Monday, January 28, 2008

Adonthell: Waste's Edge

The best of the lot, so far, despite the fact that's it's basically a tech-demo for incomplete technology. Adonthell is a game engine that is eventually (we all know how open-source development tends to go, right?) going to be used to craft an old-school console-style RPG set in an epic Tolkienesque world. Waste's Edge is a module that demonstrates where the engine is at right now.

While the final product may aspire to the heights of great SNES RPGs such as Final Fantasy II (IV in Japan, I think) or Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan, I think), Waste's Edge plays more like an extremely simplified adventure game that takes those old-school RPGs as inspiration for its user-interface. There is no combat, and no inventory system (although that is deceptive; technically in two spots your character actually picks up an item - but it's done solely through text and plot-triggers, and doesn't involve an actual inventory system).

What is there? Well, there's a solid story and the enter-button. That's right, one button. You use it to activate people and objects. Basically, if you're in front of an object, you press enter, and it looks at it (or, in rare circumstances, interacts with it). If you're in front of a person, it initiates conversation. You use the arrow keys to move around, but outside of that, the only key you use is the enter-key.

It's relatively short - call it an hour or three - but because of that, the simple system never really gets old, and it actually works to make the experience more gratifying than some RPGs by not making you waste tons of time grinding to level up so you can beat a boss-character, or doing all the "realistic" things RPGs tend to require, like buying potions or resting. Despite the fact that the game consists entirely of walking up to people and talking to them, then using what they've said to figure out who you need to talk to next, it's fast-paced and a lot of fun.

Since the bulk of the game is just reading conversational text, it helps that the writing is consistently at the higher level of fan-fiction type stuff. It's readable, and has a lot of personality, and doesn't descend into frightening levels of cliche very often.

Before I continue, one caveat: just like Abuse, this one requires you to do more than simply install the game from the 'Add/Remove...' window - after you add it there, you have to open up Synaptic and install the module 'Waste's Edge' as well. Actually, you should probably just install both simultaneously from Synaptic; there's no reason for you to do things as backwards as I do. With that said, on to the specifics:

Graphically, it's not exactly the bee's knees. It's striving for that old-school CRPG feel, and that's what it achieves. No more, and maybe a little less. The only thing really bad about the art-direction is that the main character, a (presumably) male half-elf, looks like a waitress in a '50s diner. Outside of that, everything's great for the resolution at which it operates, and the character portraits that show up during dialog capture the personalities of the characters they portray.

The soundtrack is delightful. 8-bit sounding drums with a bunch of piano and strings that's really soothing and pretty, and some nice melodic synth-guitar. It's apparently available here, but I'm not sure which tracks are from the soundtrack to Waste's Edge and which are unrelated.

This was fun. Especially since I've been so story-deprived since I started this blog. There's a charming sense of humor, accompanied with the kind of fleshed-out-by-inference sort of world that allows the game to seem serious enough to be engaging. It's unfortunate that everyone with dwarves n' elves in a game has to make them dislike each other, but oh well. It's worth mentioning that there's a lot of backstory available on the game's website, that probably fleshes out the world a lot and adds more depth to the plot of this little game, as well as setting the state for the epic RPG to follow. Some day. I look forward to it, personally...

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