Thursday, August 20, 2015

Skyborn - 6/20 hours

My internet went out yesterday, and I was forced to play Skyborn in offline mode. This led to Steam's counter falling out of sync with my actual playtime. That annoyed me greatly. The in-game counter doesn't track things like reloads, new games, and time spent in the menu trying to get my controller to work (it turns out that when rpgmaker says it's going to map a controller button to "c," that doesn't mean the "c" button on your keyboard, but rather the third function of the particular game you're playing). So, six hours is really my best guess.

But that's just fussy bookkeeping stuff. How is the game itself? Well, first, it's an rpgmaker game. No value judgement there, but there's no mistaking it for anything else. If you've used rpgmaker before, it's pretty obvious how the game was made, and it does nothing particularly surprising with the engine.

That being said, it's probably as good a game as you could possibly expect, given how it started. It doesn't do anything to transcend or reinvent the rpgmaker formula, but it uses the toolkit provided in more or less the ideal way. The level designs are diverse and interesting to look at, filled with various geegaws and set-dressing that nicely toes the line between "barren" and "cluttered," the characters are not terribly deep, but they are appealing types and snappily written, the plot is easy to follow, but entertaining, and the combat, while not exactly groundbreaking and a little on the easy side, does manage to pull out one good trick with the "threat" system. If this game was released on the Playstation back in 1998, we might well be talking about its place in the pantheon of classic rpgs.

But it's not 1998, so Skyborn is merely good. The titular Skyborn are a winged race of fanatical racial purists who are oppressing the humans of this steampunk world. You control a party of adventurers who form the core of the rebellion, as you search for the components of an invention that will turn the tide of the war. Naturally, you fight a bunch of monsters along the way, but like most of the best 2-d rpgs of years past, the enemies are visible on the main map, and you can choose when you want to fight. Because the main character, Clarice, is an inventor, there's also a mining and weapon customization system, so you can tailor the strengths of your party to your particular play style (I'm all attack, all the time).

Like the old-school rpgs it's emulating, it's shallow, but charming. I'm not sure how much longer I have to go to the end, but I expect I won't mind playing through again on hard.

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