Here is my review of the game:
I originally took note of the game when looking through the various entries in the contest to gauge our competition. One thing that particularly stood out was Cumulus as it uses a very different style from what you usually associate with RPGMaker games. In retrospect I must say that the picture chosen for it doesn’t give it full justice.
Upon starting the game you immediately notice the design of the main menu. It shows off various characters and has some nice effects and music to go with it. It doesn’t exactly tell you what you’re playing and made me confused but that wasn’t really an issue.
Starting the game gets you right into the action. A small tutorial is given to the player in an action-packet sequence, teaching you the basics of gameplay. It also serves to set the overall theme and setting of the game. You quickly learn of the conflict between the Sky People of Atmosph Isle, who possess strong magic and flight, and the so called Earthbound Heathens, who use very impressive looking flying machines.
The combat follows quickly afterwards and so do some first problems…
The combat uses a real-time action-based system with attack, block and ability quick slots which are activated by using a direction key and the spell button. Both ground and air abilities exist but I never used air combat.
The idea of having Block and Attack sounds nice until you realize that neither you nor the enemies have any sort of wind-up or telegraphing. Actions are instant so what I ended up doing was spamming attacks until the enemies died and hoping they didn’t get to attack me first. The combat is a bit broken and can put you into some nasty stunlocks if you get outnumbered. There is a fight in which you have to defeat a group of skeletons who will inevitably gang up on you. An evasion move could have helped a lot here.
The difficulty of these moments is offset by the general abundance of healing items. It seems like a strange contradiction but the game is both hard and yet too easy at the same time because of this.
However, these are among the only issues I have with this game.
The writing is good and never felt forced or drawn out and the game doesn’t force the player to sit through minutes of exposition like many other games. The creator seems to be aware of the phrase “Show, don’t tell” and the important scenes always get right to the point. There are plenty of NPCs to interact with which can shed some light on the history of the setting and none of them feel like they exist just to explain things to the player.
On the topic of writing, the story itself is very interesting. I felt myself drawn in and wanting to learn more about the history of the Atmosph Isle and the Vanadium Empire that exists on the ground. I won’t spoil too much of the story but it is mentioned that the Earthbounders have tried to take over the Isle many times but have never succeeded as they could not overcome the magic of the Sky people. The Earthbounders make mention of that several times and take pride in their accomplishments, having to do with nothing but their own hands. I strangely found myself intrigued and charmed by both sides, even though the Imperials were clearly the bad guys in this story. The name of the antagonist Prince Tyrannis alone should tell you everything. Both cultures appeared distinct and different, even though we only got to see the Empire’s military.
Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by this game. Sure, the combat is clunky but the game is much more than that. Considering that it was made by one person in a month, I would say that is a very solid basis and I would love to see more. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was trying to be a longer game if it had the time and resources. The game had a very good prologue and beginning but it felt that the middle was cut out and you were thrown right at the end. The final boss felt very anticlimactic after he had been shown to be so scary and capable. Perhaps a future version will take the time it deserves to be amazing. It definitely has the potential.
So final summary:
+Good art and music selection
+Very interesting story and world-building
-Difficulty needs balancing
On a last note, I showed some friends footage and screenshots of the game as I was playing it and they jokingly made remarks about the protag’s similarity to Dante from DMC and Berserk’s Guts. I found that entertaining.