Game review: Exit Fate
- Title: Exit Fate
- Developer: SCF
- Platforms: Windows
- Price: Free
First, what Exit Fate gets right. The biggest area of improvement is in the combat system. Exit Fate, like Last Scenario, suffers from BETS (Battles Every Two Steps) syndrome, but the combat system has improved so much that I hardly even mind.
Characters each inhabit one of three rows and one of three columns on their side of the battlefield. Characters in the front of a row block melee attacks directed at characters behind them. Characters further back have increased defense and do decreased melee damage. What makes things really interesting, though, is that some attacks have different areas of effect, such that your choices about character formation actually make a difference in terms of how much damage they are exposed to in a given battle. (Some attacks, for instance, target all characters in a column, punishing players who reflexively hide characters behind each other.)
SCF has gone a dramatically different route with magic in Exit Fate. Your characters all draw from a single common spell pool. For each copy of a spell you own, you can cast that spell once per battle. Character magic points start at a certain level at the start of every battle, and regenerate on each character’s turn. This makes it so you don’t have to avoid casting spells for fear of wasting magic points. Even better, if you have healing spells left over at the end of a battle, your characters will auto-cast them to heal your party. It’s a much, much friendlier system than the one in Last Scenario, in no small part because it means that you can reliably counter status effect attacks that enemies use on you. (Here is a boss battle to give you an idea of how it works.)
The end result of all this is that I actually enjoy fighting battles in Exit Fate. They’re still fairly simple, but they provide enough variety that you can actually get some mental stimulation out of deciding how best to approach them. However, if you’re getting into battles too regularly, you can bribe enemies to make them leave you alone. It’s a nice touch.
The writing is better too, albeit with one huge caveat. The writing wasn’t bad in Last Scenario, but it was largely wasted on an unlikeable cast and an unremarkable plot. Here, the cast is far less uniformly mopey, the world is more carefully fleshed-out, and the plot is far more packed with political intrigue. Suffice it to say that this is a story worth getting into.
Now, the caveat: SCF didn’t write the story by himself. Much of the plot is lifted wholesale from Suikoden II, with minor changes. Even the political organization of the various kingdoms in Exit Fate’s game world track Suikoden II (as in Suikoden II, a monarchy invades a nation of federated states). For those curious, Xander from TIGSource goes into the plot-lifting in some detail in his write-up here.
The story isn’t the only part of Exit Fate taken from other games. For some reason, SCF chose to cobble together Exit Fate’s soundtrack using tracks from old commercial RPGs. The title screen uses music from The Secret of Mana, the battle fanfare is ripped from Final Fantasy Tactics, town music is taken from Final Fantasy 6, and so on. Chrono Trigger is another frequent source of ripped tracks. This old music still sounds great, of course, and it works well in setting the mood of the game, but simultaneously, it makes the whole thing feel like an amateurish fan project. Given the proliferation of talented composers all over the internet willing to work for peanuts on a quality indie RPG, there is really no excuse for this.
Exit Fate’s visuals are quite nice, but here too, the work is not all original. While Last Scenario had some really nice custom graphics here and there, Exit Fate has managed to replace almost all of the default RPG Maker graphics. The character portraits, especially, are astoundingly expressive, clean, and professional. The character sprites in combat look great too, even though they mostly don’t animate. The tilesets that make up the world, however, are taken from Suikoden II.
The Verdict: 1/5. I genuinely enjoyed playing Exit Fate–I am disappointed to have to give it a low score. But given the sheer amount of content that this game simply takes from other games, I don’t think I can do otherwise in good conscience. Had this work been original (in the copyright sense of the term), I would happily have rated it a 4/5.
Special note: SCF does not provide any explanation for the amount of “borrowed” content in this game on the game’s official page. Some have suggested that this game is intended as an homage to Suikoden II, and that because it adds in original elements, it is not simply a rip-off. I don’t believe that Exit Fate is identical to Suikoden II, but I am not prepared to condone the outright theft of others games’ content.
Also: For reasons that apparently relate to SCF’s choice of fonts, Exit Fate does not display any text when run on versions of Windows more recent than XP. I had to play it on my netbook in order to write this review. Consider yourself warned.