Video-Game Idea #1: Imagine Lords: War Of Renewal

I’ll be honest, I’m not game developer. I know a lot about games, but I’m no beta tester or programmer. However, I do like to muse from time to time on potential game ideas. I know these will never be picked up, but I think it’s still something fun to talk about. So, one idea I had is a game takes place in the dreams of a fictional god. The god will always be different on each play-through, chosen from a pool of available gods. The gods will be taken from all mythologies. This could be Egyptian, Norse, Greek, Japanese, or any other mythology you think of.

The game would take place at the end of existence. The god you choose will be floating in a non-existent void, frozen by time and unable to interact with anything. The god you choose will be trapped in his/her own dreams. Inside this dream is a somewhat small open-world, but set in a more fantastical version of our own universe. The god is now in human form within said dream-scape, yet possesses some of his god-like powers.

The human you play as will be customizable, unlike the god. After creating your human, your told by a “Dream Nymph” to defeat various foes in order to regain your god-like power. This involves fighting enemies, leveling up, and regaining access to your god powers. You venture across this small, yet fully explore-able open world. Why is the initial open world so small? I’ll get to that in a bit.

Now, the game’s first act will eventually take you to your last challenge as a mortal: Defeating yourself. In order to fully take on your god form, you must defeat it. I imagine the bosses themselves not being too unique from each other, since there will be so many gods available. So, a fight with Anubis may play out the same way as a fight against Hades. Regardless, once you defeat your god form, you will absorb it and return to your godly appearance.

This is when things get really interesting. You won’t wake up right away, instead you will be thrown into another dream-scape. This one is massive and is a true open-world. With your new god powers in tow, you have to do battle against other gods. These other gods will be other plays (or NPCs if you choose not to play this portion of the game online) Imagine this portion of the game playing similar to Grand Theft Auto Online, but as an action RPG featuring gods.

In this dream-scape, you’ll start off in a land indicitative of the mythology you originate from. For example, if you are a Japanese god, you start in Japan. Your goal at this point is to destroy all the other gods and become the last one standing  Think of it like something akin to God of War, expect it’s a last man standing dealie instead of a revenge mission.

The reward for the god battles will be the chance to remake the universe in whatever way you see fit. You see, each game you play in the second act will be called a “cycle”. The last player standing, who defeats all the other gods and absorbs their essence and god powers becomes the one true god. At this point, you can remake the universe however you see fit.

Now, battles between overpowered gods would be difficult. That’s why the offline mode will be there, with adjustable difficulty. So, those who want to get to that third act can do so offline. If they want to try their luck against far more powerful gods, they can go online and try their luck. Of course, it would be tough to balance the powers of so many gods and keep the game fair. What I think would be interesting is that if there were other ways for the gods to settle their quarrels without fighting.

These could include games of chance, tests of might or speed, or even mini-games to decide who is the superior god and the one deserving to continue. Players who lose have the chance to either watch the progress of the god who absorbed them for a while, or simply start a new cycle against new opponents or new game if they wish. So, what happens after you become god of the universe? You get to create the universe!

This would be less like a simulation game, and more of a building game. You would create planets and stars using your god powers, but would have to recharge after creating a few planets. To recharge, you would have to go down to the planets and sew the seed of life using your powers. You create new life using magic and your god-like energies, and these would become the beings that inhabit each planet.

So, the game would continue like this, with you creating each planet and star until the universe becomes completely full. After creating enough planets, you can either fill the rest of the universe up with planets, or just auto-spawn them so you aren’t taking forever to populate everything. From there, the game is pretty much done. You can go to planets, engage in wars, or even destroyed what you create.

Once you felt you done enough, you can voluntarily choose to end the game. Then, you start a new game as a new god, or just go back to a previous part of the game. You would even be given the option to go back to the god battle portion, but play it as your custom human character instead, so you have the opportunity to explore this much more massive world.

Now, I imagine a game like this being tough to make. Not only would you have to balance an open-world, but account for the online servers and all the gods that will show up. I guess the game doesn’t need the online portion to be perfect. I feel having smart NPC gods as opponents during the war session would be more fulfilling than fighting player-controlled gods who abuse the engine and find ways to cheese system.

I think the hardest part of getting the game to be made would be the concept itself. It’s about gods fighting each other, which would most likely upset some cultures. I’ll be honest, I respect all mythologies and religions. I just like the idea of all these gods meeting and duking it out. I’ve always been a huge fan of shows like Saint Seiya and Justice League, shows where heroes and gods often do battle.

So, having a game like this would be an interesting experience, in my opinion. I know there are games out there already with gods fighting it out, but I’d love if there was a game that had gods fighting each other to become the one true master of the universe. I think of my idea of a combination of Smite, Spore, God of War, Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto Online, and maybe a little Reign of Kings tossed in there.

