This game was entered into the 2020 Heart of the OHR contest, where it won 2nd Place.
False Skies is an extremely slick and eye-catching game that harkens back to the best of the best from the NES and Game Boy RPG library. The world is huge and immersive, bringing with it a blend of fantasy and sci-fi that evokes images of Phantasy Star, minus the interstellar travel (as far as I'm aware). The premise of rounding up a squad of generic adventurers to explore long-forgotten ruins is also highly reminiscent of Etrian Odyssey, a style of storytelling that I find myself yearning for from time to time. In exchange for this premise, there aren't any proper characters to get attached to, apart from the occasional recurring NPC, so most of the storytelling has to be done through the environment, and this game does a good job of that. Every new piece of ruined rock or scrapped tech gives you a new breadcrumb to follow, and I still have no idea where it's leading me, but half the fun is imagining the possibilities.
Games like this wouldn't survive a day without a decent battle system and UI to match, and this game is no slouch there either. The class system starts simple but promises at something great once you dig into it, learn the strengths and weaknesses of each class, and even unlock prestige classes to upgrade into. The variety of weapon and armor types, with corresponding proficiencies for each class, lends to a lot of creativity in building up your characters for specialized roles, though it will take some time before you can stump up the money for a full party loadout. Above all else, the UI shines in its effectiveness. You'll be juggling a lot of characters, and the stat sheets made for this game make everything very organized and easy on the eyes. You'll be seeing traces of these sheets in shops, in the main menu, when leveling up, and when recruiting new hires. There are a few extra touches added to maps as well, including a smooth vertical wipe transition between maps and a helpful "danger meter" to take the guesswork out of random battles by letting you know when an enemy encounter is but a few steps away.
The greatest strength and weakness of False Skies is how deep everything is buried. It takes a while just to start building up your party, and longer still for unlocking the full array of classes to experiment with. The narrative also takes its time in getting off the ground. But the extremely appealing presentation (and stellar soundtrack, might I add) and promise for more surprises around the corner are enough to get you started on that path, and there's a big world out there for you to gradually sink your teeth into. If there's any long-form retro RPG out there worth investing time in, it's this one.
Time Invested: 2 Hours, 0 Minutes
Accolade: DEEP MINE