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A jam entry

Unsung HeroesView game page »

Sometimes, the truest of heroes are not the ones sung about by bards...
Submitted by PVGames with 1 day, 7 hours before the deadline

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Jesse of PVGames

Engine
RPG Maker MV

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Sent here to do a Secret Santa Review from the similarly-named forum on the RPG Maker website.

The game overall is really good. Personally I'm not a fan of turn based combat though I enjoyed the gameplay in this one. Though, I did end up feeling a tad over powered for later parts of the game. (This may have something to do with the fact that I did all those 9 extra battles right off the hop, instead of waiting to do them later. lol)

PROS

The atmosphere - The game starts out raining and grim,  and it holds the grim tone for the whole event. The weather, the art style, and the way the characters talk, all really strengthen your immersion. You have peasants who talk informally and nobles who speak with a rich vocabulary. You have dark caves, misty forests and rain soaked towns. The colour palette is subdued and often grey. Every single part of the game belongs together, to strengthen the emotion that plot pulls out. Speaking of which...

The plot - I really got pulled into the plot of the game. No spoilers here, but I really liked the theme of "We were once friends, but our duty forces us to fight."

The setting - I'm a fan of Tolkien and other fantasy epics, and this reminded me of them. You've created a cool world. I like it.

Battle system - Now this is where it really shines. Each and every character is unique, all with their own personalities, but also with move sets. Every basic attack is unique, some inflict a stagger effect, or heal the attacker, or whatever. And then alongside that, no special move is the same. Some do more damage based off all the debuffs the defender has, all the way to reviving dead allies, and no one shares these abilities on their lists. Every character is useful for their own reasons. Instead of having a "mana" bar, limiting the amount of moves you get per fight, the game uses cooldown, forcing you to choose whether now is a good time to attack, or to see if it's going to be more useful in a few turns. It alsos breaks apart the problem of mana/energy bars, where you only really have one good move, and all the other moves are backup. There's also two different bars that measure a character's health. There's your actual health bar, and then a bar called "protection" sort of like a second health bar, which opens up new possibilities for healing. no longer do you just say "Well I guess my party is under fifty percent health, so I'll just heal them for fifty percent," you now get to make a more active decision as most healing moves heal both health and protection. It turns into "is it worth recovering my protection or should I wait to lose some health first so I don't waste all that health that I could heal waiting for this cooldown?" And this isn't just the playable characters that have unique moves either. Every single enemy has unique moves that even you don't have access to, making you need to carefully watch your enemy and judge which is the biggest threat that you need to take out. All in all I was really immersed by the combat which isn't a normal thing for me and turn based fights.

CONS

I want more - You can consider this as not a con, since I actually want to see where you're going to take the rest of the game, but it's kind of a demo, a "first chapter". I want to know what happens next, gosh darn.

The buffs and debuffs - This is more of a personal complaint, as my vision is SUPER poor. I had a hard time reading what the text on the buffs and debuffs say on that very tiny font. I did play in fullscreen and still had that problem. This might not be a huge concern as most of your players won't be as blind as me, but you may want to consider visibility when you finish the rest of the story.

The prologue - I actually really enjoyed the prologue, I played through it twice and enjoyed it twice, and it really set the player up for the rest of the story. My one complaint about it, at least the first time around, was that it felt too fast. I was struggling to take in a LOT of information very quickly. There's five characters in the party at the beginning of the game and I had just barely gotten a grasp of who they are before the prologue ended. It was only when I was on my second playthrough that I realised that the main dude was even related to anyone from the prologue,

Some bugs here and there - First off, if you leave the first town and then immediately return to it, you just get a black screen, (but I reloaded a save from the menu, so I was safe.) The other thing was that it seemed that if I started training before I gathered my party, my dude would limp around at one health, but later on, you restore every battle. There was also a purchasable companion thing. It seemed that I could purchase multiple copies of them, but only one showed up in my retinue. And then there was this thing that I wouldn't call a glitch, but your lighting in the caves focused on the middle of the screen and not the character, so when the character was at the edge of the screen/cave, they were hidden in the dark. This made finding things in the dark a bit harder (though I am blind) but it would still look aesthetically better focused on the character instead of on the middle of the screen,

HOW I PLAYED

This one might be slightly spoiler-y, but I won't give away the ending. If you want a pure playthrough though, skip to the next section and play it for yourself, it's a pretty good game.

