Disgraced

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Steam Page

This game is total garbage.

Oops, did I spoil the review a little early? Should I have put in all of the negative points first? Well, probably, but people on the internet have short attention spans for long review posts. They probably only look for the yea/nay and call it a day. Anyway, Disgraced is a total disgrace (see what I did there?). Let me explain.

Disgraced is an RPG Maker game, and RPG Maker games are already a plague on the Earth because of their terrible graphics and awful copy/pasta scripts but this game goes way beyond that. First, let’s talk about the introduction. To introduce you to the game, Disgraced copies George Lucas. That is, they do the text scroll thing like in Star Wars. Which by itself… can be excused… maybe. Put some ambient music behind it, have scenes playing in the background, sure. I could live with that. I wouldn’t like it, I think it’s lazy, but I could live with it. This game just runs text up a black screen with way too much blank space between lines. You ever program? Imagine like 40 newlines between every line of code. Obnoxious and terrible execution.

The plot of the game is that you are a deserter that gets conned into leading a rebellion. Your qualification for this seems to be – you are a deserter. You didn’t kill the guy you were working for. You ran like a little girl. Your task is to ‘liberate’ (hostile takeover) three cities and gather enough support to take on Kyoto. You do this by walking all across Japan and going to every town. You need to gather the support of villages (usually via bribery) because you’re not allowed to attack the cities unless you have enough support.

Get enough support, fight samurai death squads, and beat the Shogun. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it’s not. The combat in this game has to some of the most poorly balanced combat I’ve ever seen. You will miss almost every single attack. You have two (2!) health bars to manage Vitality and Morale. If you run out of Vitality you die and if you run out of Morale you desert. Shit, it’s the same damn thing for the purpose of combat. May as well dump all your points in Vitality because my Morale never dropped below two-thirds.

And you best make all of the offerings to RNGsus because if you take a single crit you may as well reload your save because that person is likely dead. Like, dead dead. No revivals. Normally this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. After all, Fire Emblem does it too. But Fire Emblem’s RNG isn’t terrible. But combine that with the fact that your party does NOT level together, losing your level 7 dude with only level 1 goons to replace him means grinding or (in my case) reloading your save. And it wouldn’t be so bad but every attack (barring one skill, I think) is single-target. You have 3 people, they will almost always have 5. Which means you get 3 attacks a turn and they get 5. Combine that with the terrible RNG and you get a game in which combat is cancer. The SFX are too loud and the BGM is non-existent. Well, it’s there but even at max volume you can hardly hear it. Isn’t really any good either.

In fact, if I had to pick two words to describe this game, they would be ‘Needlessly Complicated’. There are so many skills (which again, many are functionally useless because who needs morale?) that leveling up certain skills makes you wonder where the newb traps are. The stats you level up (probably) don’t matter. I only ever leveled up ‘Might’ and I swept the game just fine. The resource management is also needlessly complicated, and serves only as means to bribe the villages to assist in your cause. This support manifests itself only by resources you supposedly collect once a day but I’m not sure that collection ever happened. You can collect a ton of allied units but because of the problem I mentioned above, there’s no reason to. Just use your first three goons to sweep the game (that’s what I did anyway).

The choices you make have zero impact on the game. I could’ve sworn I saw ‘Choices matter’ somewhere associated with this game. They don’t. Don’t waste your time. Press space through every dialogue, there’s nothing of value there. One you get some money rolling and can afford decent equipment (highest damage/accuracy) you can win any battle by killing enemies in one or two hits. This drastically improves your 3v5 situation to 3v3 or 3v2.

Let’s take a quick look at the map design. The game uses stock sprites from RPG Maker (exclusively, I think). And you can really tell because the wolf sprite doesn’t have the same style as some of the box sprites (among other things). And while this is terrible by itself, it becomes much, much worse when you don’t make it clear what you can walk through and what you cannot. Combine this with narrow passages and an NPC that stands LITERALLY IN YOUR WAY then navigating towns becomes insufferable.

This game is not worth $10; this game is not worth $1. It’s a short game (takes, maybe 4 hours to clear?) and you will not enjoy it. I guarantee it. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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Disgraced

Cubicle Quest

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Steam Page

In my ongoing effort to conquer every small game in my Steam library I have moved on to Cubicle Quest. It’s an inspired JRPG, which reminds me of my other review of Ar Tonelico (which you should totally read if you haven’t already because it boosts my self-esteem). So let’s talk Cubicle Quest.

