron Krogh made great music so there's no shame in using it. Those who are familiar with RM games will not be blown away though. The actual use of audio is a bit more questionable, as a lot of times the music just felt out of place or just used in strange ways. The decision to not have battle music is interesting, and though it took some getting used to I kind of liked it. There really should be a sound when you enter battles though, as the disconnect between the events taking place on screen and the lack of familiar auditory cues for the player may be too much. And really, there should be SOME kind of emotional reaction from the player when he enters combat, and audio is used to reflect that. Thus, at least a battle SE is recommended. Verdict: Good mapping, passable graphics, audio weird Gameplay This is where Crossing really hurts. My emotions while playing the game could be summed up as frustrated and bored, almost solely due to gameplay. First, I'll point out that there's random battles. Now that in itself isn't exactly a death sentence. I personally find them annoying, but hey, they're a genre staple and some people like them. I can get over that. However, the problem is that there's random battles in conjunction with maze-like maps that really drives you over the edge. I couldn't play this game for more than 20-30 minute sittings as each dungeon was just exhausting to get through. In short, you really shouldn't make exploration a focus of your gameplay if you use frequent random battles. Because of the nature of random battles, I didn't want to explore since that would mean fighting more enemies, yet I was forced to explore to the dungeon design. On top of the fact that there's tons of battles simply because you're wandering around searching for stuff due to the design of the game, the battles themselves are tedious and tiresome. Many monsters deal bizarrely high amounts of damage, which isn't that big of a deal as the game is very generous with healing items, but it just makes things drag on longer as you need to heal quite often. Battles have little strategy or skill involved. You start with no special abilities (I'm still wondering why any character has the 'Special' command) so they're practically indistinguishable. Just two guys with the ability to attack and use potions with slightly varied stats. Later on, you get access to magic, but it's the standard Final Fantasy-style spell system where you have one spell with six different elemental deviations. The first time you use magic, enemies are conveniently named after their elements, which was a clever way to introduce players to the mechanic of elemental strengths and weaknesses. Unless games are really, really hard for you though, you'll figure it out after the first battle and things become as mundane as before. Instead of spamming attack over and over, you spam the spell that is strongest against your foe while every other character attacks. The system is also flawed because there's really no way to tell which monster is weak to which once their names no longer list their type. You basically just blindly guess until something works. Is there something inherently earth-like about Gazers and Snakes? Essentially, the spells aren't very interesting and the weakness system is not very challenging, engaging or original. At the end of the day, your best options are crystal clear and players do not have to think about their actions in combat. This mundanity magnifies the too-many-battles issue, and I found myself groaning each time I took a wrong path in a dungeon and had to fight 3-5 more needless random encounters. On the other hand, the author does have some puzzles here and there to break up the tedium. I welcomed most of these diversions, but the flame-running thing in the mansion was a bit over the top. It was pretty annoying and half of my deaths were due to there being so little space between 'sets' so I would die even though I got through a set because I kept moving. The last part of that event in particular is pure sadism on the author's part, and I actually stopped playing for a few hours when I got there. Other than that, the puzzle elements were well done. Verdict: Boring battles, too many battles, forced exploration resulting in more battles, decent puzzles Story The game focuses on humorous writing, and it's not bad. Sometimes the author relies too much on lampshading, and the heroes have a tendency to simply state the current situation they're in, making them all seem like robots devoid of personality. I really enjoyed the main character's carefree attitude, though that lends the player to adopt a similar attitude and not really care about the game. The story might as well be a random series of events. There is a consistent villain who keeps popping up, and you have a general sense of a constant goal, but there's no real motivation for the player to be invested in this plotline. The hero himself doesn't even seem to take it too seriously. The villain's actions also feel very deus ex, as he has the ability to teleport (this attribute almost solely for the sake of letting him drive the plot forward by causing mischief) but doesn't seem to do anything substantial with it. It just allows him to be there when he needs to be to remind everyone that he's the villain and you should kill him. In the lore of the game magic is supposed to be rare, but you wouldn't know it playing the game as you just use magic freely and without consequence. This is because some company developed tablets which let anyone learn magic, but it raises the question of why that needed to be plot at all. The world's people seem to accept free magic pretty easily and without question, and if magic had never been rare at all and it simply existed commonly throughout people, the plot of the story doesn't seem like it'd be much different. It's not entirely clear if the story is meant to be taken seriously or humorously. It seems like the plot itself is sold as serious, but every other situation the hero finds himself in is meant to be lighthearted and humorous. Verdict: Story is hard to be invested in, writing is good Recommendation I stopped playing when I came across this boulder. I searched around and interacted with every object I could see, but at that point the random battles made it painful to walk 10 steps to search for whatever moved this object. If you're in the mood for a humorous RPG with fun dialogue, I do recommend this game. The gameplay could be more fun and creative, and the difficulty seems to be at odds with the lighthearted tone of the story, but if you can get past those hurdles this is a solid slice of JRPG.
