Posted: March 8, 2014
When the touchy subject of RPG Maker commercial games comes up, I am not one to judge or deny the legitimacy of RPG Maker games as a commercial product. I have seen some fantastic games made on the engine like To The Moon, and I have seen absolute garbage like the Laxius Force and Millenium Quest series being put up for sale. My interest for this title was raised when the discussion on RPG Maker commercial games mentioned Deadly Sin and its sequel as an example of good RPG Maker games, and one of the studio's earlier titles was this.
This game is a short story set in a steampunk fantasy world where the plot involves Claret Spencer, a mechanic who is about to get entangled in a pivotal racist conspiracy involving the Skyborn, a race of magic users with Dragon-wings, Humans, the ancient and near-extinct Fey, and Half-Breeds, the result of a Skyborn and a Human mating. The story is really focused in scope, goes through predictable motions and doesn't do enough world-building to be compelling. However, what it does have as far as story goes is quite competently written, and the characters in the story are fairly consistent in their actions.
The gameplay has a few unique twists to the bog-standard turn-based RPG and equipment system in that armor doesn't directly come into play for damage-reduction, but instead, they increase various stats depending on type. In a way, the type of armor used determines the type of build for each character. The combat system is a standard Conditional Turn Based system but with a twist to keep things interesting, and encourages players to use more support skills, and it's the Threat system. Characters with the most threat will be targeted for single-target attacks, dealing damage and killing enemies will increase the threat of that character for the duration of the battle. This system allows for the utility of skills that can transfer threat from one character to another, or to gather an enormous amount of threat for one's self. This combination of systems allows for a lot of min maxing to be employed, which is pretty refreshing for an RPG Maker game. There is also an augment and forging system that allows players to further customise their gear, which is good.
What is not so good, however, is the unintuitive way of how the stats are used and how they are never explained ingame. See, the Strength stat determines the damage dealt by regular weapon attacks regardless of type, Intelligence determines the effectiveness of special skills, and Agility merely determines the Speed, Critical and Evade chance. While this would make sense normally, there is also the idea that there are 3 different types of damage ; Physical, Magic and Tech and one would easily be forgiven for thinking that Strength, Intelligence and Agility would determine the effectiveness of Physical, Magical and Tech attacks respectively. This leaves for some results that just plain doesn't make sense, like Corwin's (The designated mage/healer.) magical blast weapon damage that is determined by his strength instead of Intelligence. The other issue with the combat and gameplay is that on Normal, it is either too easy, or you get wiped out real quickly, with no battles that provide an evenly-matched struggle, and the being wiped-out part only ever happens if you don't do the side-quests before the point of no return. Once you did all the side-quests before the endgame, then the endgame becomes ridiculously easy again,
Another bugbear of the gameplay of this game is that very few of the objects in the game can be interacted with with any measure, which brings us back to the point of the game being very focused and limited in scope to the point of its own detriment. It would have been nice if there are more props that give you flavour text, added an effect to your party, or can be interacted with to produce a sound effect. (Piano jingle, anyone?) As an RPG afficionado, I can tell you that most RPGs offer an immense amount of non-plot-relevant interactivity, which goes a long way with the immersion.
Another issue is that there aren't enough variety in the enemy mobs to keep things interesting. All the enemy mobs have a role that is theoretically mirrored by one of the characters', and very few of the skills that enemies have are unique to the enemies, as a result, most enemies are very predictable, and thus very easy to deal with, even enemies with the ability to OHKO half your party. That said, the abilities that you do gain throughout the game are very useful and are a nice change from the generic damage ones that plagues most RPG Maker games. I also do like the design of the dungeons themselves which strayed a lot from the conventional square-like design that even commercial RPGs from the 90's suffer from, this results in a lot of the dungeons and natural cave systems looking very very organic, which is a great plus for this game.
The strongest point of this game though, is the music. The soundtrack is very well-mastered with a lot of nice orchestral stings and swelling chords befitting of a fantasy RPG. It is no Falcom Sound Team JDK, but as far as indie RPG Maker projects go, the fact that the soundtrack isn't a set of crappy generic MIDIs alone is something I can appreciate a lot.
So the final verdict is, do I recommend this game? And the answer is unfortunately, nope. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy this game, and as far as RPG Maker games go, this is one of the better ones. However, with how limited and focused the scope of the game is, there is not enough world-building and lore to keep the player invested in the story and its characters, and the paltry offering with regards to interactivity and side-quests certainly didn't help it. Ultimately, the biggest drawback of this game is that it is not ambitious enough for the premise it presents, and maybe if the combat system is given more depth, if there are more character and story arcs, and if there is a less-linear progression through the story, then it might be worth the $15 asking price. As it stands, I cannot really recommend this game, outside of at least a 50% off sale, unless you really like RPG Maker games.