Trytuges is a game released in 2018 by Nathan Karr (Nintendo Quest, Weegee, Moron Mission, Maces Wild, Densetsu no Okami); it is a remake of one of his lost early projects from circa 2004. It utilizes assets from FnrrfYgmSchnish’s 8-Bit Graphics Set.
The heroes of this story are Knate (a dim-witted knight left to his own devices by the King), Thriff (a thief who does thief stuff), Wizardbeth (a mage descended from an Ancient civilization), and Claire (a would-be cleric with medical expertise), all of whom happen to live in the same inn. They have decided to fight the evil overlord of Skull Island but need to borrow a boat from the Sages Four to get there. The Sages are in the kitchen of the inn, but the landlady won’t allow the heroes into the kitchen unless they purchase a ticket, which she won’t sell them unless they defeat some sort of local enemy first. Knate and his companions barge into the King’s throne room demanding a quest, so the King sends the heroes to defeat the evil Magus Divunni who has invaded the nearby dwarven mines. A self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking JRPG pastiche ensues.
The HOTOHR contest version of Trytuges had some bugs with text boxes that prevented the penultimate boss battle from triggering, rendering the game unbeatable; I was able to copy my save into a more recent update however. Magus Divunni stomped my party though, and I had to grind some levels and spells. This ended up taking way too long and threw off the pacing, which had been pretty brisk up to this point. Defeating the overlord only results in a congratulatory text box (plus some XP and loot). The overlord’s walkabout sprite doesn’t disappear, and the final battle can be triggered again.
One of the game’s biggest strengths is its humorous writing. The jokey dialog among the heroes is good, especially when rummaging around everyone’s rooms at the Inn early in the game. The item descriptions and other captions are silly as well; I’m particularly fond of the Ye Olde grammatical contortions that begin with “Dagger gettest ye” and grow more ponderous as the heroes find more items. There’s even a mechanical gag around the idea that Claire can’t see without her glasses equipped (and even then, she’s quite likely to miss her attacks). There are a few typos or unclear lines of dialog, as well as referential humor that probably won’t make sense if the player isn’t already in on the joke (or familiar with Nathan’s other creations); but Trytuges is thoroughly committed to its meta-JRPG concept and informal tone.
Somehow the use of free graphics designed to look retro actually makes sense within the context of a game this meta and tropey. There are a few graphical hitches: One of the bookshelves along the southern wall of the castle library seems to be in the background rather than the foreground, so the character sprites pass in front of it rather than behind it. Hero sprites also pass underneath the ground when walking north of columns. The music (which I assume is also recycled, but wouldn’t swear to it) is well-arranged, but also becomes tiresome pretty quickly (I never need to hear “Three Ships” or “Frere Jacques” again).
Combat features a hodge-podge of common mechanics from RPGs of the 80s-90s, and (for the most part) it is totally playable and most encounters feel balanced. Each character has clearly defined abilities and roles within the party, enemies have individual weaknesses (which the heroes may not necessarily have the resources to exploit), and thoughtlessly holding the Enter key will not get the player very far. Different weapons and armors have their own penalties as well as bonuses, which seems like it should affect combat strategy/feel, though I didn’t have enough funds to experiment with all the gear so I don’t know how much gameplay is affected by equipment.
Combat does have a few hiccups. Claire has two separate spell lists for scientific and divine skills; but the majority of the skills in both menus are for healing, reviving, and/or curing status effects. If the player wants to compare the cleric’s healing spells, they need to check two different lists of very similar abilities; it’s counter-intuitive and could be streamlined. Sometimes Wizardbeth’s “Mind Read” spell didn’t seem to have any result, but I couldn’t tell whether the RNG was failing to hit or the text boxes were buggy. Thriff doesn’t seem to like consuming Herb healing items in combat; I couldn’t always get it to work for some reason. The player also isn’t allowed select a target for Thriff’s “Steal” skill, so he often tries to steal from empty enemies he’s already looted. Some enemies carry multiple items, so this is not too frustrating (except as it pertains to the game’s economy).
The game’s economy is where things really bogged down for me at the end. It took a whole lot of grinding to afford scrolls (one-time casts too precious to waste on random encounters) and even more to buy orbs (which teach spells to the casters); but without access the appropriate spells, some tougher enemies can become impossible (or at least more time and trouble than they are worth in money and XP). Pharaoh Atmhotep in particular was a problem for me – I had no way of dealing more damage than the enemy could restore, nor could I flee or restore my MP. Werewolves didn’t threaten my party too much, but they were inescapable and took too long to kill. Multiple times my party was wiped out on the way back to the Inn by a demonic enemy I couldn’t defeat because Claire was out of miracles. All of this affected my experience of the game’s pacing. I think the foundation is here (most individual encounters play out fine); but the economy needs balancing and certain encounters need fine-tuning.
Trytuges is a jokey pseudo-retro fourth-wall-breaking meta-JRPG that does clever things with that premise. It’s a complete playable adventure with amusing dialog, and it’s pretty focused. Combat is more substantial and engaging than in many other homebrew RPGs that treat random encounters as a chore to be endured rather than a game to be played; but low funds left my heroes unequipped to deal with tougher encounters, which bogged the pacing down a bit toward the end. Trytuges is already a funny game with a solid foundation for a combat system; some tweaks to the economy could make it a tight dungeon crawler as well. I still don't know what the name means.
...spake The Lord Thy God.