Regardless, I hope you all enjoy the little idea I tossed out there. I’m no game developer, nor do I have an intention of ever being one. I’d love to write for a video-game, but my interest in game development does not go beyond that. Of course, that could always change in the future. I’m only 26, so who knows? Maybe one day I might get interested in game development and make this into a game somehow. I doubt I’d be able to pull that off, but it’s still something fun to think about.

The Downfall of Modern RPGs

When it comes to RPGs, I’m a connoisseur. Sure, most RPGs are just time-sinks that eat up a lot of your time, but are usually entertaining and engrossing enough for it to be worth your time. Unfortunately, modern RPGs have started following a sickening trend the past few years: Dumbing down for casual gamers. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making a game simpler or trimming down certain aspects of said game. Sometimes, games are in desperate of need of being simplified. A good example of this is the original Baldur’s Gate, a game that will kick you in the nuts over and over again if you don’t know what you’re doing.

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This is truly one of the few modern hardcore RPGs in existence right now. Let’s just hope the fourth game measures up!

The problem is that most modern RPGs are unfortunately very watered down when compared to the RPGs of the past. They are simpler, with easier to understand controls, and a watered down open-world and story with linear paths to progression. Skyrim is a good example of this. It’s what I consider a great game, but a terrible RPG. The RPG elements were dumbed down to a ludicrous degree, not even the stats system was spared from the oversimplification.

Skyrim felt like a step backwards from its predecessors. It removed the interested side-quests from both Oblivion and Morrowind, and replaced them with a bunch of boring fetch-quests that barely fleshed out the world. You were constantly pestered by dragons with each step, and the game was generally more buggy upon release than any other game in the series.

Like I said, I enjoy Skyrim a lot despite its flaws. However, it can’t be overlooked that this game (along with Mass Effect 2) kind of spearheaded the change in ideals of modern RPGs. Game series that were once known for their complexities, character creation, and tough choices soon became over-glorified action games with slight RPG elements. While it is true that the casual audience makes up a large player base, I feel like making RPGs too simple for them is a bad way to go about it. I mean, if a casual gamer is going and play an RPG for 100 hours, can you even call them casual anymore? Sure, you have that player hooked, but sooner or later that person will realize that there are far more meaty games out there.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a good example of a modern Western RPG done right. It still contains a ton of RPG elements, and even lets you choose between the two different control schemes of past games. You can play it as an action RPG, or a more strategy centered one. Character customization, detailed world-building, and interesting scenarios gave the world a lot of life.

If we can be real here, a RPG doesn’t need to be for casuals to be good. Dragon Ball Fusions is a more simplistic RPG for the casual audience, but it’s entertaining and fun enough to be played by gamers from all walks of life. It’s easy and simple, sure, but it’s got those complexities and intricacies that most modern games lack. While it is a Japanese RPG, it still carries some of those Western game sensibilities.

So, that begs the question, is it better for an RPG to be simpler so that an overall audience can enjoy it? Or, is it better for an RPG to be complex and intricate and involve player choice and consequences? That’s really up to the people who would buy RPGs, nothing for a single individual to decide. When I want my complex RPG systems, I usually just go for Indie games when I need my fix. However, I’m all for the occasional casual RPG, if it’s well put together.

Whether a person enjoys simplistic RPGs or more complex ones, I think they can all agree on one thing: An RPG is what one makes of it. The whole definition of what an RPG is has changed since the good old days of tabletop games. Nowadays, an RPG is what you make of it. RPG does stand for role-playing game, and the role you play will always be a different one no matter the game. Playing a simpler RPG is just as valid as playing a hardcore one, in my eyes.

Sweet As Syrup: Jade Empire Special Edition Review

When it comes to things involving martial arts, I’m more of a fan in passing. I like the idea of Kung Fu or Karate, but I very rarely seek out martial arts films or the like. It probably doesn’t help that there doesn’t seem to be a huge demand in media for this kind of genre. This is especially true in the realm of videogames. It’s often hard to find a martial arts game that is truly entertaining. I remember that god awful Bruce Lee: Legend of The Dragon game, which was absolutely atrocious in terms of both gameplay and presentation.

For the longest time, I never thought I’d find a martial arts game that topped Kung Fu on the Nintendo Entertainment System, that is until I discovered a somewhat obscure title called Jade Empire. Out of all the titles Bioware has put out, this one is probably the least known of them all. Sure, it sold well and has a fair bit of fans, but most people nowadays forgot it existed. I want to bring this game a bit more attention, in case we finally get that remake we so desire. So, let’s read our nunchuks and do a backwards flip into Jade Empire: Special Edition!

