Ladra

Developer Is Future Bright has brought to us quite a unique RPG Maker game. See, my qualm with RPG Maker games is that all games end up being practically the same: same sprites, same tiles, similar boring old story that attempts and fails at a new twist… but Ladra… Ladra is truly different for a game with this engine.

In Ladra you play as Estella, a thief who finds out about an upcoming war and decides to put her skills to better use. The story itself isn’t anything grand, and the game is rather short, of course, the RPG Maker engine makes it so that all the annoyances present in this type of game are there (such as the inability to press F12 for screenshot lest you close the game, or the rather basic tiles), but what games the game unique, and absolutely worth the buy (even at full price), is the gameplay style, for Ladra is not a typical fight-based RPG, but rather a stealth/puzzle RPG that, yes, seems vaguely inspired by the Thief franchise.

In this game, rather than attack enemies, you have to use 100% stealth. Hide in the shadows or various other places, crouch around and avoid patrolling enemies while you seek each level’s many treasures (a main one and several bonus ones that are optional). What I particularly liked (and it also drove me insane because I’ve been spoiled with ‘simpler’, clunkier, stupider games) was that even when you’re hiding in the shadows you can’t just walk right in front of the guards, because they will still see you. Isn’t that beautifully logical? I loved that!

Aside from still treasures, you can also steal from certain types of guards that patrol around, which adds a certain level of thrill to it.

Another good side to this game is that when you get caught you get tele’d to the last entrance used in that same map/floor (so, no restarting everything) – something that is extremely useful as you will get caught a lot of times while you try to figure out just how far the enemies can spot you and how to best avoid it.

On the downside, the linearity of the game and lack of options for alternate routes to take (there is only one path solution to each “puzzle”) was a bit disappointing, although I suppose it did add a level of difficulty to the game as a whole.

Overall, it’s a great little RPG Maker game with a unique gameplay style, and I definitely recommend it!

4/5

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Chronicles of a Dark Lord: Episode 1 Tides of Fate Review

In Chronicles of a Dark Lord by Kisareth Studios, you take the role of an atypical ‘hero’. Rather than the usual RPG kid-turned-hero, you’re taking on the role of a kid-turned-evil who goes after even more evil than his amount of evil. I know, I could’ve totally phrased that better. You still understood though, right?

The game has… some cool things, and some not cool things. But lets start at the beginning!

First thing you get when you start the game is an option for resolutions. It’s an RPG Maker game, and so the engine make the resolution choices so very, very odd. I have nothing against RPG Maker games, truly, but this one just seemed to bump into all the things I don’t like about RPG Maker as an engine. Not the least of which was trying to take a screenshot, and ending up closing the game without a warning. Hah. That was not an amusing moment, specially because the game starts with a rather long, somewhat boring, friggin’ unskippable intro scene made of text about how dark the whole thing is and will be, and the fight of darkness and light, and the chronicles of the Dark Lord, and etc, etc, etc. Yawn. Can we not learn this while we’re playing? I mean, I appreciate some backstory, but this is the first episode/installment, so shouldn’t the story begin here? And this is a game. If I want to read a book, I’ll go grab one, not a game.

I get it, it’s dark. It’s right on the title. Lets move long!

Already from the get-go I’m torn about the art. Even if I like RPGs like this, pixel art is not my favorite style, but I know you can do really neat stuff with it, and really cute (and really dark) stuff as well, but the pixel art on this looks pretty generic. The tiles that make up the world are, too me, too bold and bright, and I don’t mean it only for the story type and ambiance (which as I understand, is ~dark~). The character sprites are cute and I like them, but again: they’re generic to RPG maker. The character heads when the text pops up are also cute, but all characters are rather similar to one another, by which I mean there is a limited amount of sprite bases that had hair type and color and eye color interchanged. Some had some differences, but for the most, they were all too similar, and all too basic-RPG Maker style. It would’ve been nice if, for a change, they would’ve had some expression in the avatars that went along with the emotions of what was being said, or just… general, notable differences.

I’ll also say it’s consistently inconsistent in its art. During the fights (more on the battle system later) the enemy sprites are turned into larger, grown-up sprites with a lot more detail. This would not be so bad, except that they 1. don’t match the background with the level of detail and 2. don’t match your own sprites, which are still tiny chibified things. Reading on it, I came to find out that was actually a choice by the developer… and a (relatively recent at the time of starting this review) update. Just why you would change one sprite and not the other is beyond me.

You see what I mean? It just doesn’t fit.

Moving onto the sound aspect, the music is fairly good, but quite repetitive, so I ended up lowering the volume for it (which I often do anyway). We get a decent range of options on the menu, by the way… and a save-anytime button there too. Cookie points for that. I do like compulsively saving every five minutes and after cut-scenes.