  3. Title: Liphidain: Dissonance of Darkness Author: Tharis Version: Demo 1.0 Review by: Ocedic Note: This project has been updated since this review; this review may or may not reflect the current state of the game. Introduction Liphidain is a JRPG and the author's first project. It needs a lot of work, but there are a few redeeming qualities and the author shows promise. Presentation The game is heavily RTP based, but the author has thrown in a fair amount of custom art such as using Celianna's trees and Closet's facesets/charsets. Overall, the game has a consistent look, which as I've mentioned before is the most important thing graphically. Mapping wise, the game does an acceptable job. Some parts look a bit barren, like this: In other parts, it seems like the author threw a lot of random objects on the ground to populate the environment, making things look messy and haphazard. The solution to both of these issues is to simply make smaller maps, which will also address a gameplay issue that I'll come to later. There are so many rooms and houses that are irrelevant to gameplay and story yet they exist to occupy space. The maps are simply too large, resulting in the author trying to fill the massive amount of empty space instead of letting the environments come naturally. However, the author clearly has an eye for aesthetics, and mapping is surprisingly robust for a creator's first project. The town looks well-proportioned and clean. In terms of audio, it's rather forgettable. The town music brought back some RPG Maker 2000 memories; other than that none of the sounds or music really stuck out to me. What is there works, but like the graphics it doesn't help the game stand out. Verdict: Can be better Gameplay This is where the game needs a lot of help in a number of aspects. The game is fairly frustrating both during combat and while exploring. I'm actually at a loss at where to start with battle issues. It makes me wonder if the author had playtested them, because the balance is insane. The first mandatory battle, for example, I simply lost. I have no options other than to defend as you start with no special skills, so I just attacked the guy over and over. Unfortunately, he evaded one attack and so he killed me, and that was it. There's a number of things wrong with this. For one thing, the player needs some kind of choice for this to be a game. I should be able to choose to use an ability or attack, for example, and weigh the cost and benefits of each action. And no, choosing to use a potion or not doesn't really count. Second, it's just bizarre that the first battle can be lost so easily. I almost gave up and quit right there because I was thinking if the first battle is so broken, wouldn't the rest of the fights be? And unfortunately, they are. You can go on a side quest to clear a basement full of rats, but they hit you for 2/3rds for your health in one attack. Which means you can attack once, then you're basically screwed because you can either attack (and die,) defend or heal (and be hit for 2/3rds life again.) So that side quest is essentially impossible because of that. I'm all for challenging battles, but when the first enemy in the game two-shots you and is intended to be a lowly side quest enemy, it seems like the game has moved into the realm of being unfair. The battles and damage formulas need a serious overhaul to be playable, and I recommend giving the character at least one ability to start with. Now, outside of battles the game really doesn't fare much better. I think I should first point out that you cannot sprint, and your speed is the default walking speed. Now that itself I don't mind so much, as I personally like to disable sprint so the player doesn't just blitz through the game like Sonic the Hedgehog. But the default speed is way too slow for this; it should really be sped up slightly. Also, this exacerbates the earlier problem of the maps being too big, as waddling around at turtle speeds is just painful torture. Another issue is that the game is very obtuse as to objectives. I got lost many times at different points, not realizing where the game was trying to direct me towards. And all I was trying to do was complete a simple delivery quest. The game needs a quest log, or some kind reference to guide to the player. For example, the father gave me the delivery quest. If I talk to him again, he shouldn't say "Have you finished your deliveries yet?" but rather he should re-iterate what the quest was. Otherwise, your player can be stranded with no way to tell where to go and is forced to waddle around slowly until he or she stumbles across the next location (which is basically what I resorted to.) As a developer you know how to beat your game, but remember that your players don't have this luxury. It's much harder to have too much hand-holding as opposed to having too little information, so err on the side of ease. And again, smaller