You play Bob, the most generic name ever, probably so you can easily project yourself onto him. You are a recent college graduate with a ton of credit card debt and college loans. As a recent graduate myself, I can vouch for having a ton of college loan debt, but credit card debt? I’ve never had more than $300 put onto credit. I’d like to think my experience is the norm. Otherwise – hooo boy. Credit Card companies must be making bank. The entire theme of the game has to do with life after school. You’re kicked out of the home of your parents; which, being honest with you, I don’t think is terribly likely. Most of my friends are about to hit their mid-twenties and they’re still with their parents. Playing Bob, you advance your way through your career, your social life, life’s many problems, and eventually conquer “Empty Life” – the final boss.

The story isn’t terribly inspired. If anything, it’s pretty much real life struggle. Finding a job, dealing with other people in your life, and dealing with real-world problems like depression. Most of the dialogue in the game is tongue-in-cheek fourth-wall breaking banter. Which, as I am sorry to disappoint you in saying this, does not make it any less cliche. It’s amusing to read, but then again I also laughed at Tyrion’s joke about a Stark, a Tyrell, and a Lannister entering a bar. My sense of humour is probably not the best to go by. Long story short – it’s a JRPG that’s aware of itself being a JRPG. Which doesn’t make it any better.

Can we talk about JRPGs? Let’s talk about JRPGs. JRPG has to be the type of game I like least, or it’s waaaaaay up there. Why? Because JRPGs are long. Because JRPGs more often than not include grinding. They include memorizing enemy types (which we’ll get to in a minute). They include all of this bananas stuff. I don’t like the idea of levels, wherein you lose because you quoted bigger numbers at the other person. This is why I often praise Dark Souls. While levels can help, most of Dark Souls is about resource management and positioning. Very little of it is about how long you spend in the Darkroot Forest grinding Cat Covenant members. In a JRPG, you can be the best micro-manager of resources possible but still lose because you took on a Level 15 boss with your Level 2 party. It’s a playstyle which promotes time investment of fighting mooks just so you can fight the boss. I just don’t like that sort of thing.

My biggest gripe with this game is enemy types. As near as I can tell, there are three enemy types (possibly four). Those are Work, Personal, and Human (and possibly Illusion). There are a series of skills on each your party members which can be effective against any of these types of monsters. The problem is, you have no way of telling what type of monster it is by looking at it. So you spend half the fight guessing which type is super effective until you find it and then you have to memorize it for future battles. Suppose you leave and fight other stuff in another area of the game. Fighting this other stuff is pretty rough, so you decide to grind back in the original area. Now you have to try to remember what type of enemies these were. It’s madness! It’s bonkers! This is not what I call fun!

Every item in the game, every piece of equipment is related to real life but effectively it’s a Find/Replace of your typical JRPG. Instead of ‘weapon’ you have ‘goals’. Instead of ‘armour’ you have ‘community’. It’s not terribly interesting and it doesn’t add anything to the genre. You don’t get points in the game’s favour just because you know what a Find/Replace function does. I mean, it’s amusing for the first two seconds but when you realize what has been done, the chuckle dies down inside and you slowly come to terms with your depressing life, unemployment, and lack of ambition…. what was I saying again?

The game presses out three things that fulfill you in life. These three things are home, lack of debt, and marriage. You have to have all three things to challenge the boss. Lack of debt I can maybe understand. I mean, who wants to spend their entire life effectively making nothing because every dime they make goes to someone else (college debt is slowly encroaching on me…). A home? Yeah, sure. I can maybe get behind that too. Not having to be accountable to someone else for the state of your home is pretty nice. I like being able to put a nail in my wall without having to fill out some paperwork for my landlord as much as the next person. But marriage? This is where I draw the line. Allow me to bring up a personal anecdote.

