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The wrong man for the job

When I woke up last Saturday morning, it was thundering: outside (loudly) and in my head (with a dull throbbing). I had drunk too much the night before, gone to bed, and gotten hired to write game reviews. And I was entirely the wrong man for the job.


Game review: Deadly Sin 2: Shining Faith

  • Title: Deadly Sin 2: Shining Faith
  • Developer: Deadly Sin Studios
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Price: $19.95

Deadly Sin 2: Shining Faith is a jRPG developed by Deadly Sin Studios in RPG Maker. The author was plainly influenced by Final Fantasy 6, evident in some of the character names, much of the overall plot structure of the game, and in a strangely familiar system for simulating pitched battles with multiple parties. But make no mistake: DS2 is its own game, featuring many inventive and clever design decisions that add up to a very well-crafted experience.


Game review: Dubloon

  • Title: Dubloon
  • Developer: Banov
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Price: Free

Dubloon is a jRPG developed by Banov that sports a pirate theme, tile-based movement, and visible, wandering enemy encounters. Featuring an odd mix of inspired design decisions and sloppy implementation, Dubloon is the first RPG I can recall having played where the system I played it on made a huge difference in my experience of the game.


New release: Deadly Sin 2: Shining Faith

Deadly Sin Studios has announced the release of their new game Deadly Sin 2: Shining Faith. Although it carries the same name as the original Deadly Sin, the developer says that this is a sequel only in spirit–the story is unconnected to the first game. One might safely assume, however, that the game involves both sinning and deadliness.

Here’s the trailer:

Game review: Ainevoltas 2

  • Title: Ainevoltas 2
  • Developer: Silvernova
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Price: Free

Developed by Silvernova, Ainevoltas 2 has been described as a platformer-RPG. In reality, it plays more like a platformer with stats and floaty damage numbers than a proper RPG. Imagine Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but minus the puzzles, loot, cool abilities, tight controls, and most of the exploration.


New release: Mardek RPG: Chapter 3

Word has it that Pseudolonewolf, the pseudonymous developer behind Fig Hunter Games, has finally released Mardek RPG: Chapter 3 after years of development. As with the first two chapters, Mardek 3 is a free-to-play browser game with a Paper Mario-style, reaction-based combat system.

New releases: Dubloon and Choice of Broadsides

This is apparently something of a week for nautical-themed RPGs. Banov has released his freeware JRPG “Dubloon,” which he describes as a “point-n-click pirate RPG adventure game.” It’s available here–you can see a short gameplay vid of it below:

Meanwhile, I’ve received an email from Heather Albano of Choice of Games, who has recently released Choice of Broadsides, a “swashbuckling naval adventure.” The way she describes it, CoB is a text-based game with a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style interface, only different. Heather writes:

Normal CYOA stories cause the plot to “fork” at every decision point; as a result, the story can’t have more than half a dozen decision points.  (If each decision point has about four options, then six decision points = 4096 pages!)

With stats, we can craft a new kind of multiple-choice game, where your decisions can change your character instead of (immediately) forking the plot. In later vignettes, some branches may open while others close based on your earlier roleplaying choices; ultimately, this determines which ending you get.

The game is available for free on their website, and on the iPhone as well.

Why have narrative in games?

It has been somewhat in vogue recently among a certain class of indie game designer to assert that games are not a good storytelling medium. Now, I have never made a secret of my views on dialog and other narrative techniques in games. While interactivity is of course central to any gaming experience, that is no license to make games meaningless. Done right, narrative gives context and meaning to our actions in-game, and provides a valuable experience in its own right.

Rather than simply post a rant, however, I decided to put the question to a handful of other indie RPG developers:

Some designers have demonized narrative as an inherently limiting and unnecessary distraction from the emergent storytelling arising out of pure gameplay. Why have narrative in games?


Editorial: consequences matter in RPGs

Jeremy Signor has an interesting editorial up on bitmob about what makes choices meaningful in an RPG:

Many modern designers fall into the trap of choice for the sake of choice; they try to make the game meaningful with something that doesn’t change the experience much. Infamous exemplifies this in a particularly egregious way with the morality system the developers tacked on to the open-world gameplay. Its extremely binary nature nearly parodies other morality systems, but it really fails with its lack of consequences behind its choices.

Click here for the rest.

Avadon: The Black Fortress announced

Spiderweb Software posted a page for a new game slated for release in early 2011:

You are a servant of Avadon. The Black Fortress. Your job is to protect the Pact, five nations that have banded together in a fragile alliance. The purpose of the Pact: To hold back the waves of invaders that seek to destroy you.

Outside the lands of the Pact, there are limitless threats. Barbarians. Fading, jealous empires. Titans and unspeakable horrors. The warriors and spies of Avadon are charged to keep them at bay, weak and divided. You fight in the shadows, rooting out small threats before they have the chance to grow. Your resources are unlimited, and your word is law.

But a dark time is coming. Assassins are killing Avadon’s warriors, and a hidden enemy plots to unite all of your homeland’s foes. If you cannot discover and destroy this conspiracy, and soon, your people face total destruction. But beware. The defenders of Avadon are being picked off, one by one, and you are the next target.

While the plot sounds decidedly Baldur’s Gate-y, the in-game screenshots they’ve posted look an awful lot like Avernum VI, albeit with much nicer character portraits and GUI design. (This probably shouldn’t surprise anyone.)