maps and environments would help lessen this issue as well. Overall, the experience was fairly frustrating just to complete what was essentially a chore. Verdict: Battles completely broken, exploration needs work Story The game begins with a surprisingly interesting introduction. You're introduced to a grand war being waged between what I assumed were angels and demons. The game then cuts to the present day and you start playing as a boy who is being raised by one of the angels (presumably to become a badass holy warrior or something and win the war against the demons.) The story abruptly slows to a crawl, and you go from epic celestial war to delivering groceries. The story is a little bit unoriginal, but I think there's enough there to be somewhat engaging. In terms of the story itself, there isn't much more to say as I didn't get too far into the demo. It didn't really stand out, but I guess I wasn't completely uninvested in it. Some characters are well written and stand out, such as the father and crazy old man. Others seem very forced and even abrasive, like the female character you bump into. The main character himself also lacks a distinct voice. He seems to just react to everything going on around him, making him little more than a passive vehicle for the narrative. I noticed that the author seemed to pay attention to polish in regards to the writing itself. However, there are some instances where this slips up: Grammatical mistakes are a huge turn off in games, so make sure those are stamped out. Verdict: Somewhat generic, decent character personalization with the exception of the two most important ones: the main character and his love interest Recommendation After realizing the impossible battle difficulty would hinder any progression, I had to stop. In its current state, I can't recommend this game. For an author's first game it's actually pretty well-done, and the writing is good enough to keep you interested if the gameplay wasn't so broken. I hope the author will polish it up and work on his weak points, as I think he has a feel for what makes good RPG's but needs more practice.
  4. Title: Breathwind: Return of the Dragons Author: Obrusnine Version: E0 v2.3 Review by: Ocedic Introduction Breathwind is a high fantasy RPG that is characterized by its verbose storytelling and western RPG influences. Presentation The first thing you encounter with Breathwind is its intro, which stands out from the typical RM game intro by being a voice-over movie. The video compression seems iffy, as the video quality seemed to be rather low and there is clear pixelation, seen below. Since it was just a series of still images, it begs the question of why it has to be a movie file at all. The quality would probably be better if it were just pictures shown, and I imagine it would equate to a smaller file size as well. The voice narration is okay, but not spectacular and it's clear that it's the author himself which pulls you out of immersion. It's highly recommended that the author find an actual voice actor for these narrations. In terms of the visual content of the intro, repeat images were noticeable, which also lends to the feeling of non-immersion. The game itself uses a lot of RTP and facegen. The author seems to have a good grasp on creating a consistent visual tone. The main offender here are the maps, which are blocky and unnatural. This is both a graphical issue and a gameplay one which I'll get to later. The author has acknowledged his weakness in mapping, but that seems to be all he's done. It's not really excusable to simply say "I'm not good at mapping" and just ignore the issue. The thing is, the mapping isn't totally bad, it's mostly just the maze section that offends. The map is unreasonably huge and the paths are just narrow walkways, The UI needs to be looked at, as things can seem a bit messy and incomprehensible. The position of the time/date seems to be in a poor location, as it blocks part of the main viewable play area. The information could be condensed and moved to be in a less intrusive area. Do we really need to know the year at all times? Or even the month and date? It may seem like a small point, but small touches like that have huge ramifications in how the game looks and feels. In terms of audio, the music is fairly good and fits the theme of the game, though the selection does get rather repetitive considering the huge amount of time spent navigating the environment (more on that later) and constant battles. It comes across as a bit generic overall, but it fits the vision of the author and it works, so that's not a big deal. Verdict: Mapping needs work, UI should be looked at Gameplay Breathwind's main differentiating feature is its survival system, which in theory forces the player to manage attributes like stamina, hunger and thirst to not die. In practice, the system is rather simple and mundane. In old versions, it had really gotten in