This game is on sale right now via Groupees bundle for about 50 cents, very worth it at that price. To get into the story, characters, and overall atmosphere of the game for a bit I must say it was quite different from what I was expecting. The intro image (and main product/cover image) brings to mind a grittier art style and a dark setting. The tone of this game overall ends up being rather light, not laugh-out-loud hilarious unfortunately but charming and quaintly designed. Those who are easily irritated by outlandish moments will, I think, find that the characters here behave surprisingly maturely for the most part. Despite the goofy vampires angle, I was surprised by the little bits of realism- the music for example is often substituted with proper ambient sounds. The coloring of areas utilizes mostly realistic and muted shades.
Much of the first 4 hours has the game switching between two very different viewpoints- most of your time is spent with Mel, an orphaned thief of mysterious origin. She's spunky and straightforward but can often come off as rude and temperamental as well. The other playable lead is Te'ijal, a wise and good-hearted vampire who will crack the occasional dark joke revealing her malevolent side. Her brother is the main antagonist and our story flips back and forth between these viewpoints of the powerful vampire in a farcical Transylvanian environment and Mel in a charming castle town. This is the first game in a spin-off series to the Aveyond series, I believe it's the third Aveyond game overall. I don't feel I'm missing out on vital story bits but it is jarring to see the artistic differences in design between Te'ijal and her pack (who seem to be returning characters) and Mel and her battle companions. They look like characters from differing games. The grammar and overall quality of writing is very good. I feel there could be more cut-scenes, character interactions, and just exciting events overall.
There are few customization options but that's to be expected of the RPGMaker engine. Thankfully, this game has many custom assets to set it apart from what might be expected of that engine. While this is inspired by old-school JRPGs from the NES-SNES era, there are many modern conveniences and features here. You can warp between destinations, which helps soften the blow of some very annoying backtracking issues. No random battles, you can see enemies on-screen and potentially avoid them. Dungeons sometimes have puzzles and fields also serve as dungeons of sorts- with treasure strewn about and some inaccessible areas that require the unlocking of special new abilities. Those can be acquired in some towns as a reward for completing special puzzles. There are some side endeavors, like being able to hatch and keep pets on a farm and collect their eggs. Each new town contains a few side quests and the menu systems are advanced enough to accommodate quick management of characters, items, quests, etc. I also enjoy how medium difficulty puts up a pretty good challenge- enemies hit quite hard and sufficient money for healing supplies can be scarce. Towns are sprawling and attractively designed with a just slightly more modern flair than the average medieval setting. Dungeons are short but well-designed; they don't overstay their welcome. The game would go at a brisk and enjoyable pace if it weren't for two things that really take a hit at the fun factor and seem to artificially lengthen the game while threatening to overshadow the very good points of it.
The walking/running speed. I've heard that previous Aveyond games have had an unlockable that allows for faster running through areas but I'm not sure of this one has that.. regardless, spending 7 out of the 10-12 estimated hours of this game bogged down with an inadequate running speed (or at least, a running speed that is incompatible with the sheer size of towns and fields in this game) really messes with the pace. I ended up feeling like too much of my time was spent just trying to travel to the next destination. Speaking of pace, too much backtracking. I appreciate the many non-linear moments in this game. Very early on you have access to a giant field with branching areas, some of which lead to places you're not scheduled to go to for hours yet and contain extremely high-level enemies. That said, much of my time seemed to be punctuated by traveling through these fields, getting somewhere, only to be prompted to travel all the way back again. Yes, the warping function is fantastic but costly and doesn't diminish that feeling of constantly going back and forth between these sometimes confusing, mapless areas.
This is the first part in a series and that is one other mixed bag and point of contention for me. A really neat thing is that some of the decisions you make along the way are going to influence events in the sequel. For example, one of the male main characters may end up either marrying the main character or a fellow teammate depending on your choices. But there are downsides- quests that can't be finished and areas that are saved for the sequel. That said, this entry has me intrigued by the Aveyond universe and curious about the sequel,