Background Information

Jade Empire is an action RPG that originally came out in 2005 for the X-Box, and was later ported to PC, as well as other consoles. The version I’m going to be looking at today is the PC version. Jade Empire was Bioware’s first ever foray into the action genre, touting a combat system that was just short of a beat-em-up. Bioware made sure to pay careful attention to the lore of Asian countries, such as China and Japan. Bioware even invented its own Chinese-styled dialect just for the game.

Jade Empire proved to due well financially, prompting the developers to create a “Special Edition” version of the game. This version included a new playable character, some new items, and a few new side-quests here or there. The guys behind this project have gone on record saying that they want to revisit this game’s universe, though no sequels to the first game have ever been made.

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That awkward moment when you realize that the giant goat demon thing is actually a little girl. No, I’m serious.

Plot

Our story takes place in ancient China, in a small village. We take on the role of the young apprentice of Master Li, who is training our selected hero in various forms of martial arts. As it turns out though, you aren’t any normal apprentice. You are a Spirit Monk, a warrior who can wield unnatural and mystical forces, the likes of which most students can only dream of. One day, your village is attacked and everyone you have ever known is killed.

You set out on a journey to stop the various evil forces that plague the lands, as well as save your kidnapped master from the claws of the Lotus Assassins. You are joined by various allies along the way, including a mad inventor and a crafty thief. While the story starts out like typical martial arts fare, it quickly evolves into something more grandiose. It becomes a story that not only pays homage to martial arts films of the past, but also deconstructs certain elements of them.

Jade Empire’s is certainly nothing new or original, but it’s presented in such a way that it feels fresh. The characters that populate this world are well voice-acted and all have their own stories to tell. The allies you acquire work well off each other, giving this game some of the best character interactions I’ve seen in a mid-2000s RPG.

Not everything is sunshine and roses with the plot, however. Without spoiling too much, the last few chapters feel rushed. They aren’t as large as chapters 2 and 3, and are severely lacking in side content. On top of this, the two different moral alignments (Open Palm and Closed Fist) lose their nuances partway through. They go from being two opposing alignments with vague shades of grey, to being just “good” and evil”.

While I did thoroughly enjoy the story, I felt the plot fell off halfway through for me. It lost its nuance and ended with a cliche ending that overwrote your character’s alignment. Is it a terrible plot? Of course not! It’s probably one of the best plots that has ever been attached to a western RPG, at least in my opinion. I won’t lie in saying that it isn’t flawed, but I’ve seen Bioware games with endings that felt far more rushed.

Gameplay

It’s hard to discuss Jade Empire without comparing its combat to that of a fighting game, or beat-em-up. The game pits your character and one ally against various monsters and creatures, usually in a small location setup like an arena. Your character can perform various actions, including blocking, rolling, attacking, etc. Your character will often auto-target a single opponent, though you can always turn targeting off if you wish to smack groups of baddies at your leisure.

Combat is fast and dynamic, but not without its faults. For example, I felt that the forward flip move was way too overpowered. It’s a move that allows you to flip over an opponent’s head and smack them before they have time to turn around. It makes combat a joke, which is why I chose to only use it sparingly. What makes the combat in this game so special are the various combat styles you’ll acquire.

These can rang from summoning large rocks and spears of ice to toss at your opponent, to being able to transform into a giant toad demon. The large amount of styles always kept the combat from getting too boring for me. There was always a new style to experiment with, and this kept the combat varied. Certain styles are useless against certain enemies, so even the game itself enforces a varied play-style.

Combat takes place from the third person perspective, and puts you in the shoes of one of 6 (7, if you have the Special Edition) different characters. The characters themselves are very similar to one another, with the only differences being that each character has a slightly different focus. For example, one may have more chi or be a more balanced character. All 7 characters function more like classes than individual characters. They all follow the same plot, with only dialogue being different depending on the gender of the selected character.

While each character is essentially a blank slate, the allies they can acquire are not. These characters can range from a girl who can turn into a demon, a man who is proficient in the Drunken Master martial arts style, or just a big beefy man with two axes. Characters feel varied, and the way they can enhance both combat and gameplay give them even more variation. Not every ally acquired will be able to fight alongside you in combat, but most of them will provide a near endless supply of witty and entertaining banter.

The game’s main draw is its morality system. Instead of focusing on purely good and evil, it focuses on two different philosophies: Open Palm and Closed Fist. At first, these two alignments start as being two morally grey choices. While Open Palm and Closed Fist seem like your generic good and evil factions, there are hints in the game itself that it is not so. It ends up creating this unique feel of two factions that are neither good nor bad. As previous mentioned though, the game throws out this unique dynamic in the final chapters.