the way of gameplay, but now it seems to negligible and trivial. I didn't use a single survival item during my playthrough, but that isn't the issue itself. There just isn't a real feeling that those conditions are anything more than numbers the player has to manage. In essence, there's no getting around that fact, but it's up to the designer to mask it. They're also indistinguishable from one another, with the exception of temperature. Perhaps it should be changed to some kind of graphical representation rather than numbers, and add more effects to the attributes to differentiate them. Perhaps you shouldn't simply die from zero stamina, but rather suffer a combat penalty based on stamina. At the moment if you die from stamina, it's just odd and feels jarring. The gameplay is just... not very fun. Part of it is the huge map in which you navigate a labyrinth of the same enemies. The map size should really be reduced, which would make the dungeon less tedious and help with the mapping issues mentioned earlier. Things got better at the 'trials' part. I have to say, if most of the dungeon crawling consists of the first half of the dungeon, it would really test my patience. The game would be better off if a lot of needless wandering was cut out, and the environments were prettied up a bit so that thinks don't feel so repetitive. Also, the trial of intelligence was a fairly poor choice of puzzle, as it basically relies on someone knowing the term or not. I liked the poem riddle, although that seemed more related to intellect than spirit, as I would say someone who is smart is one who can figure something out rather than just possessing some random knowledge. Not a big deal, but I think a better puzzle could be made. The battles themselves are okay, but the use of default abilities is disappointing. I ended up just attacking over and over again until I needed to heal. Spend some time in things related to combat to make it more interesting. For one thing, incorporating the survival system with battle performance would make things very interesting. And a small note, but for some reason Heal 3 costs less MP than Heal 1 while Heal 2 costs more than 1. Just seems very odd: Verdict: Exploration not fun, battles dull, survival system promising Story This seems to be where the author spent most of his efforts and it shows. The game is rather loquacious and verbose, many times to a fault. It's very easy to lose interest in the extensive lore simply because there's so much of it, and it's not necessarily interesting or relevant. The intro begins with a huge amount of info dumping and the backstory goes on some tangents that seemed to just add needless complexity to the plot. The story about the war with the dragons itself is very interesting, but then it starts talking about human kingdoms and I actually just zoned out. Parts like that just seem very pointless to throw at the player at the beginning. And really, if you think about it the entire dragon war was fairly pointless if they just ended up being the humans' allies anyways. The first half of the intro could be cut and the rest of the story would essentially be the same, as it seems in modern times humans and dragons are best friends. The author smartly puts a lot of lore in a codex section that is optional to read. I do think that there's way too much stuff unlocked at the beginning. I realize the author has spent a lot of time on the lore and backstory and is eager to share it, but I imagine many players will be turned off and just ignore it due to the sheer volume of text. The lore entries should be spaced out a bit more evenly so players have time to digest it bit by bit. I did read the monster entries and they were actually fairly interesting, so I think this is a great feature that could be done better. Ultimately, the writing itself is well done. The flow of the narrative feels good, and the end of the demo did leave me wanting to find out what happens. It does take a very long time to get to that point, however, and that's never a good thing. As I mentioned to another developer, if you have to keep saying "Be patient it gets better" then something is wrong, as the intro needs to hook the reader and is probably the most important part because that's when they decide whether or not to put the book down. Part of this is the monotonous gameplay mentioned earlier that should be addressed, but the long-winded narrations don't help matters. The author's job should be to entice the player to learn more about his world, rather than throwing his world at the player and hoping the audience will become engrossed. Verdict: Some portions too verbose, but otherwise interesting Recommendation I do think this game is worth a look if you're into Western fantasy. There are gameplay issues that drag the experience down and the overall experience could use some more polish, but at its core there is a rich story that is waiting to be told.
