Monday, August 17, 2009

Legionwood: Tale of the Two Swords

I'm starting to believe most people aren't looking hard enough for the good developing games out there, Legionwood: Tale of the Two Swords, is one of them! Currently active and floating on the first page, I'm very glad I checked this games despite all the silly technical difficulties I was having, and definitely recommend others to try out this game.

Overall concepts are reminiscent of classic RPGs, rather solid and focused on customizing your characters any way you wish. You buy skills that are available to everyone, characters can equip pretty much everything, only a couple of restrictions, and you get to buff up each character's attributes every level up. So you get to shape each of them in any direction you want, which has a nice old school feel. There's a little bit of a nudge of where they are "supposed" to go, but it's nothing you can't escape if you wanted to. The world is rather interactive, with shimmery spots signifying points of interest, little alcoves of places to revisit, lots of mini quests and activities to do while you're on your journey. You rarely will find yourself just going from point A to point B without something else to distract you. There were plentiful treasure chests (almost too many, but I'm not going to complain!) and other goodies to help ease your adventure for you.

My overall beef with the game has to do with the battle difficulty, the battles are rather intense. I had to start over the game multiple times before I got anywhere, and I didn't find the games challenging in testing my brain and strategy, but just patience and trying to survive. Monsters throughout the game will be able to take away half of a character's health from a simple attack, and others can completely eliminate a character with a skill, and not be a boss. The battle frequency is a touch too high, so I would be dreading anytime I could get into fights. I feel like the difficulty overall should be turned down, or let needing battle strategy play more of a role. You have the skill Study Enemies, to which you can learn their weaknesses, and this is rather imperative, because you could use any break that you can find in battle, but it doesn't really help you in the beginning because you can only afford a certain amount of skills, and your stats are low, so you can only cast about 3 or 4 spells and then you have to heal.

A second difficulty is only having a Sanctuary to revive characters, and there being an extreme shortage of revival items and no revival skills. Couple this with the problem above, and it's very frustrating. I know some people like a good challenge when playing games, but this is a little much. I felt like these details really held me back from enjoying a good game at times. There were also a couple of eventing errors and other inconsistencies that need cleaning up, they weren't dire, but would be nice to get out of the way.

Gameplay: 7/10

The start of the plot begins with the main character, who's name you can change but comes by default as Lann, and is sister Liara, two probably in their teens who live by themselves, going to a festival, which is particularly special because it is inviting top brass from the neighboring country as a sign of goodwill during tense times. They get pulled into their adventure as being two of the few witnesses to a sinister plot to start an outbreak of war between the major countries of the world. I found the opening scenes well done pulled me into the game, with a few new twists on old ideas, for the rest of the demo I had a feeling of apprehension of things to come. Character development is rather well rounded, I personally would want some with more quirks, but none of them were irritating or acted out of character.

In general, I loved the dialogue and interaction messages throughout the game, they added a lot of charm to the game I really appreciated. Little things like the slightly romantic way people speak makes you feel more into the game's world, nothing breaks the integrity of the world Dark Gaia creates for us. I really enjoy political themed stories, and it seems like this game is going in that direction, so I can't wait for more!

The main hitch is an old trap people can easily fall into when starting to write: telling instead of showing. There were instances where characters would just hand you the plot and all the inferences instead allowing the player to figure it out themselves through action. I advise to allow plot events to illustrate what is going to happen, instead of having a character explain everything that is happening. This is mostly done by a certain enemy you encounter, who tells you all of his plans before fighting you. I think it's better for the characters to be oblivious to the real mess they are in, and have the player anxious over when they are going to find out or screw things up without knowing how dire the situation actually is. This is also an example of one of the few cliches that happen in the game, and while I don't think it really hurts the game a whole lot, it borders on cheesy and can be fixed.

Story: 8/10

Visually, this game is great. The menus, general interface, the characters... I don't think there's much I can complain about. I felt like everything added to the world overall and didn't disturb the overall flow. I didn't run into any problems or noticed anything low quality. I really enjoyed the dungeons, I felt like they were the best to look at. The paths felt organic and intuitive, and well decorated, cities as well. The ambiance with lighting and other effects really did the job. Battle animations were smooth and looked fine, definitely added to the battle process without being the main focus.

The minor things I would change: The enemy battlers felt a little out of place from the rest of the graphics. They didn't really ruin the game for me or anything, but could use a different set. Also, the cities are a tad overcrowded. I both liked and disliked this; I like talking to the townspeople and seeing movement besides mine going on, but because a lot of the paths in the game are narrow, an NPC will block the way often enough to notice and make you wait around for them to move out of the way.

Graphics: 9/10

Everything was well chosen to suit the atmosphere of the setting and events going on, Dark Gaia has a knack for engrossing a player into the environment, which is definitely appreciated by me. All the sound effects were reasonable volume and the battle music was fitting. I especially liked the noise of crowds in the towns, it really added to the experience. There were one or two recognisable tracks, but not exact rip-offs I don't believe. None of them were really memorable, but that seems fine for the beginning of the game, hopefully we'll get good ones in the future!

Sound: 10/10

This seems like a game modeled after more old school RPGs and made to be nostalgic. I think Legionwood did a good job of this, and is a rather solid game without being completely dry. I felt like the added features that gave voice and added detail to the game to make it seem more fantasy like was a nice touch, I don't see many developers putting in those little details. I always want to interact with random objects and research enemies because it'll have this old world description to it. I liked how the equipment of the game adds more bonuses and allows you to customize your characters even more, you don't really see as much variety in most games. Also, I liked that you can gain abilities other than from buying them/leveling up, and I hope there's a lot more of that (won't spoil where it happens)!

There are some cliches that could be taken care of, like the stereotypical adventurous teenagers who lost their parents. I wonder, do you think you could add more to the story if the parents were still alive? There are some others, so I would suggest going through and see where you can find some stereotypical RPG elements and twist them to make them refreshing. I also think you could have something that makes the characters, in battle, intrinsically different from one another. When a lot of them can share the same abilities and have similar strengths, they don't seem unique to one another. Maybe they can learn abilities that only they will have when they level up other than their frenzy attacks. There are some items that are pretty much sell for money items, and I ran into only one or two NPCs who wanted them, and they were only in places I was momentarily, and had no idea in the beginning NPCs would want these. I think you could expand on these and make these items mixable, or have more NPCs who want them that will trade you for other items you can't get typically... Maybe they can be reagents for something? As a player, you end up gaining a lot of items, I think some sort of item offshoot like synthesizing or another idea would be good for this game.

Originality: 7/10

There are very few mistakes, but ones easy to learn from, that hold back this game from being great, and I see them as simple to fix. I enjoyed the lore type atmosphere the game has and the foreboding and intertwining storyline that is evolving through this demo. The main vice for me was the difficulty of the battles, as they made going through the game painful at times. This brings up an interesting topic of what is considered challenging and what is just frustrating. Just this minor adjustment would shoot up the demo's quality to me by a lot. I think everyone should give this game a change and a little patience, and I'm sure you'll agree this is one of the better games in development.

Overall 8/10

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