Checks Out Ara Fell

Greetings, indie RPG fans! Stephen Anthony, developer of Ara Fell, was kind enough to supply me with a code to check out the finished game, and after months of scrambling for time, I went ahead and checked it out while recording the experience. Here’s the first not-quite-an-hour of the game, with my live commentary/voice acting accompanying it:

So, what’d I think?

I liked Ara Fell years ago, back before it was finished, and I think the extra time in the oven has only done it good. From what I played, the game’s dialogue strikes me as consistently solid. I particularly enjoy the protagonist, Lita, whose witty, knowing remarks lampshade certain contrivances without ever breaking the fourth wall.

Vampires are still the main baddies here, it seems, though I haven’t gotten far enough in to have an opinion on how they’re handled.

Combat in Ara Fell in this final release version is a bit like the classic Final Fantasy active-time battle system, but with the difficulty ramped way up. Which is to say, those time gauges fill up fast, and enemies will whittle down your health with shocking speed if you stop to sit and think about your next move for too long. (It is entirely possible to die during the first tutorial battle, especially if you’re used to the more languid pace of the classic ATB systems.)

That said, I kinda like it. Ara Fell goes for more-or-less the same locus of difficulty as Celestian Tales: Old North did, opting for tough individual fights over trivial, push-over encounters that prove challenging only in the aggregate. And while I’m a fan of slow, cerebral stuff, the relatively low complexity of these jRPG fights actually lends itself well to a more frenetic experience.

I particularly appreciate this game’s innovation on the Defend command, which has long been something like the coccyx of the jRPG combat world–a vestigial appendage with virtually no actual utility. In Ara Fell, not only does defending cut down damage from attacks quite dramatically, it actually gives the defending character a health boost as well, making it surprisingly useful (at least in the early game).

Ara Fell has also been fleshed out with a crafting system, a system for distributing skill points upon leveling up a character, and items that permanently boost various stats. The crafting system and perma-buffs are a nice touch from a mechanics standpoint, if a bit limited in their implementation.

From a standpoint of game world logic, however, the specifics of which materials do what doesn’t necessarily work for me. For instance: apples imbue a character with a permanent +5 hit points. This would be fine, except that apples are everywhere, and you can’t eat them. There is a basket with at least a dozen apples sitting right in your kitchen, plus at least 5 apple trees brimming with apples and (by my count) something like five 4′ x 4′ crates full of apples all within the first two screens of leaving your house. If I were Lita, I would sit on my butt for weeks, do nothing but scarf down apples, and then set out on my first quest with something like ten times as many hit points as I have at the start of the game. I’m just sayin’.

Nit-picks aside, the game’s setting is charming, and the prevalence of wildlife (some of the combat-triggering variety, some merely ambient) helps each screen feel alive. I appreciate the diversity of ways you have in which to interact with the world, such as swimming, crawling, and setting bombs. That’s a lot of effort put in that one simply doesn’t find in most RPG Maker titles. I’d also be remiss not to mention that Ara Fell, in its finished form, has a rather nice original score that strikes the right note (so to speak!)

If I had the time, this is a jRPG I’d consider playing to completion–and perhaps you should as well, particularly given its affordable $9.99 price tag. More info on how to snag it is available here.

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  • Keith Shaftoe says:

    Thanks for the video! It is a game to put on my wishlist now.

  • Whambo says:

    Heard about this on Siliconera where they pointed out that this game is open world. And man, the juxtaposition between old school SNES-style graphics (seriously awesome to see some real care put into an indie RPG’s visuals. Not that bland RPGMaker template junk – Ara Fell is sporting some damn fine pixel art!) and new school open world design is just brilliant to me. I just recently picked this up myself and have enjoyed the first hour or so myself – looking forward to diving more into it!

  • BarryB says:

    Visuals look good, but the prologue’s story does rely, as you noted, on making decisions that weren’t decisions at all–just tired RPG tropes.

    I didn’t realize you spoke Dwarvish.

  • Red Rum says:

    Tangent: Tahira was recently released.


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