In my senior year of high school, in my European history class, everyone was forced to read The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. At some point or another, we were split into groups and tasked with the job of creating an alternate ending to the book. So this was probably after we had all finished the book. Well, I say ‘we’ very operatively. I don’t recall ever personally finishing the book because I just didn’t care anymore. I know protagonist kills one of his former tormentors and I think he goes to prison but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get out of this. So we’re talking about alternate endings and I can’t remember what my ideas focused on, probably PK’s boxing career, and another member of the group keeps trying to press this one idea. She agreed with everything else we said, whatever it was, but she kept trying to tack on a marriage. To the slut mentioned at the beginning of the book, oddly enough. I think she was referred to as ‘Couchy’ or something? Because everyone lays on her at some point or another? This partner of mine kept trying to force this marriage into the ending somehow as if that were the defining characteristic of a happy ending. Marriage. I’m not denying that marriage can probably make you happy (considering that I’ve never been married or even in a relationship in which marriage seems like a likely outcome) but I wouldn’t make it a prerequisite. So that’s a drag.

Oh, and this one comment is for the easily triggered: I did not find any way to have a homosexual relationship. Make of that what you will.

All in all, the game is decent enough to pass time, but I wouldn’t really want to play it? Like, if you have a long car ride and can somehow play Steam games on your phone (maybe in the future… future… future…) it wouldn’t be that bad but then I think – there are a ton of better games that I would rather be playing. So why play this one? If you like the snarky-sarcastic theme; some might even call it snarcastic. Though I’m not entirely sure whether snarky and sarcastic are synonyms. I can’t recommend this game as a ‘good’ game though. It has humour… and that’s about it. And humour can’t carry a game like this. It worked in The Stanley Parable because the game was narrative driven and fairly short with multiple endings. It doesn’t work in JRPGs because the bulk of the game is fighting, not narrative. So, sorry Cubicle Quest. I like the idea, but not the execution.

Artemis Hunt

Cubicle Quest

Ar Tonelico – Melody of Elemia

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Is this a retro review? Game is almost a decade old. Ah well.

So I played Ar Tonelico because one of my close friends (yes, I have close friends) recently (if three months ago can be ‘recent’) delivered unto me one of their patented rants. As someone that loves video games and friends, I take their rant rather seriously and decided to play it. After all, if it’s something that creates a two hour rant, it can’t be that bad.

Ar Tonelico is a JRPG, so you know what that means. Insufferably long, collecting something or another, big bosses, there’s going to be a traitor, the works. You play Lyner, because there’s no name finer. You start off in the Cloud District the Sky City of Platina and monsters that we call viruses are running wild. Normally you can handle them but this new one is super strong and can’t be damaged by physical attacks. One of your party stays behind to hold it off while the boss (that is, your boss) sends you to the lower world to find a macguffin that will solve all of the problems. Your ship gets attacked by a dargon and it crashes.

When you hit the ground, you’re probably bleeding out but a love interest girl of the church saves you. You can tell she’s special and that she’ll probably join your party at some point because she’s the only one with her sprite that’s wearing pink. Once you tell the church your mission, they pledge to help, and we can finally really set off. Oh yeah, the pinkie has a name, Aurica. She’s assigned to follow you (I knew it) and help you. Which is her wet dream come true because it parallels a legend that she loves and she’s easily deluded by fantasy. “Oh Lyner, true love will spark between us and we’ll be the legend cometh again”. Poor girl.

Aurica is revealed to be a Reyvateil, a special class of people that can use magic by… SINGING. Wow, that melody thing in the title sure came about. It’s almost like the ‘tone’ in Ar TONElico is actually related to music. Reyvateil fight with you but since they’re focused on singing, they stay in the back and you need to protect them if they get targeted. They level up in battle with you but don’t get stronger spells naturally. For that, you need to ‘dive’ into them (mind out of the gutter mates). Diving into a Reyvateil means entering their psyche or something like that. Each Reyvateil has a ‘Mind Guardian’ that sorta acts like the Virgil to your Dante, but often less friendly. And Aurica has the best Mind Guardian because his name is Don Leon and he has a sexy spanish accent and he’s this adorable little lion with a pan on his head! He’s the best! I mean, look at him!

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I love you Don Leon. You’ll always be my hero.

So yeah, diving into the Reyvateil. You enter the Reyvateil’s Cosmosphere which exists as a metaphor for the Reyvateil’s ‘inner demons’, things like anxiety, depression, or a feeling of entrapment. When you dive into the Reyvateil, you confront them and these inner demons. You help them solve their problems (remember, the only person that can save you is you) and badda bing. You get new song magic. I think that it’s a pretty neat system, even if I feel like it may exist (in game) mostly to explore relationships between you and the Reyvateil. Out of game, I feel like it’s designed to help young teenagers that are playing the game solve their problems. Or maybe it’s an avenue to helping people look at things from other perspectives, so that we may understand each other a little bit more. I think it’s great, a nice little after-school special.

