Game: Ghost Shards Inquisitor
This review pertains to the game in its current demo state only.
I played some of it, I didn't finish it... simply because it was apparent early on that it was a mystery solving game, and I'm not really into those. I admit I don't read game descriptions. I look at the screenshots, decide if I want to download then go right into it... that's just how I think.
Anyway, I'll give you a first impression from the outside looking in. I'll rate each category for you based on Plot, Audio, Visuals, and Mechanics.
I am hoping the game's author takes criticism well... I try to be as objective as possible in my reviews. Please understand these are simply my opinions... so take from it what you will... or disregard if you choose :)
I'm one of those people who don't like to wait until the plot gets good. I treat it like I would books in the library (or device). I read the first few pages... if it doesn't hook me, I form an opinion immediately, put it down, and pick up a different book. RPG Maker games are mostly free. Players' attention spans are short for the most part. I do not believe in "waiting until it gets good". So if you have a TON of good material, it's a good idea to bait the player with a little bit right away. Another is delivery. It has to be paced. I'm thrown into a world I know nothing about and if I am blasted with nouns comprised of a multitude of consonants... I'll guarantee you I will remember about 2% of it if I've had no previous interaction with said historical figures. You basically wasted precious minutes of engaging the player, and their interest has leaked out.
Having said that...
The plot did not hook me right off the bat. It seems that the game was more interested in showcasing the visual and custom elements right from the onset instead of presenting a well-paced plot. 30 seconds into the game I meet an NPC named Tanu who blasts me in the face with historical elements that means nothing to me at that point in time. I believe these historical tidbits should be given in bits and pieces, interspersed with engaging story elements. It allows the player to develop a need to find out more.
I'm sure the author has an ingenious and amazing plot, with mind-boggling twists in store. But unfortunately I picked up the book, and decided to pass it up for another book. I'm sure I'm the one that missed out... but that's not what you want. You don't want players thinking they didn't miss out on anything good.
Visuals is one aspect where the game truly excels. From the very beginning it was apparent that this is what the game aims to show... and it does so in flying colors. The color scheme, and visual atmosphere. the color blending, the transparencies, the lighting effects... everything was done to near perfection. I say "near" perfection because it is clear that the creator(s) demonstrated a strong capacity for graphical prowess. Why then do the characters look the same regardless of the situation? It's hard to reconcile the emotion in the opening scene where he's looking down on a grave, and his portrait is smiling.
I don't know if the audio is custom... I think the first or second theme sounded familiar... a variation of an instrument in a theme I've heard before. In any case, my rating is based on the choice of tracks, timing, and whether or not they fit the intended scene. And in this department the game executes flawlessly.
This rating is based not on how many custom systems the game has, but rather on how well the included systems are executed. Mapping is also included here.
From what I've seen the game's systems were interesting, though certain parts seemed out of place. The clue log/inventory is one I especially liked. It was well implemented and did much to enhance the "inquisition" aspect. Picture movements were spot on. Animations were well-placed. One thing I did have an issue with is during the beginning when I picked up a map dropped on the ground by a little "squirt" I ran into. I pick it up and a prompt pops up to ask me to enter what I thought it was.
Now, going back to the plot thing... I was given historical info that I don't really care about just now... yet I'm not given an explanation on things that I DO want to know... like why in the world is it asking me what I think this is? Is there really a chance that I will enter anything else other than "map"? The ONLY chance I that I would enter any text other than "map" is if I wanted to see what the game will do if I enter something I KNOW will be wrong... like "Unble Bob". There was no chance of getting it wrong without doing it intentionally... so why is it there? Again this felt like one of those things where it's there simply to show me the feature exists, regardless of whether or not it's needed at the time. A simple message stating "You've found a map" would have made more sense. This would be relevant if I find something like... a hook that could be a trigger, or maybe a small anchor for a toy ship. Something that I could actually get wrong.
With that aside... there were also a few mapping issues:
Directly north of Tanu, by the gate... there are issues with overlapping tile pass throughs. I saved... reloaded beside Tanu, and cannot pass north. Exiting the map south, then re-entering north seems to fix the problem. Also the diagonal wall directly east of Tanu has passability issues.
Total Average Score: 7.4
The game has its charm. It's certainly a cut above most that I've recently played. In its current state, however, it feels more like a project at a science fair designed to showcase the outer shell in the form of the beautiful graphics and fine-tuned custom systems, while plot pacing feels like it's taken a back seat. Play this game if you want to see graphics and custom systems done right.