  5. Ocedic

    Review: The Last Prince

    Title: The Last Prince Author: Arin Version: 1.3c Review by: Ocedic Note: This project has been updated since this review; this review may or may not reflect the current state of the game. Introduction The Last Prince is a JRPG that, on the surface, appears to be fairly typical RPG Maker fare. There are a few things that set it apart from the crowd, but bugs and polish issues hold it back. Presentation The Last Prince is mostly composed of RTP graphics. For the most part, it's consistent, but there are bits and pieces that look out of place and jarring. The president's faceset, for example, uses the Facegen and looks sorely out of place when every other faceset appears to be regular RTP. The emosets look decent and are used well, but Leon's 'closed eyes' face looks pretty weird. I like the use of graphical anime tropes to convey emotion. Mapping is generally bad, though at times passable. Many environments look blocky, barren and sometimes downright strange: It doesn't help that the maps are huge. A lot of maps need quite a bit of polish, especially a ways into the demo once you meet Chester and go through the mountains. It's like the author got lazy and stopped caring about mapping entirely at that point, or just really rushed to create new content. In terms of audio, The Last Prince fares much better. The music is great and so are the sound effects. The only criticism here is the music sometimes seems off. At times there are weird periods of silence for inexplicable reasons, and other times the music just doesn't match. For example, at one point you see a city burning in the distance, yet the same lighthearted field music is playing which doesn't really match the gravity of the situation. Verdict: Audio good, graphics okay, mapping needs lots of work Gameplay The game has a lot of potential here, but ultimately falls flat. First, I chose Easy mode to quickly progress through the game, yet battles still seemed to take forever. They weren't very challenging, just very frequent and very long. Even the weakest enemy in the game seems to have an unusually high amount of hit points. I couldn't imagine playing the game on a higher difficulty if fights take even longer. Though there aren't random battles, you're forced to fight constantly because there are so many enemies on the field and they seem to seek you out. Running is hit or miss, as sometimes they immediately catch you again as soon as you escape. The end result is a lot of mandatory battles that seem to go on and on. Last Prince's standout gameplay feature is the chain system, which is actually a lot of fun and feels very rewarding and satisfying to use. However, similar to how Final Fantasy's cool summon spells eventually wear your patience thin, the long winded chain system will lose its appeal after a while. The system feels woefully underutilized from a game design standpoint. I found myself using the same chains over and over which generally involved mashing A. Sometimes you're supposed to switch it up for different elemental weaknesses, but I don't really consider that strategy. In general, the skills are very uninspired; most are basically just the default skills. It also doesn't help that Siegfried shares the same starting chain skills as Leon when characters who barely stay in your party like Chester or Yukari have unique set of chains. This is honestly the game's biggest weakness: the combat isn't fun and skills aren't fun. If these were improved I would have a much better time playing the game. Outside of combat, the game is okay. There are a lot of side paths to explore for people who like to find every piece of treasure. The huge maps make you get lost sometimes, and there is a tedious amount of backtracking which exacerbates the issues mentioned. You'll be fighting the same monsters over and over simply because the game makes you run back and forth between areas that you've already been through. There's also minor bugs involving followers: Verdict: Has potential, needs work Story I would say this is the strongest part of The Last Prince, though it's not without flaws. I was intrigued by this project to begin with because of its political story involving a fledgling democracy. Unfortunately, this part of the backstory isn't explored very well, and it just seems to be 'there.' Honestly, you could write the same story if you completely ignored the aspects of government. This isn't necessarily bad, just disappointing and different from what I expected. Other than that, the story feels a lot like an anime which is both good and