I was fortunate enough to get hold of the beta version of ProjectBC's brainchild, and while still incomplete, the demo/prologue, whatever you will, is coming together rather nicely. While there are still some technical issues to work out and segments to add inâ€”mostly just minor bugs that didn't affect the experienceâ€”I think players will come to appreciate the updated version a great deal more. But let's get this under way and let you guys know exactly what's changed.
As you know, the story throws you right into the action and has you playing the bad guys before you meet your main protagonist, Auria Edith. Her day begins as what can only be assumed to be a typical one: forget to do a chemistry paper, go shopping, have lunch with a friend, get killed by a cop. Auria Edit is having a bad day. Luckily, she's offered a contract of sorts when she meets a peculiar man in a place known as the Void. She then finds herself in a surreal hall floating in darkness where she happens across a strange book that vaguely details her future. This is where the last, the incomplete, demo left off. This new prologue continues from there and details what happens after Auria wakes from what she assumes to be a nightmare and her day becomes even worse still. But she's just been killed! is what some may think. How can things go downhill from there for her? You'll just have to play and find out what happens next, because I'm keeping my lips sealed on the details.
No random encounters, hidden items for those willing to look. These are both nice qualities, and I hope to see much more of the latter as the game progresses. Funny little interactions between controlled characters and the environment and NPCs (Weapon with the random guard and Auria with most any minor NPC or environmental detail she happens by) sort of round things off and give the characters a bit more personality, and I like that, since the story is driven by, though not outrageously dependent upon, its characters.
The battle system has come together wonderfully. Techniques have been divided up into your generic Attack, more specialized Techniques, which have varyings costs, effects, and damage output (Pulse, for example, basically clears the field for 275 SP). The reaction mode has been successfully implemented now, and it works like a charm, though the reaction icons can be a little obstructive; making them a bit smaller might be prudent.
Again, the skills system is a nice feature, but there should probably be a prompt or a cheesy tutorial to give you a quick rundown of how to manage your skills and when you gain more points for them. (Maybe do it by means of a tongue-in-cheek parody of how other RPGs would handle it?) It was also nice to see more of the skills implemented this time, as before it was only Strength and Security you had use of before, and there wasn't all that much to do with them. So, kudos for putting that in and at least giving us something else to use them for this time around.
It's really good to see that you took my advice and added in indicators for paths leading out of the areas of the town. Though it doesn't affect much, the indicator at the south entrance to May Hill is covered up by the bottom of the window, so you may want to move that up, if for nothing else than the sake of consistency with the other areas. One way or the other, it probably won't mean much, but it's a minor discrepancy that stuck out a bit to me. Another issue is that every time you check a door in the beginning, you're given a prompt that tells you what room you're about to enter, when this could just as easily be done with a small sign so that you don't have to constantly be reminded.
It's good to see that things have progressed even here. There are some nice lighting/darkness and rain effects later on, for those who play far enough, and even some of the random obstructions have been moved out of the way or removed. One example of this is the lightposts that were in the middle of a couple streets in East Naven. This was a good call on the part of ProjectBC, and I was glad to see it done, as most anyone will be, unless they had a particular soft spot for those obstructive things.
Where the environmental graphics remain largely the sameâ€”and this is not a bad thing at all, because they just look greatâ€”the battle graphics have had a noticeable overhaul. The battle menu is much cleaner, with the interface having had a couple of tweaks here and there, such as the almost Final Fantasy X-esque turn-order indicator at the right of the screen and the sleeker character information along the bottom. Reaction mode is also now indicated by means of floating icons next to your characters (boots mean dodge, weapon means counter, and something else I didn't check out due to character builds means guard), and although these icons are translucent against the backdrops, they still seem a little distracting, as if they should be made smaller or moved. One of the most noticeable improvements to the battle graphics, though, is the techniques like Pulse and Shadow Wave, which are now done in Particle Illusion, along with some of the other abilities used outside of combat. Even with all the improvements, there was still a minor issue with the battle menu: you have about seven options in combat, but it only shows you five. If you don't scroll down, which you wouldn't otherwise know to do, you're not going to see them. It won't affect the outcome in that very first segment in particular, but it's something to consider for the future.
The out-of-battle sprites are pretty nice-looking, and there's even a little bit of animation on their hair and clothing, which adds a bit more life to the characters as they move about their surroundings. They also bear close resemblance to their artwork counterparts, which is good, considering some games have a character featuring a completely different look in their artwork than their in-game appearanceâ€”a diminishing trend that I find to be exceedingly annoying.
While there have been improvements and additions, it's also important to point out the bad. There's some annoying clipping that occurs in several places, mostly with trees and benches, where Auria gains the ability to walk through benches and fences, and occasionally walk on walls. Some things also appear to happen at the wrong time, like rain starting up later than it seems was intended. There are other weird issues like chimneys inexplicably blocking your path and characters facing the wrong way when they talk to someone. I imagine these will all be addressed in the final version, but they're definitely cause for docking a couple points.
Well, well, you have been making improvements, haven't you? Much of the music and sound effects remain the same here, but the music choice isn't bad, though I have it on good authority that much of the music currently will be replaced by completely original tracks, and this is something I look forward to hearing quite eagerly.
The biggest and probably only improvement here has been the voice acting. Examiner's voice has fortunately been cut entirely, though a re-cast may eventually occur as the first Act is released. Apart from that, most of the voice actors are quite good, though it seems as though Tearson's VA is trying to force himself to have a deep voice rather than put more of his focus on sounding natural. Maybe there could be a bit more leniency there; rather than have someone doing a specific voice, have them. Another voice actor I did have a bit of an issue with was the man in the Void. His problem is that his voice fits fine, but he's trying too hard to sound ominous or mysterious, to a point that it was a mild irritation. Still, the voicework has improved nicely, and I can see that it's coming along.
Even so, there is some interference that comes in every so often, a little static in Auria's lines and some of those by later characters come in pretty muffled. Also, characters' lines occasionally overlap with one another and cut out inopportune parts, such as with Auria and her mother, of the conversation later between Auria and Seri. The sound effects themselves are pretty good, though, and most of them sound pretty good, apart from the beeps and boops in the beginning, when doors are being opened. There might be a better sound effect out there for that, so I'd recommend looking for something that sounds less dated.
Things are comping along nicely now, and you've made some good improvements that are certainly taking this in the right direction. Still, you're not quite there yet, and it'd probably be wise to look into your voice actors a bit more, see if you can't find anyone a little better. Aside from that, your issues here seem to be little bugs that will inevitably be fixed. Good work, and good luck.
Score: 8/10 (Admirable)
http://fc01.deviantart.com/fs24/f/2008/ ... jectBC.png[/img]
Last edited by Lusus Naturae on Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.