Disgraced

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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

LiEat

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Steam Page

Wow, am I about to hand out another favorable review? Two in a row? I must be going soft. But it’s true, I did rather enjoy LiEat. I picked it up on sale during the anime sale and it has three LiEat games within it. So this review covers all three.

There are a lot of things that I have problems with when it comes to games. One of the biggest ones is ‘overstaying your welcome’. See, I don’t handle horrendously long games that well. Well… that might not be true. It’s probably better to say that developers don’t often make a long game a good one. I think this is driven by an industry standard in which long games = better games? Or perhaps you can charge more for a longer game, people might like to pay for a certain number of hours of playtime. But quite frankly, I think that’s a horrible justification for long games. That’s essentially saying that you made a game long to make the game long. It’s like padding on a woman, sure, it might make them seem more appealing. But at the end of the day you’re both disappointed. Ironically for the reason behind this game! Lying.

The game’s title is a very clever combination of the words ‘lie’ and ‘eat’. You will at some point in the game eat lies. Simple enough, right? Right. You play… well I don’t want to spoil the plot for this one so let’s just call them Dude and Efi. Efi is the dragon, she can eat lies. Dude is an information broker, but he seems to play detective. That’s where the lie-eating dragon comes in. You, the player, deduce what the lies are, and then eat them. You arrive at the scene. Something has gone down. You talk to everyone, gather clues, and then when you’re ready to do your deduction game, you’re given a few ‘lies’. Of the lies, there will be truths hidden. What this means is that you’ll have to use your notes and what the lies are saying to deduce which are actual lies and which are truths. You don’t want to eat the truth (apparently it tastes bad).

Combat is turn-based like every JRPG and their mum. But that’s not so bad because the combat doesn’t make up the bulk of the game. Combat is a fine method of progressing through a game, but it cannot carry a game. That’s where the rest of the game’s elements come together. LiEat has a magnificent aesthetic. It reminds me of Pokemon Gold and Silver era. It’s also kind of amusing when you realize how the art links together, but that’s probably just my gaming quirk. For instance, there’s a room with a giant eye in it. Really, it’s just two layers. A hole, and a background with an iris looking drawing on it. As you move through the room, the iris background moves with you, making it appear as though the eye is following you for creepy effect! Is that impressive? Not really. But it’s my blog and I’m going to squee over it because I think it’s awesome. The art style just really comes together. It has this Victorian feel to it… if I’m using that adjective properly. That header image? It’s not nearly representative of the game. Looks more like this

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Isn’t that art fantastic? And the music! The music is fabulous! The music really sells the theme. It’s classy, it’s silly, it’s spoopy, it’s whatever the tone needs it to be. And it’s amazing how I never noticed the transitions until I noticed the transitions. That’s not the way I meant to word that. What’s a better way to say this? I never noticed the transitions until it was apparent that the mood in the story had changed to fit it? Maybe the best way to say this is that I never noticed transitions. The music always fit the tone and you, the listener, could not distinguish when the tone changed because it’s just done that well.

The story is generally rather basic. You could likely tell how things were going to play out well in advance. And perhaps that’s the game’s intention. Each game (LiEat 1, LiEat 2, LiEat 3) started with some kind of storybook sequence. A myth, a dream, something like that. And you could tell how the dream applied when you started playing the game and talked to all of the characters to get a feel for the scenario that you were about to play. The dialogue is well-written, each of the characters are as interesting as they need to be for their involvement in the plot.

Of the three games, I think the second one was the one best made. The first one felt like the stretching of legs, to see if this game concept would work. The characters are so adorable how could this game concept not work? The deduction game in the first one is rather simple. I got the bad ending first because curious =(

The second game was where the writers really seemed to hit their stride. The setup was great, the characters were rather flaunty, and the deduction game (while still simple) felt more involved. It felt like more work had gone into it somehow. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s how I felt. And Efi just seemed to be on her game for funsies the most in this one.

I don’t think the third game had a deduction game, and this might be why I rate it second. I tend to favor the third game more because it ties together the threads of the first two games, but it didn’t have a deduction game and the method to getting the good vs bad ending seems a bit too simple, which I’ll spoil because it’s that bad. To get the good ending you need to be a certain level before fighting the final boss. That’s it. That’s not what I want for my story endings! I want some choice that I made earlier in the game to be more significant! But the story itself reveals so much about the characters in the game. And I was more invested in the characters in these games anyway. So I rate three below two for gameplay, but three above two for story.

The thing that wraps this up in a nice little bow is that it’s wrapped in a nice little bow. The game is as long as it needs to be. This is the way I like my games. Show up, get in, get out. It didn’t drag itself out for the sake of runtime. It didn’t drag itself out enough to make me lose interest in the characters. It had three short stories that it wanted to tell. It told these three short stories in a timely manner. And for that I applaud it. It’s self-contained, a lesson that I think more developers should take to heart.

At the end of the day, I highly recommend this game. At the time of writing it’s $2.39 on Steam. That’s like $0.80 per short story. It’s worth it, I promise you.

Artemis Hunt

LiEat

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