bad. Characters have distinct and unique personalities, though sometimes they are a bit on the extreme side of quirkiness. There's also a bad case of character bloat, as you go from having two solid, well-written characters to a party of 5 in a short time. Some of those extra characters just seem utterly pointless, especially Chester. As you might imagine, character development sharply falls off once this deluge of characters comes into the picture. The NPC's are very bland and boring. Almost none of them have any personality to speak of, and they seem completely indistinguishable from one another. It doesn't help that their dialogue does not change at all when you're forced to backtrack through the same towns, which makes them seem even more like lifeless decorations. They also don't seem to offer anything insightful about the political climate even though they just recently instated democracy for crying out loud. The plotline itself is kind of nonsensical. Leon starts off by talking about how the world doesn't need him, since he's the last prince and heir to an archaic system. Yet inexplicably he's the most sought after character in the story. I imagine the bad guys have some reason to capture him which will be explained later, but it doesn't make sense that any of the good guys would care about a worthless noble. The narrative just feels forced, like stuff is happening for the sake of the game progressing. It made me lose interest as the game progressed as I felt that I didn't have a real goal or purpose. It's a shame because I think the setup of the plot is very interesting as a man who is trying to find his place in the world that has changed drastically. Verdict: Interesting but underused premise, solid characters, NPC's need personality Recommendation First, I didn't finish this demo as my game froze when I got to this ironically appropriate scene: I can say that I had a lot of fun early on, but the game got progressively less interesting as it went on. The characters are enjoyable enough that I'd say give it a try, and I think if the author polishes up the project a bit more it can be a solid, robust adventure.
  6. Ocedic

    Review: Spirit Spark

    Title: Spirit Spark Author: Titanhex Version: Demo Review by: Ocedic Introduction Spirit Spark is an interesting amalgamation of different genres. It feels like it combines elements of pseudo-real-based strategy, RPG, puzzle and adventure. Presentation Visually, Spirit Spark looks great if at times inconsistent. The animations are superb and the lighting adds just the right amount of visual flair without becoming distracting. The UI and custom HUD/menu are top-notch quality, and the custom tilesets, custom sprites and solid mapping really help set this apart from your run-of-the-mill RPG Maker game. However, because the quality of the custom graphics is so nice, it makes the few default stuff that is present even more jarring than normal. For example, the custom main menu looks awesome, but then you go to select items and it's the same default item menu as always. It looks even more out of place and bare-bones than normal due to the beautiful menu system that led you to it. The music is somewhat hit or miss. Steaming Wonderland is an awesome track, but otherwise the music felt fairly forgettable. Music also seemed to be used at odd times. There are long stretches of silence, which isn't a bad thing in itself but it didn't seem to transition well into the moments when music would be playing. Basically, as a player I was consciously thinking about the audio (or lack thereof) rather than focusing on the game and the experience, which is never a good thing. I would suggest that silence be used a bit more sparingly and you really pay attention to when the music comes in and out. Verdict: Good visuals, audio needs work Gameplay I would say this is where Spirit Spark really stands out from the crowd. It combines a number of different gameplay elements into one game. The first that you encounter is the custom battle system, which feels like a hybrid real/turn-based strategy system in which you fight on a grid in an almost Battleship-esque fashion. Your moves are limited by AP which regenerates during the course of battle, requiring you to utilize some strategy. Initially, it feels alien and honestly the ingame tutorial didn't do the best job of explaining, but it makes sense once you play around with it. Mechanically, it's very interesting and unique, but is it fun? Mehhhh. I wasn't exactly dying for more, and it came across as a slow-paced, somewhat awkward ABS. And though my computer could run it