Despite this, these two factions can affect gameplay greatly. Certain styles and items can only be acquired if you pledge yourself fully to one side or another. This makes the game great for multiple breakthroughs, especially if you want to try those other styles out. On the subject of items, this game has a rather unique inventory system. Instead of being given different armor or weapons to equip, you are given a talisman instead. While journeying through this game, you will acquire many gems that can be slotted into this talisman. These gems will bestow many useful bonuses and stat increases onto your character.

I’m honestly on the fence about whether I like the talisman system or not. On one hand, it streamlines the complexities often associated with inventory systems in RPGs. On the other hand, it feels a little too simple. I felt less like some kind of mystical chosen one, and more like some kind of ancient warrior jeweler. I’m not used to inventories being stuffed with a single kind of item, it’s a bit off-putting. I guess that’s more a nitpick than anything else, but it still bothered me somewhat.

I felt that the gameplay was pretty entertaining, if a bit simple at times.  The game relied a bit too much on its action elements, which really need some refining. Its too easy to flip over an opponents back, or overpower them with some strange demonic form. Certain jewels felt a bit too powerful, especially due to the fact that you can them early on. On top of this, the game was a bit on the short side. I did most of the side quests, while at the same time beating the main story. Roughly, it took me about 19 hours to do most of the stuff the game had to offer. This is truly disappointing, as I found myself really getting involved in the world and its characters. Still, despite being short, it was a blast to play through!

Visual Stimuli

This game looks great for its time, but has not aged well. Character faces are not super expressive, and some cut-scenes can end up looking somewhat compressed on modern TVs. Voice-acting is stunning and features a variety of voice actors, all of which really help bring this world to life. The game also features a few celebrities voicing its cast, including Brian Doyle Murray! I was honestly surprised to hear his voice in this game, and it’s always a pleasure whenever he plays some over-the-top character in anything.

Voice acting is pretty great all around, but there are some sore spots here and there. For instance, any character who speaks in the game’s made-up Chinese language often use recycled lines. This makes it so it seems like the characters are saying the same three lines over and over again, despite the subtitles telling me otherwise. Its a not deal breaker, but it is very noticeable.

The graphics are fine and I found the game ran well on Windows 10, despite how old it was. Character designs are nice and varied, even if some of the side-characters look a bit generic. The background music in this game is fantastic! It really captures the feel of martial arts movies to a tee! The music always seems to fit whatever is going on in the game, and really adds a sense of majesty to its various events.

In Conclusion

Despite its somewhat dated visuals, its somewhat unbalanced combat, and its over-simplified inventory system, this game is still a lot of fun! This is definitely one of the best martial arts games ever made, I just wish they made more of them like this. The game expertly weaves the combat of beat-em-ups with that of an RPG, creating a truly mystical mixture.

Keep in mind though that this game has a weak ending, coupled with a disappointing second half. I still feel that this is a game that you can behind, despite how old it is. Just be warned that the game is still prone to crashing or not functioning well on modern PCs. If you track down the X-Box or X-Box 360 versions, I recommend playing those instead. With that, I can easily say that this game as sweet as syrup. It’s a game that manages to be both a good RPG, and a fun martial arts story. I haven’t played a game in the last 2 years that has made me smile as much as this has. That’s a feat that I can truly appreciate.

Sweet As Syrup: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir

When it comes to video-game companies nowadays, it’s hard to find one that I 100% trust. Most major game companies are run by out-of-touch executives who care more about leaching money off the consumers using unfair and unethical business practices. Now, I’m not saying all video-games are like this, just a large amount of them are. It seems like nowadays the only game companies I can count on for unparalleled quality and fair business practices are companies that make Indie games. However, there’s one company that I can count on for consistently quality games: Vanillaware.

It’s hard to put into words how much I love Vanillaware, they are by far my favorite game company in the world today. They produce beautiful artistic games, with fun action-packed game play, all wrapped in fascinating worlds filled with all kinds of perilous dangers. And it may be hard to believe, but Vanillaware has only been around as a company for nine years. Sure, the company is made up of people who have been around in the industry for years, but Vanillaware has only been a company proper for less than a decade.

I have never been disappointed with a single game this company has put out, and this rings true for their recent release: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. The game acts as a remake of the original Odin Sphere, but goes on beyond just updating the sound and visuals. Leifthrasir adds a wealth of new content that includes mini-bosses, new special encounters, an improved leveling system, and more! So, I’ve decided to talk with you all about how much I loved this game and give you my honest thoughts on this amazing game.

