Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: Fire God Saga

Title: Fire God Saga
Developer: ???
Genre: RPG
Program: RPGMaker 2K

Fire God Saga is a game set in a world that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. As a result, you can't really lump it into any particular genre because there will be something in the game that contradicts whatever it is you want to call it. The game basically has a little bit of everything you could possibly get away with sticking in an RPG, which can be a bit disorientating if I'm being honest. Overall, intentionally or not, the main bulk of this game focuses around goofy comedy and overblown situations that, as far as I'm concerned, makes this a less-than-serious project.

What originally drew me to this game were the maps I saw in the screenshots section. Such zealous use of panoramas and overlays isn't something you see that often in RPGMaker games because the result is usually kinda tacky but it looked like this game wasn't doing a bad job of pulling it off. In practice, though, the results are fairly hit and miss dependent on the panorama that's used; some of the panoramas fit really well with what's in the foreground but the majority of them don't fit the perspective that the rest of the map uses, making the whole map look really skewed. The same can be said for most of the backgrounds used on the battle-screens as well; a lot of the backgrounds used in this game simply don't match the graphics used throughout the rest of the game and it makes things look incredibly weird.

Sometimes it works, like in this screenshot. Most of the time, though, it doesn't.

Just as the graphics are a bit hit and miss, so are the sound effect choices made in this game. The game mixes sound effects from the RPGMaker run-time package with sound effects that sound like they came from Duke Nukem with sound effects that are generic Windows sound effects etc. Everything is incredibly mismatched and, as with the graphical choices made, it results in a fairly disorientating experience. Sometimes it can be amusing to hear a sound effect that clearly shouldn't be there, but most of the time it's just annoying. I get the feeling that making people laugh was the aim of using silly sound effects now and again but... it just doesn't work often enough to make it worth while. It's more annoying than anything else.

So, what about the gameplay? Well, it's just like the graphics and the music; hit and miss. The most obvious example of this are the battles, which are haphazardly balanced to say the least. Most of the battles are fine and you'll have only minor problems getting past them, but you can sometimes encounter enemies that will wipe the floor with you if you happen to have a little bit of bad luck. For instance, there are some enemies that, if they happen to use their spells twice in a row, are probably going to take your whole party out. Obviously, this isn't actually supposed to happen and I suspect I just suffered some bad luck over the course of my playthrough, but that doesn't mean it is any less annoying. It's annoying because, as a player, there's nothing you can do except resign yourself to reloading the game. Luckily, I'd just saved the game each time this happened so I didn't lose too much time, but I might've stopped playing if I'd lost a significant amount of my playthrough due to something like this. Something for the developer to avoid in the future, me thinks.
"So here I lie, in the belly of a shark!" 
(Also an example of the strange graphics: why is a shark swimming in a shallow pond in a forest and why is that shark represented by a small fish on the area map!?)

The other problem with the battles, aside from the haphazard balancing, is that there isn't much to do apart from attack. You get a handful of skills, but most of them are just stat-boosting/degrading skills that you're only likely to use when you come up against stronger enemies, meaning they're useless in 90% of the battles you encounter. Fortunately, the battles are generally very short and they aren't random so they don't get a chance to become annoying, but they certainly aren't entertaining. A lot more work could've been put into them. The same is true of the area-map gameplay; there just isn't enough to do. Most of the maps are just straight lines from A-B without any puzzles to keep you entertained. The game doesn't even resort to mazes to keep you entertained, although I've never really been a fan of pointless mazes so that's probably a good thing to be honest.

As for the storyline, it's all over the place. I was never really sure what was supposed to be going on as the game seems to drop one storyline and introduce another without really tying anything from the original storyline up. The game starts with the main character being hunted by a church and, although that comes back in every now and again, you spend a lot of the game doing odd-jobs for other people that don't really tie together into anything major. Now, I'm not going to lie, I didn't finish this game; the mediocre gameplay eventually got to me and I just couldn't go on. Because of this, if the game happens to have an overarching storyline towards the end then I wouldn't have seen it. However, there was nothing in the portion of the game that I played that suggested this would be the case; it just seemed like random quest followed by random quest over and over. Maybe if the gameplay was better I would've continued, but that wasn't the case.

This game is very hit and miss, but the emphasis lies very much on the miss side of things. The gameplay is dull and uninspired, the dialogue tries too hard to be random (although it can elicit giggles at times) and the graphical aspects are all over the place. 3/10.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Devblog: Why You Back Up Your Projects...

Even though I have a new computer (which is why I've been playing so much Starcraft II and Football Manager 2011 instead of working on my own game), I still use my old laptop when I'm working on Sore Losers: Riot Grrrl (the game I'm developing). I do this because I use MS Paint to create the graphics for this game and the new MS Paint has an annoying habit of changing the colour depth of PNGs when you save them, which causes many a problem if you're using RPGMaker 2003. 

