Chuck (chuckro) wrote,

Ara Fell (PC Game)

Lita and Adrian go seeking a mysterious magic ring in the elven ruins in the floating continent of Ara Fell, which floats above the Abyss, the Land of the Dead. Lita finds the ring and foolishly puts it on. Oops.

This is an RPG Maker game, though the graphics are very nice and they clearly made an effort to do interesting things with the system. HP regenerates outside of battle; MP regenerates during battle (so as to encourage you to use your spells/abilities). There's a crafting system. You can jump over gaps and crawl through small holes; and you acquire tools and abilities over time that allow you to go back and retrieve treasures. Enemies are visible on the world map, and the battle system is an Active Time Battle affair. Equipment is character-specific and on a very obvious +1, +2, etc strength progression.

Though they aren't always perfectly explained, I give a lot of credit to the genuine puzzles in several of the dungeons, often complete with reset buttons so you can't get stuck. And the dungeon design in general is good—decent length, not straight lines, some sense of world-building to most of them. The world map is also very open, with a lot of ability to access areas from early on (without too much of the “unmarked beef gate” problem—there are actually warning signs in some dungeons with a suggested level and equipment requirement). The world map is very handy, especially since there's the oft-seen RPG Maker problem of it not being clear where doors are and which floor tiles are actually walkable. The first town is full of little sidequests you can do to earn money to upgrade your equipment a little bit before heading into the first “real” dungeon; and then you'll periodically run into other ones.

The game offers a “story mode” where nothing is changed, except that your characters all have zero-MP instant-win ability that you can use in battle. Which I found quite nice for the game's playability, because it's very much a “wander around and see what you can handle right now” sort of game, with battles that are intended to take some time and strategy. Grinding doesn't get you much, as the XP and money rewards from monsters aren't that substantial, especially compared to what you get from completing quests and beating bosses.

They try to be creative with boss battle details, like needing to weaken vampires and then use Holy Arrow to actually kill them. I'm not sure it actually works that well, but then, I never really mastered the battle system. I do give them credit for attempts at creativity.

Plot-wise, it's not unique, but manages to be less formulaic than KEMCO rpgs, have some cute ideas, and not take itself too seriously. The “stone curse” plot point actually struck me as quite clever: The elves were losing to the vampires, so they turned themselves into statues which the vampires couldn't eat. The plan was that they'd wait until the vampires starved themselves into weakness, then go defeat them. Apparently they just forgot that humans existed, which is the sort of nonsense that elves would totally do.

I'm going to guess the author has hopes of making a sequel, as the ending with Ara Fell splashing down into the completely-unexplored Abyss with all the backstory about other dead gods just begs to be explored.

Overall: An attempt at doing creative things with RPGMaker that was interesting, but ultimately missed the mark. The Amber Throne, which I got off the same recommendation list, is a much stronger game in my opinion. That said, if there was a sequel, I'd check it out to see what the author learned.
Tags: reviews, video game reviews
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