Keep in mind that I have not played the original, so I can’t give an honest comparison between the old version and the new version. While it is true that the original version is packaged with the game, I made a vow to myself to play the new version before going through the old one. I do plan on tackling the original at some point, but it will be more of “compare and contrast” kind of review. For now, I just want to cover my experiences with the remade version. Also, please keep in mind that I will be reviewing the PS Vita version of this game and not the PS4 one. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

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Just try to pronounce that subtitle, you know you can’t! (Image property of Vanillaware and Sony)

Need To Know Information

Odin Sphere was originally released in 2007 for the Playstation 2 by the game company known as “Vanillaware”. Vanillaware also put out another game called GrimGrimoire that was set in the same fictional fantasy universe, but was unconnected in terms of plot or setting. Drawing heavily from Norse Mythology, Odin Sphere is an action RPG with a distinctly classical flavoring. While garnering good reviews at the time, many reviewers noted the lack of diversity in gameplay and a few technical flaws here and there. Still, Odin Sphere became a classic and sold a ton of copies, making Vanillaware a hug success.

Odin Sphere helped put Vanillaware on the map and lead to a legacy of great games. The game is a spiritual sequel to a game called “Princess Crown” made by the same team who worked on Odin Sphere, prior to becoming Vanillaware. Both games combing the elements of action-RPGs and side-scrolling beat-em-ups into a singular gameplay experience.

Story

The most interesting thing about this game is that the game has 5 different playable characters, each with their own story mode. Each story mode intertwines with the other stories, but take place during different parts of the story. For example, most of Cornelius’ story takes place before Gwendolyn’s introductory level. The timeline for these five stories for this game can get a bit convoluted, but luckily the game has an archive mode that puts each cut-scene in the proper order.

Each individual story takes place in a different kingdom in the fantasy land of Erion, a mystical land-mass that draws upon Norse mythology and legend. The stories revolve around our heroes having to deal with some kind of tragedy that pulls them along on their quest. Along the way, they learn more about an evil plot involving three power-mad wizards, as well as deal with many powerful dragons and corrupt villains. All of the stories take place within books being read by a young girl named Alice. Alice has little to no bearing on the plot, she’s mainly there to represent the player who is experiencing these stories as she reads them.

Upon beating the five main stories, you unlock a sixth story mode which acts as a finale. All in all, I felt the story wrapped up pretty nicely and the characters were all like-able. Each character had something unique about them, there were no re-skins in this game! From the adorable rabbit-like “Pooka Prince” known as Cornelius, to the powerful dark knight Oswald, all of the characters bring something unique and interesting to the table. This game had one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced in a game, which is rather impressive.

Gameplay

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir plays like a side-scrolling beat-em-up, yet offers RPG elements for added depth. While some of the characters may play similar to one another, almost of them have something unique about them that makes them fun to play. For example, Mercedes attacks from a distance with her magical bow, while Cornelius is able to do quick and speedy attacks with his sword. There’s enough variety in these five characters to never bore me, even when the gameplay started to get repetitive. In fact, the repetition may be my only serious gripe about the gameplay. There was a bit too much hacking-and-slashing, and a lot of times it felt like I didn’t need any particular strategy to bring down most foes. Luckily, there was enough variety to keep the gameplay engaging throughout most of the story.

All characters have regular attacks, but can also assign special attacks to another button. All of these special attacks are very flashy and can be upgraded to more powerful forms, which is a plus. Each character has a large upgrade tree full of abilities and skills you can upgrade. Each ability can be upgraded using “Phozons”, which are the souls of enemies you have defeated. Collecting enough of these can allow you to upgrade your abilities on the fly. Heck, you can even upgrade your abilities in mid-combat! You get most of the abilities as you play through the campaign, but some are only obtainable if you venture off the beaten path. Each level you go to is a connected series of areas for you to explore. All kinds of treasures and secrets scatter these areas, so it is rather foolhardy to simply run through an entire area while playing this game!

The game boasts a wide selection of bosses, mini-bosses, and monsters for you tackle. Most battles can get rather heated, especially when the screen gets filled with all sorts of bad guys. Luckily, I never found myself getting too overwhelmed and the gameplay remained fair most of the way through. I played this game on Normal difficulty and never found myself sweating, not even once! I think this was mainly due to another feature of the game: Alchemy. Yep, you can brew up your own potions in this game. I swear, I felt like a badass sorcerer every time I brewed up a powerful planet-rending potion. The alchemy system is easy to use and you can create some truly awesome potions using it. The downside is that the potions felt a bit too overpowering at times. Heck, when I can easily brew a singular potion that poisons a mini-boss for half of the fight, you know things have gotten a little crazy.