The gameplay is rather typical of most old styled RPGs – move around the map with your keyboard, interact with enter, esc for cancelling things. If you’ve played RPGs before you will be used to checking absolutely everything, from shelves to barrels to piles of hay… and the good thing about Chronicles is, in this, it does pay off. You can get some items for your trouble and find out amusing things – like the piano not being just decoration but actually getting to make some music out of it (it’s no mini-game mind you, just the interaction sound), or the cat actually meowing at you, or how they went through the trouble of putting your wife’s photo in a frame on your bedroom – it’s a nice detail, but it’s made too obvious with, again, slightly clashing styles in the pixel art.

Some of the maps are rather big and empty, even though you can tell they tried to fill it up aesthetically. It’s a weird contradiction, but there you have it. On the upside, you can run (or ‘dash’), which is cool.

The battle system is simple and concise, and also interesting. I was quite fond of it. It’s a typical turn based, random-encounter styled fight system, however, it’s not really random at all. You have a very nifty bar at the top which fills as you walk around certain areas, and when it’s full, you have an encounter. If you stop, the bar slowly depletes. Thus, you can sort of control if you want to have an encounter or not, and it’s not entirely random. The skills you can get through leveling up make sense, seem balanced enough, and are no bloat. You’ll probably have a use for everything you end up having. The art, however… as I’ve already said, is inconsistent and slightly distracting. The only downside was I couldn’t find a way to see the enemy HP, which was really annoying.

I’ve already touched a bit on the story, but it’s basically this:

It’s been foreordained that some kid would be born that would inherit some dark powers and be evil, but would also be the savior of the world in some war or another with an even eviler evil. Oh well, the better of two evils, right? The game gets cookie points for originality in actually being (one of the) the bad guy(s).

The names of the characters are kind of fanfiction-y, and so seem to be their personality types (and there’s not a lot of personality or types in them); so is the lesbianism, which would be better if it actually made sense in the story, but ends up just seeming gratuitous (again, I have no trouble with this normally, but it either has to make sense or the game be strictly about it). By the way, the ‘fanfitcion-y’ thing was not a compliment. (Disclaimer: I know there’s good fanfiction out there, that’s not the one I was referring to).

It seems like they wanted to give you options, like being really evil or not so evil, and they promise it will affect the outcome of the story, but I couldn’t notice any major impact during gameplay on what your choices are save for the occasional option to kill a random NPC – and a few times it wasn’t even an option at all – and even that didn’t seem to have great consequences. Granted, I got too fed up with the game to see it through the end.

Also, the game is trying too hard at everything. It tries too hard to be dark and gothic, and then they throw out “funny” lines that make it try too hard to be funny in a not-dark-at-all kind of way.

Finally, there’s no steam overlay. That was sad. Very, very sad. But it’s to be expected with RPG Maker games.

The game offers some 20 to 25 hours of average, generic gameplay, so if you’re very into old styled RPGs and don’t care much about the downsides of it, or if it’s on sale, then it might still be worth the money. Otherwise… steer clear.

TL;DR: Generic art, decent music, meh story, undecided style, cookie points for an attempt at originality.

Would I recommend it? Not unless you’re very into RPGs.

Epic Quest of the 4 Crystals

 

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Game: Epic Quest of the 4 Crystals
Genre: Adventure, Casual, Indie, RPG, Strategy
Developer: RosePortal Games
Publisher: Aldorlea Games
Release Date: Sep 25, 2015
Platform: PC / Windows 7
Overall rating:  4/10
Graphics: 6/10
Controls: 7/10
Level/Puzzle Design: 5/10
Sound: 9/10
Story: ?/10
Replay Value: 1/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

I went into Epic Quest of the 4 Crystals not really knowing much about it besides it being an RPG and supposedly funny. I left Epic Quest of the 4 Crystals 3 hours later not knowing much more. You might say 3 hours is not a lot to judge whether an RPG is good or not. And to you I’ll say, if you can’t get past the 3 hours, then it’s at the very least certainly not for you.

This was my experience with Epic Quest of the 4 Crystals. I have nothing against parodies and comedy and even some sex and/or explicit jokes, but I found the whole thing on this game to be too over the top. It’s a pity, because I really went in expecting to like it, but I ended up not enjoying my play through so much.

So let me get to the point with this one.

The Good:
Although it’s an RPG Maker style game, the sprites seem to be hand made, the fact that they’re not the usual super chibi size helps make it a bit different. The art is not stock, and while it’s not a masterpiece, it’s not awful either. You can tell effort was put in this.
The music is beautiful, it does get a little repetitive from time to time, but it’s certainly one of the strong points of the game.
What little I got to see of the crafting system seems interesting. The battle allows you to ‘retry’ it if you want to get a better ranking. The system used for traversing maps is different from most RPGs. I also liked the option to ditch one of the first quests you get, that bit -was- funny.
The story (if you don’t look at the villains) seems sorta decent in a parody kind of sense. At least as far as I played through, it’s a typical boy-becomes-hero and then has to fetch items to defeat evil. I don’t know if it changes later on.

