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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review: A creative use of RPG Maker VX - Legionwood: Tale of Two Swords

RPG Maker VX is being used in some very creative ways. The software itself, at a basic level, allows people to make their own, simple RPGs in the vein of early-era Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.

It's easy to learn, but for people that get really into it, allows for some advanced scripting to create innovative experiences that you could never expect the software to handle.

Gear up for another epic quest

Legionwood: Tale of Two Swords is a one man project by Australian, Dayle Robert Grixti. It's not innovative, but it's a solid 15+ hour RPG, with a strong combat system, charming presentation and pleasant music.

The plot is standard SNES-era fantasy fare. The lead character wakes up in a bed at the start of the game (thankfully, this hero is not suffering a bout of amnesia). He, and his little sister, go to participate in a royal birth celebration, but they come across a plot to kill the king and start a war between two nations. Of course, they fail to stop this plot, and the story begins in earnest.

It's not a particularly well-written plot. Grixti struggles with creating believable, consistent characters, and other times the dialogue is a little too overblown for its own good. But on the plus side for RPG Maker projects, it's at least grammatically solid. While it's games like these that remind us of the value of hiring a dedicated story writer for an RPG, in fairness to Legionwood, the plot manages to remain charming and retro while driving players to the next dungeon.

The plot isn't a work of literature, but it's entertaining

The gameplay itself is genuinely compelling. Legionwood features an Ability Point system - level up, and you're given a few AP points to spend to customise your characters. There's a good range of categories to assign points to, so within this context you're able to slowly build a range of very different heroes. This is nothing new to RPGs, of course - everything from Star Ocean through to Oblivion and Dragon Age has this system in some form, but it builds a great sense of care in your characters as a result. Throw in a robust inventory system and you'll be tweaking your characters more than you could ever expect a one-man project to ask you to.

The combat itself leans on the difficult side, with some nasty difficulty spikes at points. This is offset by a relatively gentle encounter rate and dungeon design that tends to be a little more creative than the "get from point A to point B" Final Fantasy style. We're not talking of puzzles to the standards of a Golden Sun or Zelda game, but there is a definite variety in these dungeons to keep you interested.

The game's presentation is very much at the mercy of the RPG Maker toolset, but that's still an attractive look, with charming sprites and bright colours. The enemy sprites in combat are a little small and lack any kind of intimidation factor (especially disappointing when boss battle fights start). The music is generally fitting, with some nice touches and well-used sound effects here and there.

The only real disappointment to this game; pint-sized enemies

Legionwood is a game we would be glad to see on one of the "lesser" download services - such as PlayStation Network Minis, XBLA Indie, DSiWare or the iPhone. It's a solid quest that's not over too soon, and might even be worth playing through twice. Big props to Dayle Robert Grixti for making something great within the limitations of RPG Maker VX.



If you would like to try this game for yourself, you can find it here.

If you enjoyed it, or are a fan of other RPG maker games, why not pop into our forums to discuss them? And, if you have an indie game project you would like reviewed on our Website, feel free to drop us a line at digitallydownloaded@gmail.com
Review: A creative use of RPG Maker VX - Legionwood: Tale of Two Swords
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