Leveling-up in this game is a rather unique experience, to say the least. Sure, you can level up the normal way by beating monsters, but this is much slower than in other games. The true way to level up is by eating fruit, ingredients, and food. Eating food grants you much more experience points than simply clobbering enemies. You can even plant seeds and offer up Phozons to grow them into fruit-bearing trees. In terms of gameplay, the game is immensely solid. It’s fun, easy to get a hold, difficult to master, and immensely entertaining.

Visual Stimuli

I probably don’t need to say this, but this game looks freaking beautiful! Each character is hand-drawn and looks like a painting brought to life. Backgrounds are rendered in glorious HD and have a tendency to trick me into believing I’m experiencing an animated film as opposed to a videogame. Characters are well-designed and almost all of them have a unique appearance to them. The interface and UI is very well-designed and easy to use.

If there’s any complaint to be made about the artwork, it’s that the cover of the game is extremely disappointing, when compared to other Vanillaware games. It’s just a bunch of the game’s main characters standing there, with all of the beautiful color of the game drained out of the picture. There’s no dynamic poses, cool lighting, or anything visceral or attention grabbing. Heck, there’s not even anything on it that I found all that enticing! I may not have even bought the game if I didn’t know it was a Vanillaware game beforehand. I know I usually don’t talk about game covers, but I found myself disliking this particular cover so much that I knew I had to talk about it.

The game’s music is a joy to listen to, and it really captures the tone of the game and the lands you visit.Each distinctive track was a joy to listen to and kept me entertaining throughout the entire game. On top of this, the game boasts a great voice-acting team for both the Japanese and American versions. Props go out to my main man Yuri Lowenthal as Cornelius, he really sold the character to me. Despite the good voice-acting, the lips of the characters never seem to actually match what they are saying. The best thing about this game is that it managed to maintain a good 60 frames per second. I experienced zero glitches or bugs and had a smooth experience from beginning to end. In short, the presentation for this game is top-notch and sets a precedent for how 2D games should be made in this day and age.

In Summation

I cannot stop singing my praises about this game! It has fantastic gameplay, amazing graphics, a gorgeous soundtrack, and an overall great presentation. My only complaints is that the game felt repetitive at times, the potion system can sometimes make the player a bit too overpowered, the story could be a bit hard to follow at times, and the characters lips never quite matched what they said. However, these are all small gripes that never take away from the main game.

Vanillaware did something that most companies wish they could accomplish with a remake: They made it a million times better than the original, which was already a fantastic game. They didn’t just polish a gem, they made it shine brighter than it ever did before! That’s why I can say that without a doubt, this game is sweeter than syrup. If I were to give this game a score, I’d rate it at a 9.5/10. It is so close to being a perfect game, at least in my books. Few games have come close to enticing me in quite the same way as Odin Sphere has. It is so good, it makes me to go back and play through my other Vanillaware games again. Kudos on the good work, Vanillaware, and I look forward to seeing you deliver another classic with your new title: 13 Sentinels! And with that, I wish you all a good day and I highly reccomend you pick up this game if you have the cash.

 

Top 5 Open-World RPGs that are better than Skyrim

We are reaching that point where Elder Scrolls VI will be released, the followup to the nearly five-year-old game known as “Skyrim”. Whether you like this game or not, you must admit that it was popular on release. Not only did it make a crap ton of money and several internet memes, but it also started this craze of people trying to make open-world RPGs for themselves. These games garnered mixed results, but some were fantastic.

This new breed of open-world RPGs along with the old ones are examples of great ways to design and make a game. So, I thought why not talk about 5 RPGs I find to be better than Skyrim? After all, when Elder Scrolls VI gets released, it’ll probably get everybody making these games again anyways. It happened with both Oblivion and Skyrim; the popularity of these two games created a huge demand for better and more impressive games of this genre. So, without further adieu, on with the list.

Before we delve into the list prior, let’s go over some rules:

  1. Only one game per franchise.
  2. It must be open-world and an RPG.
  3. The game cannot be developed by Bethesda, due to this list comparing non-Bethesda games to a singular Bethesda game.
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Sir Not-Appearing-On-This-List (Image property of Piranha Bytes)

5. Avernum: Escape from the Pit

I only discovered this game just last year, but it has quickly grown into one of my favorites. This was one of the first games I ever reviewed on this blog, and I feel it’s time to discuss it once more. Escape from the Pit is the remake of a remake of an old 90s computer RPG. The game plays like a combination of Skyrim and Fallout 2. You have the old-school strategic combat and wordy story-telling of an old Infinity Engine game mixed with the open-world exploration you’d find in something like Skyrim.