Alrighty. So the first thing I did was collect all the random loot in town. Then when I met up with my party, I went and sold it all and bought everyone higher ranking weapons and armour. After that I did all of the 9 bonus fights (the last one was kind of random, I kept using the same strategy of kill the weaker ones off first and then the strongest last, sometimes 4 out of 5 of my allies were dead before I got to go, and sometimes it just barely got me to the last enemy. Eventually I did win though. So I used the bonus currency to bump special attack and counter attack and some other thing that I forgot for all the characters. I was actually a bit too tough after I left town, and no fight was enough to wipe out my party, though a few fights early on were pretty close. I ended up giving most of the leveling orbs and power orbs to one guy, making him the most buff dude in our party, while the healer got all the hp, because all my healing was based on his HP. I found that the fight you had to last 5 rounds in kind of sucked because I easily lasted 5 rounds, I was THAT close to killing the last enemy, I could probably get the last enemy dead if I did another playthrough. But anyway, it was a real bummer that everyone was retreating because of plot reasons when I was actually doing pretty well in the fight. I might recommend having more reinforcements and maybe tougher attacks in the final round, so it doesn't feel like the player is "totally winning this fight" before suddenly being told that they basically lost.

IN CONCLUSION

I really liked playing this game and it's atmosphere in general. Even though it's still in its demo version I think it's worth playing in its current state. I'd really like to revisit this game once you've finished it, and I think everyone should give it a try as it's a pretty good entry.

Cheers, and good luck on the contest.

Developer(+1)

Thank you for the very thorough review! It is very appreciated!

I am also glad that you enjoyed the game, even in spite of a couple of the annoying bugs. I do intend to revisit this game and expand it into something larger. One thing I did already is incorporate a plug-in that allows you to hover the mouse cursor over the buff/debuff icons and now only see exactly what they are, but what they do (and also added some other quality of life improvements to make things easier to learn in terms of combat). The main revision will come with the writing and pacing. As you are well aware I am sure, 30 days is not a lot of time to make a game, so I would like to redo the writing and pace things out in a manner that makes more sense instead of cramming a lot of things into roughly an hour or two of gameplay.

At any rate, thank you very much!

"I should respond to his nice response."

*looks left*

*looks right*

"I do not know what to say..."

*closes tab*

"I could at least 'like' his response"

*panics*

*returns*

*likes*

Hey Jesse!
What can I say, I loved your game! 
I won't even bother talking about the negatives, as firstly I think you'd be aware of them yourself, and secondly, there hardly are any in my opinion.
Instead, here's the top 3 things I liked:
The battle system was simple and strategic at the same time. Awesome! There almost never was a time when I didn't actively choose one attack over the other (instead of just mashing attack).
 The aesthetic is so grim and fits the theme and gameplay perfectly. The graphics just instantly struck that retro nerve inside me. Music is also epic!
The characters were well fleshed out not only by their words, but also by their actions/abilities in battle. This made it very enjoyable to fight on their side.

I have one wish for Unsung Heroes: Please spice up the screenshots somehow!
They don't do the game justice and made it stay on my "to play" list faaar too long.

You have my vote! Stay funky,
Dez

Developer(+1)

Thank you very much for the comments! The game is no wonderweiner, but I didn't think it was half bad either :)

Unsung Heroes is an unapologetically Western RPG. Most of you probably know but for those of you who aren't familiar with the genre, it was the OG of computer RPGs. They are traditionally low fantasy, highly technical games that often take place in a medieval Britain-like setting. These games were the computerized RPGs back in the 1980s until JRPGs like Final Fantasy stole the show. It's a niche genre that still has a dedicated fan base and if you fall into that target audience, you'll definitely want to check this game out. 

I myself am mixed on this genre. If I get into one of these games, it's extraordinarily rewarding. But it can often times be difficult to get there. Unsung Heroes thankfully falls a little on the lighter side. While it has all of the hallmarks of a classical Western RPG, it's not nearly as overly technical as some. You don't have to decide exactly what part of the body (head, arms, legs, torso etc) to attack and there isn't an overly complicated magic system that requires I have purchased or sought out 2 grams of sulfur and a salamander scale in order to cast a Burning Hands spell or something. I also don't have to go through overly tedious activities like ensure that I have food for the road, make sure all my weapons have their blades sharpened or keep tabs on my stock of arrows, crossbow darts and other projectiles I may need. 

