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Joined: Tue Dec 27, 2011 8:37 am
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Post Incarnation
The good thing about review events like RMN's Secret Santa 2011 is that I can get to play games I probably wouldn't play otherwise. I have double reasons not to play this game, the second one being that I usually don't play demos. But in a way, it's good that I played this game in demo stage, because all my feedback will make more sense.

Version played: 12/10/2011 demo

Incarnation is, I believe, Liberty's first RMVX project. It is a simple quest-oriented RPG.

You just died. Your soul woke up in the limbo, lost and memoryless. A voice within tells you that you have one last adventure before your eternal rest. You're incarnated in the body of either a boy or a girl. Also, that voice asks you questions about your ideal friend, and your answers will determine the class of your opposite-sex companion. After that, you're thrown in a very standard town, and you have to do standard RPG tasks, like talking to people, opening treasure chests, and taking on quests.

This game is VERY standard in almost every way. So before I start complaining about that, let me talk about what's somewhat new and interesting about Incarnation.

First of all, there's this custom character creation event at the very beginning of the game that determines the class of your companion through a series of questions. I like that sort of character creation system, reminds me of Ogre Battle.

Second, there are many optional party characters that you may get through the game, some temporary, some permanent. Having more party possibilities is always a good thing. Sadly, I didn't get anyone to join my party in the time I played.

Third, most of the items you find are not identified. You have to pay someone to identify them for you.

I will admit it now: I ragequit this game. Well, not exactly ragequit, because I endured it a lot. But I didn't play to the end of the demo, because it was way too frustrating, and because I felt like I knew everything I needed to know to write a review.

My first issue with this game, like I said, is that it's TOO standard. I don't believe games have to be completely unique and original in order to be any good. Even after over two decades of gaming, I still manage to enjoy some classic genres, and I've said in previous reviews (which I can't link right now) how classic genres can still turn into enjoyable games. But there's really nothing here in Incarnation. What you WILL NOT find here:

- Interesting dialogs
- Character depth
- Fresh character classes and skills
- Fresh items
- Interesting locations
- Weird monsters
- Addictive battle system mechanics
- Custom character progression
- Custom graphics
- Fun pacing

What you will find here instead:

- Long and empty NPC dialogs
- Mute PCs
- Standard healer/striker/wizard classes
- Standard healing potions, scrolls, swords, shields
- Very standard town-dungeon location structure
- Traditional monsters
- A battle system that plays exactly like an unmodified version of RM2K's DBS with no battle events.
- Leveling up that doesn't make much difference.
- Very slow pace

I'm not necessarily hating on this game for calling it "standard", since there are people who love standard, and Incarnation could very well be a game I would have loved playing like... 15 years ago. But there's a question I always ask when I see new indie games: "Why did that person decided to put energy and effort into this game? What's good about this game?" I often see people flooding forum topic with interesting game ideas, but sadly we don't have time and energy to work on every idea we have. So why, among all, select this particular one? What's special about Incarnation? (Yes, I would like an answer to this question - not cynically, just intrigued).

But those things are still not the reason I quit playing. I can endure standard. But what I can't endure is...


Really... what? The demo release blog says this version has more balanced battles. Seriously?

You know something's wrong with a game when you die on your first battle. One of my first quests involved getting feathers, which I could get from killing roosters. Sure, cool. My first battle was against 3 roosters. They have something like a 25% chance of paralyzing you in each attack, and they do A LOT of damage. I need two attacks to kill each, and characters have a relatively high chance of missing. Paralyzation lasts about 5 turns. So... yes, I died on the fist battle a bunch of times. And when I didn't die, I left it weak enough to have to go back to town and sleep in the inn (which is a long walk, especially because of the slow walk speed).

I came back, and did this fight1time-goback-sleep a bunch of times (dying often). It got a little easier when I decided to sell all the healing items I had found on chests to buy better equipment. It helped. But it was still hard. I was on level 3 when I stopped playing and I had all the best store items, but still I could only battle 3 times tops before having to go back and sleep.

Another bad thing about the battle system is that battles give you ridiculously low amount of XP, and your stats raise very little when you gain levels. I didn't see much hope for my future. I got really pissed when I decided to fight one of the "bosses" (black flame), and though they were not much stronger than regular enemies, they gave me ONE XP. ONE. No, really, a boss gave me 1XP.

What I recommend:

I'll be honest: there are lots of things I didn't like about this game. If I were to comment on each of them, my review would be unnecessarily lengthy and overnegative. Some of my disliked are just taste issues, but most of them are complaints on design choices. Since this game is relatively old and there were no reviews and so few comments on the game profiles, I'll take it as a sign that other players were unsatisfied too, but politely decided not to say anything. I'll just post a few suggestions that could make this game much better without having to redo everything.

1 - Faster walk speed. Yes, it will do miracles to this game.

2 - Redesign the battle system entirely. Considering the type of game Incarnation is, it NEEDS fun engaging battles. Battles cannot be secondary. I'm not sure how you could do this, there are many options. You could add some tactical factor, I don't know exactly, I'm no battle specialist. You can ask people like Craze and Anaryu for suggestions.

3 - Balance. Weaker monsters. Faster character growth. Remember one thing: the game will ALWAYS be easier for you (the person who made the game) than for the players.

4 - Customization on character progression. Something like... skill trees. This is very good incentive for keeping players interested in the game, motivates them to battle and gain more XP, etc.

5 - Better intro. I like the butterfly bit, but after that there's a lot of "nothing" before the game begins to launch. You can't expect that players will know what to do just because they're inside an "I've been there" RPG town.
That's it. I could suggest some changes on other stuff, like removing the backtracking necessary to identify items adding an identify skill, or improve the soundtrack (which is mildly annoying), etc. But if you just follow the things I suggested above (which I understand are not little things), this game could improve at least 400%.

Two other smaller issues:

There are quite a few times when the message lines are wider than the message box, and parts of the text are missing;

The system graphic is pretty, but the selection is hard to see, and I often caught myself healing the wrong character cause I didn't notice which one was selected.

Final Words

I feel bad about hating so much on this game because, despite everything, it is very polished, very well thought and clearly a lot of love was put into it. But if you want players to love it as well, it needs to shine a bit more, to have more charm, more spice. I felt Incarnation was excessively conservative, unnecessarily hard, and much too slow.

I understand that the game has additional features that have not yet been implemented in the demo, but although they sound interesting, I don't think they would make much difference in terms of overall enjoyability.

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