Overall Score 65%
Iíve seen a few games now created using the RPG Maker construction kit, but Laxius Force seems to be the most expansive and ambitious project to date. Although games made with the kit are somewhat limited in scope, this one seems to be pushing the limits as to what can be accomplished with RPG Maker, and is testament to the dedication to these types of games from the fans, and also to the perseverance and eye to detail of the developer.
In this game the player takes control of Random Pendragon and his girlfriend, Sarah Brandolino as they lead their brave team of adventurers against the evil plans of the Order and the ultimate pinnacle of evil, The Grand Commandanter (sic). Itís standard classic RPG stuff, yet itís apparent that the whole process of creating the back story and designing the individual characters and dialogue has been a labour of love for Aldorlea Games. Thereís just such a tangible passion for the genre that permeates every action in the game.
I would imagine that the developers are not native speakers of English, and as a result sometimes (actually, more often than not) the dialogue is convoluted to a degree. It never really affects the game to a point where the player has no idea of whatís going on, but sometimes sees the characters making some cryptic remarks, and detracts a little from the overall polish. For some reason the game is also liberally peppered with sexual innuendo ranging form the subtle and sublime reference to outright bawdy and lewd comment from certain characters!
Gameplay is standard hack and slash type faire, with the party moving around the environment slaying monsters and solving quests. There are apparently more than 100 quests to be solved throughout the game, though not all need to be attempted in order to complete the main story. Plenty of items will reward a curious and adventurous player, with rewards especially for players who attempt side quests and explore non-essential areas, of which there seems to be plenty. Quests can be tracked in-game via a special screen, and although itís not immediately clear what needs to be done at any one time, thereís always something to do.
Character development is extremely limited and linear. Upon levelling up, characters are automatically awarded stat points and skills with no input from the player. At least the player is (after a significant wait) allowed to chop and change party members from all recruited characters. This does provide a little variety. I do like the massive amount (well over 30) of status changes that can affect player characters and monsters alike, both in and out of combat.
Speaking of combat, the mechanics seem fairly well implemented. The player is better rewarded to play with a mixed and balanced team of melee and magic using characters, but by no means mandated to do so. Just donít expect to get too far without a good inventory of potions and remedies, and a fundamental understanding of the various status changes and their implications. The well presented HTML manual is a accessible and useful tool and contains all the information the player needs to know.
Iím not a fan of excessive save/reloading in games for two reasons. I think that it detracts in a major way from the immersion and continuity factor, and also that it removes ramifications of poor in-game decisions made by the player (which in my opinion is a bad thing in a RPG). In Laxius Force you will need to save regularly and frequently. Your party will die a lot. Mostly this stems from stumbling into areas that you are not supposed to be in yet (determined by the character levels in your party). I guess that this is an unavoidable consequence of the fairly open world mechanics in the game. But why you cannot run from a fight that is obviously going to end in your partyís grizzly death is beyond me. In every RPG that Iíve played before, the player had this option! Normally after death, the party is translocated to a nearby safe spot and the players gold reserves are docked 10%. However, on occasion, death to certain enemies means that the game is suddenly terminated, and the only recourse is a reload of a saved game. I lost 3 and a half hours of game time because of that silly feature.
I found that playing entirely on the keyboard was fine, as only a handful of keys are needed to fully control the game. The interface is logically set out, and party and inventory management is a simple affair. Graphically, the game clocks in at circa 1992. Itís what you may have expected to see when you jammed a cartridge into your SNES machine all those years ago, and even the music and sound effects sound like ports from the old 16-bit days of the classic RPG heyday.
In all, I spent close to 12 hours playing Laxius Force, which honestly is far more than what I would have spent had I not been reviewing it. Itís a goodish re-incarnation of such classics as the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series that had me glued to the TV all those years ago. If youíre too young to have lived through those heady days in the 80ís and 90ís in front of your console, then there might be some merit in taking a look at Laxius Force. Itís where CRPGís evolved to a point where they went beyond the realms of guys in the basement playing D&D and attracted a more mainstream following. Laxius Force might be a newly developed game, but itís been built from a failsafe blueprint that has been around for a couple of decades now.
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