There's still a lot of crunch to sift through, though. Most skills, including your basic attacks, do several things and you'll spend a lot of time figuring out which skills to use when. The game starts out with a group of five characters that all have an attack and an extra skill or two and these skills are often complex. Add this buff, recover HP or defense, inflict this de-buff, raise such and such stats, do more damage depending in the state or level of health your enemies have etc. Unfortunately, these initial battles are just part of the story and you won't be keeping these characters for long. Then the true game starts and you'll soon get a brand new set of 5 characters which all have a new set of skills to learn. Like I said before, this type of game requires a higher level of investment on the part of the player. 

Now that's all well and good. I agreed to review this game as part of a Secret Santa thing we have going on in the forums so at the very least, I will spend an hour playing the game as that's the amount of time that the official judges of ICMC 2017 will spend during their own review process. 

To start out, I will list the positives from my time the game. First of all, it looks really nice. The choice of the Medieval tileset, characters and monsters are absolutely perfect for a Western RPG. The mapping and dialog are equally fitting and stay well within the theme. The world map is absolutely gorgeous. The battle system has some intriguing ideas in it. Your characters have a both a health bar and another bar that represents your defenses that usually have to be exhausted before you start losing health. Different skills tactically play into this mechanic. Say a skill allows you recover health, it won't do you any good to use it until your defenses are down and you've lost some actual health so you'll want to save those until later in the battle. 

Unfortunately, I ran into some issues that put a damper on the experience. Some of them were minor like how the NPCs didn't react to events that happened in-game. These NPCs in the first town guide you to the king and your squire and after doing this, they don't adjust. It's nowhere near game breaking but it's a relatively simple task to have NPCs not tell you that your squire wants to see you when he's currently standing right next to you or that the king needs to talk to you after you've already talked to him. It breaks immersion and that's an import thing for this genre. 

But I can forgive that especially considering the time constraints involved in a game jam. I hit some other problems that were worse. The first one was the battle tutorial in the starting town. A Knight who is training some squires or something offers to explain the battle system and offers a practice sparing match. This is kind of unnecessary as you have to fight 3 battles before you actually take the role of the main protagonist but I still read the explanations anyway and then tried out a test battle. I got absolutely murdered during the sparing match. The reason this happened is because the game apparently assumed that I would have my whole party together before doing this even though I'm guaranteed to come across this first. Thankfully, you don't actually die when you lose this battle but it does take you down to 0 defense and 1 HP, and there doesn't seem to be any way to rest or recover your lost health. I thought that maybe since there was no Inn and I couldn't rest in the bed I woke up in, that the game would just be nice and restore my health when I ventured out of town. It was not that forgiving. As soon as I left town, I was greeted with a set battle and my main character is rockin' 1 HP and 0 defense at the start of my first battle that matters. Surprisingly, I was still able to overcome this even though poor Sir Gaelin got struck down before ever getting a chance to draw his sword. 

I then search around the foggy forest and see another enemy. I try to run but get distracted by a shiny object nearby. I pick up said object but that gives my undead pursuers the chance to catch up to me while the message boxes are up and I fight another battle. I'm happy to see that my main character isn't on his deathbed any longer as the whole party seems to heal after encounters. Sweet! But after I win the battle, this enemy isn't removed from the map and it immediately fights me again ... and again ... and again. A costly little mistake that forces me to reload to a previous save. Avoid the eastern part of this first area. Head north towards the bridge. 

So I ended up reloading an earlier save and making sure I avoided this encounter. I get to a story driven encounter that introduces me to 3-4  new characters who all join my group. It goes a lot better after that as I continue on and end up with two more characters in my party in short order.

So I have about 10 people in my party now, am probably about an hour forty minutes in (not counting restarts) and don't really feel like I've gotten very far but again, that's par for the course for this type of game. Short of the previously mentioned oversights, which can be fixed very easily, it's not a bad game. I will keep tabs with the progress on this one and will probably come back to it at some point. I'd like to see how it develops because there is a lot of good stuff here and I am starting to get into it. But I have a feeling that a lot more work is going to go into this one and there's probably a point where it's going to cut off due to the short time frame required to make these IGMC games. As with most games in this genre, it's an odd choice for the short 1 hour format but would make for a really fun game if you're willing to spend 20-70 hours with it when completed. 