The Bad:
The jokes were over the top and not funny at all. Even the ones that weren’t over the top were not really funny (and no, I don’t care that we have an option to censor jokes, if you have to censor your game to make it “good” then maybe those jokes weren’t needed to begin with). The references to pop culture were also not overly interesting. Some of the maps seemed a bit labyrinthic.
I found myself annoyed at not being able to walk through certain plants that I should have been able to and instead having to go all the way around, when there really was no reason for it. Call it a pet peeve if you will.
There weren’t too many chances to interact with the environment; my favorite thing about RPG maker games is being able to walk up to a random item in a house and getting interesting story bits or comments when interacting. There was hardly any of that here
The Villains. Enough said.

All in all, for an rpg maker type of game it’s not really the worse you could get, but it just wasn’t a type of humor that resonated with me. Even if I didn’t overall hate the game,  and I might give it another chance at a later date, I can’t say I enjoyed it at all, either.

Recommended: Not unless you really love RPG Maker games and in-your-face type of jokes. I think you will only find the game good if you can get past the jokes and the not so good dialogue.

RPG Maker VX Ace

 

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Game: RPG Maker VX Ace
Genre: Design & Illustration, Web Publishing
Developer: KADOKAWA
Publisher: Degica
Release Date: Dec 10, 2012
Platform: PC / Windows 7
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Learning Curve: Medium-High
Ease of Use: Easy AND Hard
Menu Placement: Decent
Features: Too Many
Assets: Many, but expensive

 

Review

RPG Maker VX Ace is a newer, improved version of a software which, as the title states, helps you make RPGs. It’s not a game, but a software to make games. While with a lot of work you can make quite complex, not necessarily retro looking games, the base idea of RPG Maker is to make RPGs that are styled like those of the early 90’s: mostly 2D and 16-bit looking, such as the older Final Fantasy titles, or other such so called JRPG styled games.

I had used RPG Maker in the past -one of the first versions, in fact- and I’m glad to say the whole selection of menus and things you can do are much easier to find your way through now, and you can truly have a very short, very simple game out in a matter of days thanks to the wide variety of stock images they provide.

It might look quite confusing at first, but don’t be daunted by the amount of menus and options the program has to offer. Simply find a tutorial for beginners online and follow it, and you’ll be sure to be able to find your way around it. Or, if you’re the adventurous type, do what I did at first and learn by trial and error for the basics, it was also quite fun to learn this way!

So long as you’re trying to make a game that follows the typical RPG rules, RPG Maker VX Ace makes scripting basic game features easy, as it will take care of most of the coding and you just have to fill in the options; it has some pre-made sample maps that you can use when you’re just starting out; as well as a character generator (for sprites and heads, you can change the eye color and shape, nose and mouth shape, skin color, clothes, and hair style and color between a few choices) that gives you a small amount of freedom on how your characters will look, while still working with the existing bases. This way you can busy yourself to learn the very basics of making a game thanks to not having to worry about the art and background.
The slightly more advanced basics (or should I say, intermediate scripting features) might take a little longer to learn (I still haven’t, I’m still only figuring out the basics of what this program can do), but if your goal is to make a small, simple game, you will surely find RPG Maker a great help. And, if you’re willing to delve into the world of scripting and use your own art, you can truly make of your game a masterpiece that might stand out from the rest, since with RPG Maker and some work you can customize everything: from the classes, through the damage formulas, to the menus and everything in between.

There’s lots of user scripts to be found online that will help you with more complex stuff too, if you look for it! As well as free and paid packs of sprites, tiles, etc for download, some which are only allowed to be used with non-commercial games, while others have commercial licenses (be sure to check that when you download them!)

One thing that bothered me: Adding new tilesets to the default can be easy, but it’s not overly intuitive; some imported right and some not so, even though I added them as the tutorial told me to. Having better automation for this as well as for transferring tilesets you might make to someone else would be nice. Of course, since I’m new at this it could have been user error, but I feel like this step should be as easy as changing the images for the characters was, to make it more user friendly.

RPG Maker is good for beginners and advanced users alike, regardless of how big or small their project is. The only downside of it is that the official DLCs with music, new tilesets and characters can be quite expensive, but if you take into account that most of those are allowed for use in commercial games, it’s not too bad. They can, however, be quite an expense on an already expensive piece of software.

I’m not at all good with RPG Maker yet, and that is why this review for it is so short and not overly in-depth on all the possibilities you have, but as a beginner I can say: if you want to start out with a 2D RPG, RPG Maker is one of your best choices (though by far not the only one); if, however, you’re looking to make something a bit different from 16-bit styled games, you might find RPG Maker a bit more difficult to learn than you’d like to make a simpler game.