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Invasion of the Mantle Dwellers! 
 PostTue Mar 10, 2015 12:03 pm
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Plenty of nice maps in this game, though some griddy tiles like the water stand out.
The hedge maze was disappointing.
One of the battles in the hedge maze.
The castle is so big, it even has... a mural of Mt. Fuji.
I took issue with King Charles' portrait...
...and with Carie's portrait.

(This is a review of the first release of the game, for HotOHR 2014.)

Overall verdict: I think this is a promising start to a game and great first effort. There's lots of problems, but everything is quite fixable, and there's enough content (about an hour, at most half of which is battles) to give it a try now. However, quality is quite variable; some parts are well done while others seem rushed out of the door.

The plot is somewhat unusual: the land is overrun with strange violent creatures and no one knows why or what they are (bog standard...), but the hero wants to communicate with them and stop the violence. This is related with a nice intro sequence.

Unfortunately, the plot falls a bit flat afterwards. As Charbile said, the game just keeps "dragging" out this basic premise (even the intro drags a bit); the lead character never seems to talk about anything other than getting on with the mantle dwellers. There really needs to be more character exposition! In fact, looking back at the game now, having played it a while ago, the ONLY other thing I remember about the lead hero is that he has done some combat training with his Master. He's a fairly flat character. The second hero (Carie) who enters your party is much flatter. I remember absolutely nothing about her, but at least she doesn't just join out of nowhere, and she takes part in the dialogue.

There seems to be a major bug in that you can go to the docks and leave for Claudia immediately after talking to your master (at least I think that was the trigger), without even picking up Carie or visiting the castle.

The number of spelling mistakes in this game is VAST, despite the writing being otherwise decent. The least you can do is export all your textboxes and run a spell checker on them.

One thing that annoyed me were the portrait graphics for Carie and the King are rather cartoonish: they look like smiley faces (see screenshots). This made it hard for me to see them as serious, real characters. Most of the other portraits in the game are sufficient though.

On the topic of graphics, this game is a mixed bag. Enemies tended to be a bit formless. Many of the tiles and maps clearly have effort put into them, with a variety of details on the maps, and that's what I love to see. There's heaps of detail in the castle; great work! It was however a bit too large and annoying to walk around. The graphics and map design in the hedgemaze were the low point of the game; it looks like it was put together in a few minutes. You could say the pixel-art is a bit poor due to RabMoghal likely not having much experience. There's almost no use of shading in the tiles, too much use of the air-spray tool, sometimes weird perspective, inconsistent enemy graphics styles and some very griddy tiles. Fix the worst griddy tiles for a start; it's an easy task and makes a big difference. I'm perfectly OK with the quality of graphics reached in places of this game and think only the worst stuff needs improvement.

Music is just the class tracks provided in the engine. I think it works OK -- tunes like Bydlo Cart are more suited for a game like this than most -- but there are various silent areas. The classic MIDI music combined with the super gritty often-badly-tiling graphics and style of maps and battles really transported me back in time to what first OHR games felt like 15 years ago. It has this authentic feel to it, something that made me enjoy it significantly more than I would otherwise. I guess it's nostalgia speaking.

On to battles and mechanics.

First of all, all equipment, potions, and skill teaching scrolls in the game require crafting ingredients. That makes them rare and difficult to acquire. There's no equipment to be found in chests in this demo, only items. The crafting ingredients are mostly obtained from battle rewards or with the steal skill. However the demo is too short to be able to craft much --- you would probably have to kill every available enemy to be able craft any equipment --- so I can't really comment on this, but it seems it'll be nice in the long term. It's always aggravating when a game spends a lot of time explaining all kinds of details like crafting systems and then ends before you can try it out. I can't really blame any demo for doing that though.

However, the fact that HP and MP pots are rare and that there's no inn or any other way to regain HP or MP except with the Cure skills is quite annoying, and resulted in me dying a couple times and having to avoid some battles. There is an inn in the game, but it's only available at the end of the demo!

The battles are pretty easy, but hero speed is very slow (enemies are a bit faster!). However this is partially made up for by the fact that most enemies only take a couple hits to take down. I recommend increasing hero speed speed, and turn on pause-on-battle-menus if enemy speed goes much higher. The only challenge to the battles is not running out of MP/heal potions. You have a couple interesting skills, like scan, poison and steal, but spacebar mashing is enough to get you through. I did die a couple times because of the difficulty of healing... healing potions can't be targetted to heroes in-battle, only on enemies! And if you run out of MP and healing potions there's nothing you can do, so it's actually a bad thing to play around too much with the other skills. Carie does have a very large max MP by the end of the demo, so once you can reach an inn things should be very different.

XP given out is odd. For example the Diamond dweller doesn't seem much harder than the other enemies (though looking far tougher) but gives out heaps of experience. On the other hand the Vision dwellers only give 1 XP.

It's also odd that you can reach the exit to the hedgemaze and get the cutscene for having cleared it even if you skip the boss and half the enemies you were meant to clear (but please don't force people to clear them all).

I hope to see this updated in the future.
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