There's a lot of potential here for those who want that level of commitment. For those who just want to casually play a fun little game for an hour and get the whole experience, this isn't the title you're looking for. All and all, though, great work! This game is going to scratch an itch that few game do when you're finished with it. 

Developer(+1)

Thanks for the detailed and lengthy review!

To be fair, aside from the aesthetic, there is almost nothing WRPG about this game, and in fact is rather JRPG at its core in terms of gameplay. Some of the hallmarks of the WRPG tend to include real-time action combat on the map, more complex inventory (grid-based, "backpack"-based, etc), and, as you pointed out, tons of attribute customization. This game has none of that. When you really break the mechanics down, this game plays out far more like a Final Fantasy game than it does Baldur's Gate.

I am sorry the bugs caused you to restart (sounds like you ran into it the worst!) I wish I had the time before submitting to properly address them (don't we all :) )

I appreciate the feedback and it is always enlightening to see what other people experience! I will definitely take some of your comments into consideration when evaluating where to take the project next. 

Thank you!

You're probably right. Maybe it was just the tactical nature of your skill system and the large party size, and of course the aesthetics, that made me think more WRPG than JRPG. Overall, though, it was a good game. Better than most and definitely had more crunch than any other I've tried out. 


By the way, how far in the story/game can you get in this version? 

Developer(+1)

*Spoiler Alert*

I am not entirely sure just how far you got, but after you find Ellex's caravan in the mountains you eventually square off against Lord Bullmont and his group. After that (and a cutscene), you end up in Storm Point where you will defend a bridge against an increasing number of attackers (3 waves, each wave gets an additional enemy every turn) with the last wave being one that you only have to survive for 5 turns. After that you get a dream sequence, then you have the Storm Point tunnels to navigate and one last final boss, and then the final cut scene.

I'm assuming that you have a lot more planned for this title based of that beautiful world map, right? 

Developer(+1)

I would like to turn this into a full title at some point. I really like the foundation I laid out, but some QOL improvements and some actual writing will go a long way.

The game is fine,The animation is a little higher than the actors.

I went into this game fully knowing that it probably wasn't for me, and yet I was pleasantly surprised! The writing is superb and every character has a unique and convincing personality. It's my first time seeing your graphics in action, and of course you've used them splendidly. I really enjoyed wandering around your maps to find all the hidden secrets. (Though I did get annoyed when we'd keep getting drawn into a battle, but that's just my preference for adventure over action.)

I noticed a few minor typos in the dialogue and one of the skills, including places where you'd just forgotten the last ".  The pixel movement isn't expectedly not perfect, sometimes it's hard to pick up items and you can also clip through poor Bessy's head.


You've also accidentally left save file 3 in. The last bug is probably the most major one, if you're trying to leave Ellex, you can still fast travel to Ellex, which takes you to a black screen. You can still open the menu, so I think it's maybe just missing a fade in screen.

So for my least favourite; battles. I think they were missing the fast paced intensity that you were aiming for, since I felt like I spent more of the time just reading through and trying to be strategic. There's nothing that can really be done about that though, and I did feel like the battle system you have was rewarding. I was engaged to plan out my attacks rather than spam random skills, and was rather pleased that I managed to survive through all of them! This feeling was numbed a little by the on map encounters, where there were multiple rounds of battles without any escape. I did also feel like they ran a bit too quickly, making it hard to avoid.

I stopped playing after defeating Lord Bullmont, which was a little over an hour in. You've made an incredible amount of very polished feeling work and it felt like a good foundation for a grand adventure! :D

Developer(+1)

Thanks Rhino for giving it a go even if the type of game is outside of your normal wheelhouse :) 

The bug with the Ellex map transfer was not something I caught (obviously) but really wish I had the ability to fix, but alas, it is too late! Same with the multiple encounters in a row - no clue why that bug is happening, but it doesn't happen all the time luckily (at least for me, it was like once per playthrough).

I appreciate the feedback a lot!