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Zander - English version vs. msw188
Zander - English version Decisions, decisions...
Download: 824 KB
Play Time: 4 hours and 22 minutes
Review # 1 for msw188 Decisions, decisions...
Them's Fightin' Words
    This game was a bit slow-moving at times, but overall the world that the Danielson Brothers have created successfully drew me in, and I certainly felt regret when the demo ended. But the game is far from perfect and could certainly use some upgrading. I will try to give my feelings on this as objectively as possible.
    Unfortunately, I could not seem to get this game's .zip file to load onto my computer correctly. Interestingly enough, the only part of the game to be affected (that I could tell) was the maptiles. Beyond the second maptile set (in custom) they degenerated into random pixels. Luckily, this did not greatly affect the game, since the main map and all of the towns in this demo used the first two maptile sets. To navigate dungeons I simply went into custom and figured out which tiles were supposed to be passable, and made them blank, and the random pixels became the walls. It worked out alright. I do not feel that this should disqualify me from reviewing the game any more than those who cannot hear BAM music on their computer.
From what I could see, the graphics are kind of poor. Especially the walkabouts for heroes and villagers. There's a bit of variety among the villagers, but unfortunately they are all of about the same quality: bad. Battle graphics seemed a bit better to me, but not by that much. The backdrops for important people's faces (and for your main character dying) were usually pretty good, though. The maptiles I could see breathed of Dragon Warrior, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
    It is difficult to comment too much on this, since there was plenty of mystery left concerning the story by the end of the demo. Also, the translation seemed a bit off in a couple of places (but only a couple), so occasionally the precise meaning was difficult to understand. Here's the basics: A wizard named Zander is going about the land stealing magic stones from the different countries, and as a result monsters are spreading in the lands. As a foreignor who was washed up on the island, Lugo (you) are called upon (the king had an oracular dream of some sort) to chase after Zander and stop him.
I can't really say much more at this point, but I'd like to point out that, despite a few translation problems (mostly grammatical), I thought that the dialogue and the miscellaneous characters in the towns were a real high point in this game. Although there were no complete, round characters in this demo, most of the people you met showed at least a little personality. Add to that the feeling of real history and culture in the world of Aladria (indeed, it was just starting to get really interesting when the demo ended, I thought), and you get a pretty high score from me in the storyline area.
    Gameplay to me can be pretty hard to rate, and yet I would agree that it (whatever exactly it is) is the most important aspect of a game. Zander had a couple of interesting gameplay elements (the journal that keeps a record of what has been asked of you was a good one), but overall this could use a bit of fixing, I think. Before moving on, I'd like to mention that the dying system is good (you keep the experience and items you gained), but that losing only 30 dragons seems like it could become far too little later in the game. But it is good for this beginning demo.  
    Not good, really. The main problem was that the battles felt a bit too slow to me, and I usually prefer slow to fast. I think that part of the trouble stemmed from having only one hero in the party for the majority of the demo. This meant a considerable wait between your turns. I think that the game would benefit from increasing the speed of all the characters (good and bad) a couple of notches. In fact, the battles seem better suited for a turn-based system than the active meter one of the OHR. Another problem was the monotony. Again, this came in part from having only one hero, and began to fade away at the end of the demo when a wizard finally joins, but for the most part the battles in this demo consisted of holding down the space bar and hoping that you did not meet the wrong enemies at the wrong time.  
  Map Design
    From what I could see, this seemed pretty good for the most part. The main outside map looked pretty good, and the slow moving made the world feel larger than it actually was (a good thing, to me). The towns looked alright, but could sometimes be difficult to move around in. I would advise the author to try to avoid single tile pathways in towns when possible (I had the same problem in the first areas of my game as well). There were a couple of mistakes here, such as walls that you could walk through, but nothing that hampered gameplay. Some of the use of overhead tiling was a little poor in my opinion, but overall I'd say this was a pretty good aspect of the game. I can't say anything graphically about the dungeons, because all of their maptile sets were lost on my computer. But they seemed just maze-like enough to force a couple of turn-arounds without ever being seriously frustrating. Again, a good aspect of this game.  
    This, I think, may be the most difficult part of creating an RPG. Most of the balance flaws were pointed out in the 'Battle' section above, but for all that the balance was not too bad. There were some easy battles, and some that were more challenging (or at least, required healing). I was especially impressed by the statistical gains of leveling-up; each new level seemed like just the right amount more powerful than the last for Lugo. I didn't get to see as much with the other characters. Problems included the chance (small, but not zero) of meeting enemies far more powerful than you early on, and the early lack of equipment. I think the curing herb could be a bit cheaper too, and a text file with a listing of who can equip what would be very helpful (it wasn't fun to waste over 200 dragons on something Lugo couldn't equip). These monetary problems might be taken care of by battles being quicker; currently, it feels like it takes a good while to gain money.  
    I can't hear BAM music on my computer, which is quite disappointing because there seemed to be a fair bit of songs in the list for this game in custom.  
    Yeah, I enjoyed it, despite the tedious battling. The fact of the matter is, even though I would get impatient with the battles, I still wanted to continue to explore the towns and dungeons of Aladria, and I was disappointed when the demo ended. However, I ought to warn readers here: If you have more fun strategizing your way through fast-paced battles or solving puzzles than in exploring worlds and talking to townsfolk to absorb invented history, than this game may not be for you.  
Final Blows
    Pretty good, my kind of game really, although the joke with the customs official went on too long. Walking to bed at an inn is a nice touch at first, but it gets old and it would be nice to be able to skip it (an on-keypress script, perhaps?). I tend to think that keeping inns/save points nearer to the entrance/exit to towns is a good idea, as well.
If only my feet weren't so big, I would actually fit on the road.

If only my feet weren't so big, I would actually fit on the road.
Final Scores
Graphics: 3.5/10.0
Bad characters, but decent enough maps and backgrounds. Overall, a low point of the game.
Storyline: 8/10.0
Not necessarily very original, but very well presented despite a couple of translation problems. One of the high points of the game for me.
Gameplay: 5.5/10.0
Difficult to grade such a broad category. Exploring was fun, and townspeople were interesting, and the journal was a nice touch, but the tedious battles keep this score from being any higher.
Music: 5/10.0
No BAM-playing on my computer. There seemed to be a decent variety in custom.
Enjoyment: 7/10.0
See this section in the review. I enjoyed playing it as far as it went, but some work is needed to make this a thoroughly enjoyable game for all.
Overall Grade: C
Final Thoughts
    Battling is tedious, especially early on, and the character graphics are kind of bad, but the world is very well-presented and seems rich with culture and characters. Healycap is a good name for a curing technique.  

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