Posted: January 18, 2014
The game certainly has unique features, but is still very far from being excellent, although the beginning is promising. For once you do not play as the namesake of the game, but her servant - a "lowly" male by the Amazon's standard, or a female elf (both slaves), accompanying her to go rescue her mother. You make some choices about your past actions and here you go for your stats boost. And the whole thing is very verbose, as promised.
Problem being that for a game mostly a visual novel (the RPG aspect is just there to flesh out a bit the adventure), the story is too standard. After rescuing Loren's mother, you learn that Evil lurks. And yes, once again, it's an Evil that was already vanquished in the past, but as everyone know, there's not a soul in the multiverse able to properly seal any evil being whatsoever. Fost, said Evil is uninteresting and cliché.
Let's be honest, for the game's lenght, the background is detailed enough, but still... Too classic. Elves antagonizing humans, orcs, dwarves, dark elves, demons aplenty, lizardmen, etc., things we have seen a bijillion times before. And if there are some talks about tolerance and all that, do not expect much subtelty from the plot, neither originality. Gather all the nations, go to the Big Bad's lair, insert fights, slay said Big Bad, get the girl, the end.
Now the dialogs are quite decent, and some characters are delightful, like the female dwarf Dora (beg yer pardon, totally not a thief !) or the snarky dark witch Chambara. For what I saw, the romances are pleasant too- up to six possibilities, and yes, you can flirt with characters of the same gender as yours.
Concerning the dialog options, you will have three most of the time : joking, friendly or forceful. Of course other people will react differently depending on your choices, I couldn't estimate if having a majority in one kind really forged a real reputation, but that may very well be.
And where does the gameplay fit in all this ? Well, you'll have a great number of fights, six VS six at maximum, with some scripted ones (like having only two members in your roster). Back row cannot be targeted by melee attacks while there are still at least one unit in the front row, wich make it ideal for missile units (bow/magic). On your right you can see in what order characters and ennemies will act, then plan accordingly. There are three classes (warrior, thief, mage), and each of your characters has a skill tree rendering him unique, like the druid being able to cast a heal spell on all a row.
Thieves can use mana for special arrows (fire, ice...), warriors can force an enemy to switch position with one on the back row, etc. Insert potions when needed.
All in all it plays smoothly, but I really fail to see the claim of the developers : there's nothing hardcore in it. If anything, it's quite casual and simple, not much strategy is involved. Money and equipment are not being scarce, the game is quite easy. Towns have an infinite amount of replayable tasks for money, XP and discount at the local shop ; making the possibility of skipping the odd random encounters sound.
Now, I'm one of those stressing the value of story over gameplay for RPG, a reason why Planescape Torment is one of my eternal favorites. But I must insist : the game's intrigue has been seen too often to really be epic. The lack of artworks is rather grueling in that regard, many scenes would have benefited from a dedicated drawing to better depict them. Decently fleshed out characters (the personal quests help) cannot alone bring all the appeal. This not to say a simple story is something bad, here, it's just lacking in a genre where it should shine.
One great flaw is the DLC. I do not know about you, but 17 buckazoids is already a bit steep a price. 6€ for content which could (and should) have been in the vanilla game is a blatant rip-off. You'll even get a message in the base game stating that you could recruit Chambara and a certain monk, but, hey, show the money first ! Worse, those two characters can have a crucial impact on the game's ending, wich is just wrong.
And as for the replay value ? Yes, you can still change the starting character, romance other people, make a few other choices... But is it really worth going back to the same story without any surprise ? The game itself is not sure of that, as you can skip all the dialogs you want, and have cheat mode enabling you to win all the battles once you have completed the game for the first time.
I was intrigued by the aspect of Loren the Amazon Princess at the start and still enjoyed it. It made me think of a Fighting Fantasy gamebook with actual character development.
But if you are tempted, my advise would be to wait for a special promotion like -50%. 14 hours-ish of a classic plot (DLC accounted for) with marginal gameplay and satisfying protagonists are just not enough to be worthy of such a price. "Two novel's worth of in-game text", by the way, is quite meaningless : are we talking 100-ish pages sized novels, or Stephen King's sized novels ?