Unlike previous Spiderweb Software games, you can pretty much go anywhere you want. The map is continuous and you can travel to any location you want to visit right out of the gate;.Of course, the game will lock you out of certain areas, or have monsters too strong for you to risk visiting that area. Some areas you won’t be able to access until later, but you do have a great variety of locations to adventure around in at the very start.

The game is turned-based and strategic, requiring you to known the strengths and weakness of each individual character. Building your character properly is the name of the game and creating a truly great party can be an arduous task. Still, it’s fun to craft a great team of adventurers and have them travel across the vast countryside to defeat evil.

Why it’s better than Skyrim: Avernum’s open-world is far more fun to explore than Skyrim. There’s a lot more unique occurrences and strange enemies to encounter. One minute, you can be running around collecting fungus and the next second you’re in a cave filled with friendly talking spiders! The game has a unique lore and great concept. In Skyrim, you are in a snowy fantasy-land being torn apart by war. It is fairly by the numbers. In Avernum though, you are underground in a large winding cavernous continent.

You either escape, or get killed by the various beasties crawling through the underground. In Skyrim, you escape from prison and are free for most of the game. In Avernum, the entire landscape is a prison! You are an outcast, forced underground because of minor crimes against the empire. And your fight to escape the underground is more engaging than most things in the game.

4. Fantasy Life

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It looks like a dumb kids game, but trust me it is awesome. (Image property of Nintendo and Level-5)

Some may argue that I’m cheating by putting Fantasy Life on this list, but this game technically is a sandbox game with an open-world as well as being a RPG. This game takes place in the fantasy land known as “Reveria”. You play as a completely customize-able character who is ready to get his first job, known in this universe as a “Life”. You have 12 different jobs to choose from, be it something predictable like as wizard or something more obscure like an alchemist. My personal preference was for the blacksmith class, since I was able to make all of my own equipment.

You don’t have to feel like you’re forced to be a single class, either. The game allows for you to switch your class while in-between story missions, so you can experience all the game has to offer. The open-world is small at first, but it opens up as you progress further in the story. The farther you progress in the campaign, the more areas you’ll be to explore. You never really feel like you retreading too much, plus you can take airships and other types of travel to areas you’ve already been to.

Despite the fact that you have to beat the main-quest to unlock all the game has to offer, you still have great control over what you can do. The game is very non-linear when it comes to its explore-able world, which is always a welcome change of pace. There’s plenty of monsters to encounter, items to craft, and a large variety of things to do. Get bored with one job? Try another! The sky’s the limit as far as what you can do in the game.

Why it’s better than Skyrim: Unlike Skyrim, you never feel overwhelmed by the large world presented before you. You access new areas by playing through the main campaign and they are always a joy to travel through. Areas can offer new enemies or even special events, such as meeting a talking sword. Once again, I find the side-content to be more entertaining here than in Skyrim. This is due in no small part to the amazing writing.

The game features punchy dialogue and like-able characters. On top of this, things that I do in Skyrim just feel better when I do them in Fantasy Life. Customizing my home is more fun than in Skyrim because I have a larger degree of control over how it looks. Exploring the world is also more fun due to the vibrant colors and adorable monster designs. The main thing that I find better than Skyrim is that it feels more difficult and rewarding to be a jack-of-all-trades. In order to level certain skills in Fantasy Life, you need to be a certain job to do so. And each job brings with it’s own challenges, making it satisfying whenever you master a specific job.

3. Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning

I can tell already that everyone reading this going to think I’m crazy for liking Amalur more than Skyrim, but I can’t deny that I had way more fun with Amalur than I ever did Skyrim. The game was more colorful, as were the character designs. It offered a larger open world, even if some of the activities in said open-world were kind of lame. It had a fantastic combat system, despite the fact that the game was extremely easy. In all honesty, it offered an experience that wasn’t like a whole lot of other open-world games.

The game takes place in the fantasy world of Amalur, where you play as a being who was mysteriously brought back to life. Gifted with the power to alter fate in any way you deem fit, you are sent on a quest to triumph over a dark power. It’s a fairly generic plot, but some of the stuff it does is pretty unique and interesting. The game also boasts a lot of customization. You can choose from various skills and abilities for your primary character and create a character that fully fits your preferences.

Why It’s Better Than Skyrim:  The game boasts combat is that much more satisfying than Skyrim. There is no more “Stand here and smack dude with sword” type moments. Combat involves a lot of quick movements and special attacks, trying to find that right moment to strike the enemy. I also like the World Of Warcraft-esque designs of the armor. Skyrim’s choice in armor felt a little generic at times. In Amalur, I felt the armor boasted more fantastical and colorful designs.

