Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: Heirs of Techcatl

Title: Heirs of Techcatl
Developer: Immudelki, Foretnor.
Translation By: Creation
Homepage:  http://rpgmaker.net/games/2685/
Genre: Adventure
Program: RPGMaker XP

Heirs of Techcatl is a game that came to the English RPGMaker community from French soils and was subsequently translated for us by Creation, an active translator in the RPGMaker community. The game was then featured on RPGMaker.net. It takes place in a dystopian, alternative history were the Democratic Republic of England has emerged from the Great War with seeming dominance over most of Europe. This new republic is ruled by a dictatorial leadership and, predictably, the game revolves around a rebellion that's led against said leadership. The game focuses on the actions of Emmett Berglindh, an ex-pilot for the Republic who is now the curator of an aviation museum, as well as being a self-labelled supporter of the Republic.

When you look at the screenshots available for this game, it's easy to see why people were drawn into it. This game is undeniably pretty and employs heavy use of lighting effects, overlays and other tricks to bring each of its hand-drawn maps to life. This beauty seeps out into all the other areas of the game. From the look and feel of the menu systems to the animation of the NPCs to the cutscene stills that are used for the sake of story-telling, everything looks amazing. If you're looking for a game that contains a lot of eye-candy then this is definitely it, because I can't think of many games that look better than Heirs of Techcatl does.


Heirs of Techcatl is definitely a pretty game, as these two screenshots show. The use of effects like steam and lighting makes for realistic environments, while the hand-drawn backgrounds are some of the best you are likely to see!


Unfortunately, the aesthetics department is the only area of this game that actually possesses any semblance of competence. The rest of the game is a mess of broken mechanics, ridiculous storyline twists, unbelievable characters and system bugs. What time you don't spend admiring the pretty graphics, you'll spend cursing the poorly thought-out mechanics, wondering whether or not a character really just did what they did or going mental because the game has a penchant for crashing whilst you're trying to save your progress (that's right, this game just loves to crash when you're trying to do the one thing that allows you to avoid re-playing large swaths of the game due to a crash!)

Let's start the enquiry into this train wreck with the gameplay. The central gameplay mechanic is "+success", a system that rewards you points for successfully doing things within the games universe. However, most of these events are incredibly trivial, have little-to-nought to do with the storyline and basically require the player to be psychic (or to have written down everything they've observed throughout the course of the game).

Unless you're psychic or you abuse the save-anywhere function, that success bar isn't gonna get very high. Note also the untranslated "What To Do Next" dialogue, how helpful!

For example, early on in the game you will see a poster that explains who the Republic is currently fighting against. Much later in the game, after a number of important plot-events have occurred, an NPC will randomly ask you if you like the posters. If you reply that you do, he will then test if you really do know the posters he is talking about by asking you who the Republic are fighting against. Getting the question right awards you with "+success", the problem with this being that the player is unlikely to remember the answer unless they wrote it down, which they're probably not going to do unless they already know that the NPC is going to ask them about it (ergo, the player basically needs to be psychic). Plus, this assumes the player even managed to view the poster, since it isn't exactly something everyone is going to go and inspect.

Another similar NPC asks you for the name of an engine that is used in a particular type of plane, just to test how good of a former aviator your character really is. However, the name of the engine is a random string of letters and numbers that you have no chance of remembering unless you decided to write it down (and especially not when you need to take a break from the game to use the phone, which is what I did). What is the point in this irrelevant memory test!?

Yet another flawed gameplay mechanic is a time-based minigame were you're asked to input a series of commands to get your character to do a task. On one of these occasions, you are inputting a code in order to get your character to dodge some bullet-fire: However, even if you fail this event, the character just runs through to the next room without his injury ever being mentioned. It's as if the gunfire scene never happened, leaving me wondering, "What was the point?" Not to mention that this element of the gameplay is actually broken on one occasion, an occasion were you are required to dodge a spike-trap. At first I thought I had just put the code in wrong, but after I made several attempts at the code (just to make sure I wasn't being an idiot), I came to the conclusion that it was indeed bugged. Luckily, this bug probably didn't have any effect on the plot anyway since these minigames seem completely irrelevant... but it was an unneeded distraction nonetheless.

To be honest, I seriously don't understand why anyone thought these gameplay elements were a good idea and I can only imagine the plan is to get people to play the game more than once so that they can see the "secret ending" you supposedly recieve for a 95% "+success" score. I'm not a big fan of this sort of mechanic when it is done in such an obvious way, as it's a method that almost ensures a player's first play-through will be incredibly frustrating. I guess another criticism I have of these minigames would be that I get the impression the developers tried too hard to shoehorn interaction into the storyline. It isn't actually important to have gameplay elements if all you really want to do is tell a story and, as such, I think that this game would've been a lot better playing out as a visual novel without any dodgy gameplay elements to spoil the show. The broken game often makes it hard to concentrate on the plot since it's so frustrating, which only harms what I assume was the main point of interest (the storyline).

Although, truth be told, the storyline is a complete and utter mess too. The main problem is that the characters in this game have a habit of doing things for no particular reason, even though those things go against the personality they've been shown to have or against the ideals that they seem to uphold. It's kinda hard to go into details without spoiling the storyline for people, but there were numerous occasions in this game were I basically said to myself, "Lolwut?" One such occasion - an occasion that is unlikely to spoil anything for people who may want to play this game after reading this review - comes during the scene were Emmett is turned to the cause of the rebellion. I felt that the scene took a character who seemed rather happy in his support for the Republic's government, happy in the job that he had and generally happy with his life and made him flip-flop over to the side of the rebellion far too quickly and with far too few reasons. If fact, this scene is the least of the game's worries, as several other scenes are much worse. The ending scene and the scene that occurs before the aforementioned shooting scene are definitely candidates for the "Most Ridiculous Character Flip-Flop In An Amateur Game" award. The game's plot is basically a series of faulty justifications for Emmett being forced through another set of difficult circumstances (and broken minigames). I didn't enjoy it at all.

Some of the NPCs are actually kinda funny, but they can't make up for the terrible plot.

Ultimately, the only thing this game has going for it is how pretty everything is. Without the terrible, broken gameplay elements it might have managed to be a slightly below-par visual novel but, as it is, this game is nothing but a string of facepalm moments. 2/10.
 

12 comments:

  1. Well I guess they all can't be winners.

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  2. Looks like it could be fun.

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  3. Ouch. Scathing review! At least you're honest. Most reviews nowadays from top companies are all 7-9s, and they won't dare piss off big game publishers. I really like the "What to do next?" thing, though. I always get confused for a while after loading my Oblivion or Pokemon games. Your reviews are really thought out, mate. Keep it up!!

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  4. your blog is interesting!!

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  5. @Genetics: The good thing about the indie and amateur scenes is that no one is under pressure from a company to say certain things, so the opinions you get are usually a lot more honest.

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  6. Sounds like RPGs back in the day. I'm definitively trying this one out. Great an well written article!

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  7. epic, made me almost cry, loved the days back with that graphics! :O

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  8. You know, this is a whole lotta text for a 2/10 game. :D :P

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  9. I might have to check it out just for a few lols. Great review!

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  10. While i was reading, i kept thinking this game is going to suck balls, then at the bottom i saw 2/10 and confirmed my thoughts hahahaha i can safely say i wont be playing that.

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