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Where the game shines is the battle system, which is simple to pick up but has a lot of neat little details that make fights really fun! Each weapon you can use is set to a 'wait' timer- wait the allotted time and you'll use it, but every enemy attack also has this timer, so they'll go first if your wait time is longer. The four core weapon types have different attributes tied to this wait time- bows are weak but have short wait periods, swords have medium wait times but let you defend, shields don't attack but reduce/nullify damage taken while you wait, and spells are powerful and pierce through shields but have long wait times. As a result, the battles are pretty engaging as it's a matter of timing and planning ahead- with the right move choices, you can conquer any foe with little damage!
The way the game handles its inventory and levelling-up systems is a little different too- you earn EXP during battle but use this to level up your items (except stat-boosting ones) which you can only have eight of at a time, and raising a weapon's level can make it more powerful or reduce its wait time. Later you also get access to a blacksmith who can refine items (including stat-boosters) to make them even stronger. There's only a handful of each type of weapon and item, but there's enough differences between them that you'll pick a favourite. This simple inventory stuff ties in with another of the game's strengths, that it's super-friendly, with a lot of features added to make the game easier to get to the end of- you're very clearly prompted if you want to fight or run before a boss battle, a room you find later in game keeps any items you've had to drop so you can get them back, and dying restarts you either at your home or the inn with a steak ready for you which permanently raises your HP. While this doesn't make the game challenging, the fact that you have to plan a little for battles and figure out strategies for each enemy means it still feels satisfying to progress, there's just a few safety nets to help you along.
I often find that I enjoy short games a lot more, and Helen's Mysterious Castle is a gem of a tiny RPG, with the one downside being that it can sometimes be easy to have no idea where to go (as a hint, there are some areas where you can go into the walls, and these are usually telegraphed in some way) but aside from that this is an easy recommendation to try- it's available from its Playism page. Beyond the cut, we just have a few extra screenshots of other parts of the game, and while I've done my best to avoid any spoilers, if you'd like to go in completely blind then go no further!
Wine and Roses is and RPG Maker game published in late 2012. You play as a trio of exorcists under the employ of Luc Francisco, Lord of Fort Adder. The fort has been taken by monsters and spirits and such, cursing everything and everyone in it and leaving Lord Francisco a skeleton.
The game presents as a typical top down jrpg, with some uniqueness. There are no random encounters, instead each enemy you can fight is visible on the map, allowing you to choose when and what you fight. When you win a fight it disappears forever. and you are gifted upgrades, loot, skills, and story tidbits. It feels kinda like Megaman, you fight a boss and get a new weapon or power and most of the time another enemy is weak to your new equipment.
During the fights you control the three exorcists, Carmanth, Argent, and Nynavae. Luc is incapable of fighting in his skeletal form, so he instead offers advice and color commentary on the fight as it progresses. This is used as a gameplay mechanic to kinda help you figure out what to do against some of the tougher enemies, but it is also used a storytelling element. Luc is usually not being a smarmy jerk he sometimes offers insight into his past and personality, I really liked this part of the game.
The maps are laid out so that you can pretty much go everywhere at the outset, it reminds me a little of Demon Souls. Some fights are definitely easier at the start (I think the ice sector was way harder than the rest) but you can try whatever you like. If you lose a fight it just boots you back to the map where you were, so there's no real penalty for losing. This may be the most forgiving and inviting RPG I've ever played.
At the end of it all Wine and Roses was fun to play. On top of that, it was funny, emotional, and challenging without being off-putting. Only real complaint is that it's short, maybe four hours, although there is a fair bit of replay if you like toying around with the exorcists loadouts. I recommend this to anyone who likes rpg's or silly skeletons with dressed like red mages.
Strawberry Cubes is a pay-what-you-want platformer for Windows. You move through mesmerizing, glitchy fixed screens with an expansive, mostly hidden movement vocabulary, climbing plants, ringing bells, and collecting purple icons for occult reasons. The focus is on exploration, both of the game's (jarring but pleasantly benign) space and of its (not at all benign) hidden systems.
( Rambly 'review' behind the cut )
Artifact Adventure is a Dragon Quest-a-like for PC by Bluffman, available from both Playism and on Steam for USD $6.99. It is faaaantastic.
I grew up with the early Dragon Quest/Warrior games, playing them with my mom on NES, and my favorite part was going around to the different towns, poking through the overworld, looking for secret forests and ruined villages and learning about the different stories of everyone I encountered. I can take or leave rescuing a princess, but acting as a courier to send messages back and forth between towns, saving someone's child from bandits, or filling an order for weapons for the king's guard totally captivated me. If only there was a game that was nothing but little moments like that!
Well, Artifact Adventure is that game. Artifact Adventure is entirely sidequests, letting you go through the world and rescue people from evil fishmen, rouse a village of people from a curse of eternal sleep, decide whether or not to save a girl from being sacrificed to a volcano god vs. letting the town perish. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of decisions to make in the game, most of which (if not all, so far--I'm still working my way through it) seem to have permanent and lasting effects. There are very few objectively wrong decisions, too. For instance, the game starts off with you being tasked to unlock one of three doors, which lead to:
- an airship (yup you can get an airship at the beginning of the game)
- a set of four artifacts of great power
- a Key of Time, which lets you visit different wise men scattered across the land.
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