And that’s pretty much the game. You have to save Platina and eventually the world (because JRPG) and you choose between one of three waifus… or do you. Remember those Cosmospheres I mentioned? I hope so, it was only the prior paragraph. If not, go up a paragraph and (re)read that. Anyway, so each Cosmosphere has 9 levels. On the ninth level, a ‘ceremony’ is performed in the name of giving the Reyvateil more power. But it’s a ceremony that her friends and family are all supporting you and telling you to ‘take care of her for me’ and… yeah it’s a wedding. We all knew it was a wedding. Lyner, you’re retarded, the whole ceremony is a wedding. It’s a wedding in all but name. They even say that which I know as wedding vows (I have not yet been wed, nor do I remember what the real weddings I attended were like) and at the end there’s a hug instead of a kiss. Which brings us to the characters.

The characters aren’t terribly dynamic. Particularly Lyner. Lyner is the most boring protagonist you can come up with and he fits all of the determined idiot tropes you can think of. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I suppose since I think the real lessons are in the Cosmospheres and the emphasis is on common situations you might encounter, I view the characters as an avenue of storytelling. They’re constructed to suit the story. But seriously, Lyner, you’re boring. So how did we get here from weddings in Cosmospheres? Easy. So Lyner has this line that pisses me off every time he says it. The line before is the priest saying something like, ‘now hug [the girl] as a confirmation of your vows’ and you know what this little bugger says every single time? ‘Do I have to?’ Lyner you dimwit. The girl is in her wedding gown, you’ve helped her get through all of her insecurities, you’ve agreed to essentially marry her and you don’t want to hug this pretty little thing that you’ve loved and nurtured? *Flips table* I’m done.

So the characters are as simple as they need to be to tell the story and produce the scenarios presented. Is it lazy writing? Probably not. Is it cliche? Hell yes. Is it bad? No. The characters play out their after-school special and everything is good. I enjoyed it.

Let’s talk about crafting since this is a JRPG with crafting and I don’t see it often in this way with the other JRPGs I’ve played. Mostly Tales games and Final Fantasy (the good ones). The crafting system by itself is boring in that you collect materials from monsters you’ve slain, you craft yourself something nice. Where I like crafting most is in the naming of crafted things. Let’s say you’re crafting something. Depending on the active Reyvateil, if it’s the first time you’ve crafted it with her watching, she’ll try to name it. The conversations to naming things can be just straight up amusing. One Reyvateil is absolutely silly with her names. Your naming scheme is horrible! Just stop! You’re not clever! The other is trying to forcefully take your love and make everything she names and the conversations that follow relate to your undying love for her. It’s great. These conversations are probably my favourite conversations in the game.

The thing I like most about Ar Tonelico is the commitment to a theme. From the outset, the theme is music. ‘Tone’ in the title? Check. Singing maidens? Check. The first forest you land in? It’s called Viola forest and normally I’d let something like that slide as sheer coincidence. But then the next forest you go into is called Cello Forest. Once is coincidence, twice is intentional (that goes for you, would be couples that ‘accidentally’ bump hands while walking together). There’s also a Singing Hill location and Silver Horn location. Silver horn, by the way, looks like a trumpet. Within Silver Horn there’s a barrier that exists to stop people from going through it by FRYING THEM ALIVE. What it’s called? Oh, only the VOICE OF GOD. What? It can be turned off? By pressing THREE VALVES (Half-Life 3 confirmed). Let me get this straight; inside a trumpet, the Voice of God is heard. Aren’t trumpets usually associated with messages from God? Did not the angel that told Mary about baby Jesus announce their presence with a TRUMPET? Did Joshua not bring down the house with TRUMPETS? And do trumpets not usually have… not one, not two, but THREE valves? Song magic drives the game, literally. The plot requires your Reyvateil to sing specific songs! Overall, I probably give the game the most points on this commitment to theme alone.

Overall, highly recommend!

Artemis Hunt

Ar Tonelico – Melody of Elemia