fine, lesser rigs may struggle to handle it. Next, there is a detective section in which you highlight objects to reveal what to do. I liked it, but the cursor moved way too slowly and felt clunky. Otherwise, it seemed like a neat way to incorporate puzzle-solving. And on that subject, the last gameplay element was actual puzzles: There was your standard crate pushing fare before you come across this intriguing puzzle involving fires and colors. This puzzle exemplifies one of the biggest flaws of the game in which it's not always clear what to do next or where to go next. A hint by this puzzle states that Blue engulfs Red and Red engulfs Green or something to that effect, but the machine wouldn't take any of the flames no matter what. I spent a long time doing everything I could think of, and the machine didn't respond to anything. There may have been something elsewhere in that zone that I may have missed, but damned if I'm going to explore all of this: Also of note is the minor bug where your main menu pops up when viewing this map. Note that this map is on a stationary object you must interact with and it's easy to get lost in that giant sewer system. So at times you get lost wandering around and have to trial and error your way back to the map just to look at it. It just confounds me why it has to be so big, or why the designation of where the player is supposed to go or do isn't more clear. And that giant labyrinth isn't the only offender. The first moment you can start walking around, it's easy to get stuck: I spent a good minute or so trying to find an exit until I realized that the staircase to the lobby was tucked away in the corner of the room you sleep in. It begs the question of why this second floor even exists. The character then vaguely mentions he wants to go on a stroll, but as a player you have no idea where you're supposed to go to next. You end up going to one of the exists which has a green arrow hovering over it, but you can only see this arrow if you come across that exit anyways. So before then, you have to wander around a gigantic map with no idea of where to go. Now, I want to mention that these issues, while glaring, can be resolved and are by no means a fundamental flaw to the game. I see where the creator is going and can follow his logic, I just think the execution could be less cryptic to the player. I don't expect the solution to every puzzle to be handed to me, nor do I want the game to be one giant hallway like some professional games that won't be mentioned here, but players shouldn't be totally lost as to how to proceed. The maps in general seem needlessly gigantic without things to explore, so I feel that they should be reduced in size. Verdict: Cool ideas, needs work Story The story took a long time to get off the ground. Much longer than needed, in my opinion. You start out in a void as a spirit spark and pick how your character looks. While this is an interesting way to incorporate character creation, the developer tries to mix it with the lore of the world which only serves to confuse and drag out this section longer than it should. You then go through several cutscenes with fairly robust writing, but at times it seemed like the characters were trying too hard to have unique personalities and their banter felt time-consuming rather than a pleasure to read. There's also several flashback sequences which serve to create an emotional connection to the main character. And this part is written pretty well, as it's easy to sympathize with the character's mother and the hardships she has to endure for the sake of her child. However, the number of cutscenes it takes to convey this is simply too many. Honestly it could be done with one flashback and all of the relevant information and emotion would be conveyed. Overall, I would recommend the creator get into the meat of the story sooner, because that's when it got interesting and enjoyable. Your character gets ambushed and the story starts to take off from there. I liked the direction that the narrative was headed after that; unfortunately the fire puzzle mentioned earlier prevented me from experiencing more of it. Verdict: Interesting story once it gets going, slow to start Recommendation The game is fairly polished and has interesting systems. The experience was amusing, but not necessarily fun. At times it like I was playing a tech demo rather than a game. However, this game has a lot of potential and is definitely one to keep your eye on. The creator clearly has high standards for his game and the technical skills to reach that standard, so give it a shot.
