I've finally decided to post a player review. Here goes nothing...
From what I already know and what was shown in the demo, I can say I'm satisfied with how the story is turning outÃ¢ ‚¬ €yes, very little has been shown so far, but it was the way it's been shown. I don't know many other games that let you play the villain at the outset before the "boring exposition section" begins, and I feel that adds a bit of spice to the interesting formula of having action followed by exposition. The whole shutting-down-the-power-to-leave thing seemed a little strange, but then at least you didn't have a load-bearing boss many RPGs seem to fall back on in times of dire need. (I'll give you credit for that.) Another thing that was rather odd was Officer Tearson's line about not hurting at the ending segment; it was a little vague, and I do hope it'll be explained or hinted at later. All in all, good story, good concept, and you manage quite well to avoid most of the trappings of RPGs.
In the starting dungeon and the town to follow, it plays about like any two-dimensional RPG does, and I like that there are no random encounters a great deal. (Here's hoping the entirety of the game follows that example.) I also like the random little interactions you can have between characters and the field, like the morbid musings of Sandarga as you examine the many bodies you encounter, the use of the skills in the town segment with Auria, and the hidden item you can obtain by moving a certain object in a certain way...
That said, the battle system feels extremely awkward at this point, but it works. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like I'm getting one attack to the three of the guards in the battles you do fight. I went through my first battle, wondering why my other party members weren't attacking while one was, until I found that you actually had to pick which one of them got to attack in each round, rather than in turns. I don't know if this was intended or not, but it seems like three level 25 characters would be getting multiple moves apiece before their level 1 or 5 enemies even got to take their turn.
Save points; boy was it nice to see them. Even if it is just a demo, some people don't have the leisure of even the 45 minutes or so it'll take to complete the demo, and I was glad to see that saving was added for their sake.
The skills are a good touch, but it should probably be alluded to by means of some kind of prompt that you should update your skills. Also, dumping 80 and 12 points into skills a point at a time is quite a hassle. If it's at all possible, I'd like to see a way to deposit them in greater quantities than just one.
The town itself seems to have confused a couple players, for even with that tiny sign beside what appears to be a cliff overlooking a town below, many people won't realize: "Oh, hey! This is the path to the rest of the town!" Just put a little blinking/spinning/gyrating/dancing arrow just before the end of the path to indicate that there is more that way and it's not a sheer drop into another town below.
This is arguably the crux of Contention at this point, given that the story has yet to begin and the music is yet incomplete or looking to be completely changed. On the whole, the environments look great and effects like rust and blood-spattered walls really bring the first segment together. The field animations aren't bad, but something about the part where you could swim bothered me: rather than actually having Auria hop into the water and swim to get something, it's just "implied" that she dives in and gets something. If at all possible, maybe work on that tiny irksome detail.
The characters look good, especially the battle sprites. I was really impressed that you went the extra mile and had scale battle sprites rather than the typical "two gigantic heads tall" super-deformed sprites. (I'm not just waiting to see if the battle sprites will be fully animated or minimally, obviously hoping for the former.) The battle animations are a little off-kilter somehow, like they don't exactly fit; this is most easily noticed on the Guard animation, and sometimes damage numbers seem to pop in and out.
From an artistic standpoint, the character artwork is highly inconsistent. You have characters like Auria and Weapon, whose artwork looks great (apart from Weapon's jumpsuit), and then you have Vastale and Sandarga, whom I could hardly believe were even drawn by the same artist. This isn't to say that they all look bad (but Vastale's anatomy makes him look like either a child or an extremely effeminate man, and judging by his voice, I think that's unintentional). On the contrary, Sandarga looks fine, apart from appearing to have been drawn by someone else entirely.
This is the part we'll all hate me for, but ah well. What can I say?
The sound on the character voices is very muffled or broken up at times, and some lines don't play at all while the very next line will (I know Vastale isn't intended to actually speak, so that can be excused), but this may not be such a bad thing, considering some of what you actually can hear. None of the voice actors are professionals, and it really shows that few of them have any experience whatsoever. Ranksmith sounds as if he's trying not to laugh and has a bad cold. Sandarga, to be honest, doesn't sound bad, so much as she sounds like she overemphasizes a syllable here and there, and that takes away from the effect of the lines. Auria, I rather liked. Her voice sounds natural, and she sounds as irritable or indifferent as I'd expect a teenage girl from a small town to. Examiner... Oh, lord. I wasn't aware you had any Sonic Adventure voice actors in Contention, and quite frankly, I just can't say enough... Please, re-cast this one. As for Officer Tearson, he doesn't sound bad so much as miscast. He sounds about ten or fifteen years too young, and he doesn't come off as gruff and ill-mannered as he was reputed to be.
The music, from what there was, wasn't bad. Not outstanding, considering it came direct from the RMXP program or from a sample site, but it at least fit where it was placed.
As for environmental sound... Well, the footsteps, which have lately been removed, wereÃ¢ ‚¬ €How would I describe this?Ã¢ ‚¬ €funny and/or annoying beyond all reason. Doors, elevators, etc. They all sound like they belong where they are, though the cell phone ringingÃ¢ ‚¬ €it is a cell phone, rightÃ¢ ‚¬ €sounded a little out of place. Try recording an actual cell phone ringtone and see if it comes to about the sound quality you were hoping for.
I'm not astounded by the progress so far, but I am impressed by it. It came together, yes, but not as well as I'd been hoping. But when it comes right down to it, this is a project I can't wait to see more of, and I'm quite eager to see how it grows into a completed game. Keep up the good work, but kick it up a notch or two in some areas, lest they bring you down.
Score: 7/10 (Good)
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Last edited by Lusus Naturae on Tue Mar 18, 2008 5:51 am, edited 1 time in total.