Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Preview: Re Quest

Title: Re Quest
Developer: Kazesui
Genre: Arcade/Platformer
Program: RPGMaker 2003

Re Quest is pretty much a collection of ABS-driven mini-games that widely vary in quality. Each quest is fairly stand-alone, they can be completed in any order and completed quests can be repeated if you want to try and get a better score. The only thing that connects the quests are the character you are building using the experience you gain but, as I will explain later, this character-building process is very flawed.

I’ll start with the introduction to this game... Wait, no, there was no introduction. The game just plonked me onto the game hub with absolutely no explanation of what was going on. After wondering around the hub a little and finding that many of the areas are currently inaccessible, which is probably because this game is still in the development phase, I discovered that only one room was actually important; the room in which you start quests. This was fine, I suppose, although I would’ve appreciated a few lines of text by way of introduction. A little bit of a background on the character and why he is doing what he does would’ve been enough to satisfy me. Unfortunately, it isn’t just the introduction that lacked development in a textual sense; where text was really missing was before and after the quests. Remember those parts in Final Fantasy: Tactics where you’d get a reason for the quest you were doing; where people would introduce you to the items they wanted collecting; where someone would be there to help you in battle; where you'd be able to banter with the enemy before crushing them? These are the things that are missing in this game. As with the introduction, these things do not need to be complex, they just need to be present. The total lack of direction you have in this game makes it hard to actually care about the quests you are doing because nothing is really driving you to complete them.

It doesn’t help that the design of the game isn’t brilliant. On the face of it the custom menu system (CMS) looks great, the quest scoring system works really well, the quest-book is slick, the HUD display is functional and the missions are varied. The problem is that these things just mask the fact that several of the key systems are broken, under explained and underdeveloped.

I shouldn’t need to tell people who play RPGMaker games often that creating an active-battle system (ABS) in RM2K3 is always a massive gamble and is either going to make or break your game. Re Quest, unfortunately, is yet another game where the ABS doesn’t quite work how it is supposed to. It isn’t all bad, I have to admit, and I actually enjoyed fighting the more gimmicky enemies present. These enemies had attack patterns you could decipher, had attacks that did more than just damage you (one boss has a slime-based skill that slows you down when you step on the slime) and had attack animations that let you know you had been hit/that you had dodged being hit. It’s a shame that these enemies do not make up the bulk of the gameplay as it would’ve made for quite an entertaining ABS. Instead, most of the normal enemies simply wonder around in a set pattern and wait for you to hit them; they lack attack animations and simply damage you when you touch them; they aren’t stunned or do not react to being damaged and; they are simply not fun to fight. Thankfully, the damage these normal enemies can deal to you is nominal and they tend to ignore your presence so it is easy to just return the favour when killing them isn’t required for your quest. Still, making them harmless doesn’t make up for them being boring.

The sometimes boring enemies aren’t my main gripe with the ABS in this game, though. This honour goes to a skill-system that is either broken or really badly explained as I simply couldn’t get it to work. No matter what button I pressed and no matter what skill I had set-up according to the menu system, the only skill I could get to work was a dash-based skill that was absolutely no use to me whatsoever... and it didn't even cast every time I pressed the skill-button, even when the sound effect for it played!

The knock-on effect was that the slick-looking character development system was thrown right out of the window. I just ended up dumping all my skill points into my normal attack because putting them into actual skills was just a total waste of time. What is the point in having a range of skills you can develop if they are unreliable once you get into a fighting situation? Never mind that the menu system doesn’t actually tell you what skills you currently have equipped; you just have to hope that the last one you clicked is the one you’re taking into the fight! Other areas of the menu were equally uninformative. For instance, the equipment page has a “stats” option that doesn’t bring anything up and the tutorial section doesn’t work at all. This is all quite dissapointing as the systems look quite good before you start trying to use them.

This moves me nicely onto the aesthetic side of the game and, in this aspect, Re Quest is equally frustrating, mostly because of little flaws or oversights that you'd expect to be fixed in a full version of the game. For instance, the mapping is quite competent and the chipsets used fit together quite well, but you'll occasional play on a map where enemies are able to walk behind trees, making it impossible for you to see what you are trying to hit (more annoying when you have to kill that monster to complete the quest). Another silly thing is that, although the menu-systems look good when you consider them individually, there is no consistency between them. The quest-book doesn't look like the main menu and the main menu doesn't look like the score-sheet at the end of a quest. Even smaller things like damage not being shown when you deal/recieve it make it hard to judge, at a glance, how changes to your strength/defence stats are actually influencing the game. Forcing the player to check the HUD to see the damage they are recieving is counter-intuitive; when I am trying to dodge fireballs I shouldn't have to do mental arithmetic to work out how many more of them I can get hit by before I die.

These are, of course, little gripes; but they all add up.

Overall, this game has potential because it is clear, in some of the systems, that the developer understands the intricate ins-and-outs of event-based development. The quest book, for instance, is actually an extremely slick menu, the battles against larger enemies are definitely fun and the puzzle-based missions are intriguing enough to keep you going for at least a little while. However, because most of the systems present are broken in at least one aspect, this demo can be a chore to finish. With some work this game could be an entertaining, quest-driven experience that would be very easy to pick up and play in small chunks. At the moment, though, it is very clearly a work-in-progress.

Needs some Re Developing if it is going to make an impact. 3/10

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