  7. Ocedic

    Review: Actual Sunlight

    Title: Actual Sunlight Author: NeonCowboy Version: Demo Review by: Ocedic Introduction Actual Sunlight is one of those games that is hard to categorize. The closest I could come to was a visual novel, but even that would still be woefully misleading in what to expect from this game. Presentation Graphics are probably Actual Sunlight's primary weak point. They aren't horrible, but they fail to inspire any tone or emotion. Everything graphical feels so utilitarian and pragmatic rather than beautiful. The modern-day tileset is made to look functional and the environments at least vaguely resemble the real-life counterparts they depict. And it could be argued that the drab and lifeless setting emulates the narrative that the author is weaving, but there are places where more visual pizazz would have been appropriate. The first half of the game, for example, should be a juxtaposition to the bleaker second half when Evan's life begins to fall apart. And the final scene seemed to go for a bit of surrealism; a nice weather effect (like Mog's weather script) could have helped achieve that. The sequence where you smash things could also be more effective if things were actually broken graphically or the breaking animations didn't feel so hacked in. In addition, the forgettable graphics don't do it any favors in helping to set it apart from other games (even though at its foundation, this is a very, very different breed of RPG Maker game.) There were some points that used graphics that were out of place, such as Ralph on the crowded bus and other fantasy-themed RTP characters. One of the worst things to do in a game is have inconsistent visuals. There's also some slight mapping errors here and there, like this for instance: The audio on the other hand is very well done. Sound effects are fitting and used well, such as the alarm clock at the beginning of the game. The music is well-chosen and does an effective job at setting the mood and tone. Verdict: Needs Work Gameplay There isn't much of a game here. It basically involves walking around and interacting with every object to uncover more and more of the story. The game is more of a novel than most visual novels, I would say. To my knowledge, there isn't even an element of choice that changes the dialogue, narrative or outcome of the game. This isn't really meant as criticism, and I'm glad the author did not shove in needless gameplay elements for the sake of trying to conform his work to the abstract definition of a game. It is what it is, and it's good at what it does. Verdict: Not Applicable Story This is the heart of Actual Sunlight. If you want to try this game, be prepared for lots of reading. And not the friendly, hold-your-hand type of exposition you may be used to. The story of Actual Sunlight is told in small chunks, each one layered and at times poetically written. In spite of its seemingly alienating design (or perhaps because of it,) Actual Sunlight touches on a lot of themes that may hit close to home for much of its audience. Evan represents the man we hope we never become, despite the fact that we live perilously close to such a downtrodden existence. From his grandiose dreams of fame, longing for significance and terrible procrastination, to his deep inflection during his showers, Evan is an examination of the human condition through the lens of what some would consider a privileged and lucky individual. My favorite part about the story is that it doesn't judge. You're simply an observer watching a man's life self-destruct, and whether you feel pity, fear, anger, inspiration or apathy is up to you. That's the mark of brilliant writing. Verdict: Fantastic Recommendation If you're the type of person who would enjoy this game, you're probably already downloading it. Those who like to experience games that are different, or story-focused games should give this a whirl. Though the game is fairly short, it requires your undivided attention to be fully appreciated, so I suggest you play it when you are free from distractions and can devote time to its thick, layered narrative.
  8. So after all of that hard work of setting it up, we finally were approved and launched our project on kickstarter! Check it out and let me know what you think! If you enjoy it, then spread the word! Every little bit helps! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1996622298/rpg-project-demons-revenge
  9. silversatyr

    Resource Backlog #2 - Tiles

    Resource Backlog #2 - Tiles Welcome to the second of the Backlog series of blogs. This time I'll be compiling all my older tiles and chipsets. I've done a lot of work over the past year or so on customising tiles to fit my games and what I have, I'm happy to share. As always, credits are appreciated if these are used in your own games. Side view water tiles for cutoff. Closer to the RTP color scheme: One tile high shelves, roof to match the hut, window edits, boxes More tiles: Sideways stepping stones/path, recoloured barrel, well, chimney and windows. A1 and 2 tile edits/recolours Outer hut edit/recolour Stove edit, snowy stepping stones, string sign Created for a cartoonish game that never saw the light of day. Original 100% TileA4 Edits. For creepy places. Snow house (Square Igloo anyone?)
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