The game might be easier than Skyrim, but I found it to be a lot more fun. And while the side-quests falter in comparison to some of Skyrim’s quests, it’s still worth playing if you’re looking for a fully customizable experience. The character customization tops Skyrim, and allows you to create a character that is completely different from any other player. It may not be as engrossing as Skyrim at times, but it makes up for it with a lot of heart and very fun gameplay.

2. Dragon’s Dogma

Capcom is a hit-or-miss game company, when compared to how they used to be. There came a time where Capcom could literally do no wrong and almost every single on of their games ended up being classics. Heck, even if one of their games sold badly, it would still remain a classic. While things have changed since then, the 2012 release of Dragon’s Dogma brought back this dynamic of Capcom being a powerhouse.

Dragon’s Dogma is an open-world RPG like few others. Boasting a combat system similar to Dark Souls, and a fantasy world filled with freaky monsters, this game is truly a sight to behold. You play as a human who has his / her heart torn out by a dragon. Surprisingly, this doesn’t kill but instead transforms you into “The Arisen”. You can now call upon extradimensional human-like beings known as “Pawns”.

You are then thrust forth into an open-world that is populated with humans and scary giant monsters. The game features your typical swordplay and sorcery, but spices it up with challenging boss fights. There are certain bosses that come out at night and some bosses that have special abilities, such as turning you to stone. It’s an unforgiving world, where you have to master the challenges put forth before you.

The game features a pretty good story, which takes you all over this unique fantasy world. You uncover the mystery of the Arisen as you grow stronger and gain new abilities. You acquire new pawns along the way, along with taking on terrifying new bosses. While I haven’t played the expansion pack, I can definitely say that this game is worth your time.

Why it’s better than Skyrim: I like this game more than Skyrim due to a multitude of reasons. This includes have much better bosses, and the ability to battle them in such a fantastic way. The game’s pawn system far outmatches the companion system in Skyrim. I grew attached to my pawns, even though they were mostly interchangeable. And I didn’t grow this attach through backstories or intricate quest-lines, I grew attachment to them by fighting alongside them and having adventures with them. I generally felt that this game satisfied me more than Skyrim ever did.

1. Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout is a series I love immensely, and there are few games in the series that have entertained me quite like Fallout New Vegas has. I may be cheating by putting this on the list, as it is technically a Bethesda game. However, this game was only published by Bethesda, the development of the game was headed by Obsidian. So, I’m bending the rules a bit with this entry. It boasts a vast open-world, a ton of various weapons, and a post-apocalyptic land beset by marauders and monsters. The game thrusts you into this world armed with nothing but a gun and some starter equipment. Playing like a combination between a first-person shooter and a RPG, the game puts you up against mighty opponents such as Super Mutants and Deathclaws.

The game includes the normal game, plus an extremely hard version called “Hardcore Mode”. In this mode, all of your teammates can die and every threat you encounter is much stronger than they are in the base game. While the game is prone to the occasional glitch, I found my gameplay experience to be fairly stable. This was due to most of the bugs being patched out over the year, creating a satisfying experience overall.

Fallout New Vegas boasts a ton of very unique and memorable side-quests, as well as a very entertaining main-quest. There are so many secrets and Easter-Eggs contained within this massive world as well, adding even more to this expansive universe. Unlike Skyrim, this game presents a world that will knock you down and kick you while you are on the ground. You play “The Courier”, on his quest to find the man who nearly killed him. It’s definitely a satisfying story, complemented with fun gameplay.

Why it’s better than Skyrim: I like this game more than Skyrim due to the amount of really good side-quests, as well as a very entertaining main quest. This game has so many things going for it, things Skyrim takes for granted. Each town and city in New Vegas has their own opinion of you, which is shaped by the way you behave. In Skyrim, each city just fines you for your crimes, as opposed to having your behavior shape the reactions of these cities.

New Vegas also boasts some great expansion packs, some of which make Skyrim’s expansions look like crap. I loved Old World Blues and Lonesome Road, to me these far outclass the expansions Skyrim gave us. New Vegas also presents its characters in a more realistic fashion than Skyrim. People will behave in ways indicative of their personalities, and will even take drastic actions depending upon your own decisions. It creates this awesome experience that had me engrossed far more than in Skyrim.

So, that’s my list. Keep in mind, it is just my opinion. If you believe that none of the games measure up to Skyrim, than I respect that. I know not everyone will agree with my list, but I hope those that do give these games a shot. They are really fine games on their own, even when not being compared to Skyrim. I may redo this list in the future, after playing more open-world RPGs. I have yet to thoroughly play Gothic 2, or Witcher 3. For now though, I hope you enjoy the list I have presented. Thanks for reading and have a great day!