Unfortunately, my laptop has decided to start the very slow process of dying, which would've meant I'd have lost the whole of this game if I wasn't backing it up properly... but I was backing it up properly, so I'll just continue development on my new computer using Paint.NET or something to get around the problems I have with the new edition of MS Paint. 

The lesson here is basically this: BACK UP YOUR PROJECTS!

As far as the blog goes, I know I haven't really stuck anything up for quite a while so I will be trying to get some more reviews out over the christmas period. I don't really have much else to do since I'm staying at my parent's house over the holidays so, if I don't update, I don't really have any excuses!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Review: Legendary Legend

Title: Legendary Legend
Developer: Sibhod
Genre: JRPG
Program: RPGMaker 2003
Legendary Legend is a game that's sparked a lot of debate over at RMN ( recently because it's currently their featured game. The reason for all the attention (aside from it being featured, of course) is that it's one of those games that purposefully labels itself as "comedic", resulting in arguments that revolve around the extent to which "comedy" and "writing" can make up for "gameplay". Of course, this instantly implies that people don't really rate the gameplay in this game, because if people did rate it then there wouldn't be any need to ask if "comedy" and "writing" can make up for it because it wouldn't need making up for! Unfortunately, I have to agree with this sentiment as the gameplay in Legendary Legend is physically painful.

First of all, you have the battles; they are far too easy, the enemies have far too much HP and there is no strategy involved whatsoever. This is a bad combination because it means that every single battle is a space-mashing fest that the player has no choice but to suffer through. This sheer lack of entertainment is compounded by the fact that the battles take far too long to finish. I know this is true because I actually timed one of my battles and I found that, for one of the characters, it takes a full forty (40!!) seconds for their ATB meter to fill up. If you consider that it takes around 4-5 hits to kill a typical enemy in this game and then consider that there are usually 3 or more enemies present in a single battle then you'll probably see why this is a problem. If a game has boring battles and then insists on dragging them out for incredibly long amounts of time then it is just being silly; this isn't fun and if you happen think it is then do me a favour and go play Desert Bus.

The second problem with the gameplay are the "dungeons", a word that is placed in speech-marks because I refuse to actually acknowledge that there are dungeons in this game. Every single area is basically a straight line with little-to-no exploration and little-to-no puzzles to keep you entertained. This is not an exaggeration since, as far as I can remember, throughout the whole time I was playing this game (I survived around an hour and a half before I gave up) I branched off the beaten track once and I pressed a single switch
. Admittedly, the lack of exploration wasn't that big a problem because that would've meant more battles, but that I didn't want to explore because the battles were terrible isn't really something the developer should be proud about...

And... there aren't any more problems with the gameplay, but that's only because there isn't anything else to the gameplay. That's your whole lot and, as far as I am concerned, no amount of good writing can make up for this kind of garbage. To end the review here, however, would be incredibly unfair because I'd be leaving more than half the game untouched. You could argue that it's pointless for me to continue because it's already obvious that the gameplay alone is enough for me to abhor this game (spoiler: the rating is 0/10), but I'm going to struggle on regardless because I want to talk about the so-called "saving grace" of this game: The writing.

As I've already made obvious, I'm not of the opinion that even the finest writing could make up for the gameplay in this game. However, a lot of people have talked up the writing and the comedy as something that makes the rest of the game worth "playing" through (playing is so the wrong word). Of course, this only gives me more impetuous to point out that the writing in this game is, in fact, terrible.

The most obvious examples of why the writing in this game sucks are the characters themselves. They are inconsistent as hell, the main reason for which being that, although attempts are made to seperate the characters into obvious stereotypes (shy/geeky/cowardly and brash/jock/brave, for example), the characters will break these stereotypes for the sake of an easy joke. For example, one skit calls for a Spanish-speaking character to yell a load of angry rubbish in Spanish whilst jumping through a window to save a woman...

I'll admit that the image alone looks kinda funny, but the problem is that the game - up until that point - portrays the Spanish-speaking character as being laid-back. As laid back people do not jump through windows because they assume the person on the other side is someone they need to save, the jumping is instead done by the more obvious person to have jump through the window; the aforementioned brash/jock/brave character. This now means that the developer now has a character [i]who isn't Spanish speaking[/i] yelling Spanish garbage because it [i]might[/i] be funny (it isn't). Erm, what!? Basically, the whole joke was an ill-conceived idea and the same can be said for most of the other jokes in the game:

Shoe-horning characters into funny situations does not good comedy nor good writing make. The idea is that you write jokes around the personalities of your characters, not the other way around. For good examples of this, watch shows like 30 Rock or Seinfeld or something...

As for the rest of the jokes (the ones that don't fall into the "forced comedy" bracket explained above), most of them are gags that have already been used in other parody games and movies and shows over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. I mean this in the most literal way possible because I know that I've seen many of the jokes in this game used word-for-word in other so-called "comedic" RPGMaker games. They're not funny anymore. In fact, they weren't funny in the first place. In fact...

The funniest thing about this game is that it was featured, but that's also the saddest thing about this game. Whoever made that decision should be ashamed of themselves and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. 0/10.