A Home Far Away is a completed game made in RPG Maker 2003 by Strangeluv. By the time I had managed to reach a point where I could write a review, many others had published their own ones with some mixed opinions. Here’s mine.So the backdrop to this game involves a boy called Danias running errands for his older sister Farrah. It ultimately leads to them getting separated from home hence the game’s title. This is basically the first half of the game which is very straight forward and a bit mind-numbing in all honest.
The game sooner or later pits you into a wild goose chase where you need to collect chickens and I just found this part very tedious and boring. You have to do this to get enough money to pay for a bunny in the village shop but seriously, you’re only 3 shillings short (the currency in this game) and you can get that money by fighting the local monster residents in the woods in less time then finding suffocating chicken inside treasure chests but that’s not an option.
Anyway, after a good hour I managed to get all these chicken and get one measly shilling in return. This brings me onto the mapping. It’s been highly praised by others as being wonderfully designed and yes it looks lovely with it’s scenic panoramas (especially when you’re on a ship) and tiny attention to detail scattered across the screen. My only gripe was that in villages and towns, travelling from one place to another and having to remember names of people got confusing and resorting to me writing down names just so I know who’s who and where to get to next. There are signposts which took away some of this chaos.
Graphics wise, they are mixture of sprites and chipsets lifted from various commercial games and most of them complimented each other well and although there were a few that were mismatched, I didn’t feel it took anything away from the visuals of the game.
Once you start venturing out of the village, you’ll notice there are no random encounters instead you get to see your foes on-screen which then takes you into a turn-based battle system. The game uses the default battle system but it’s reminiscent to that of Breath of Fire’s isometric view.
The battle system has an unique feature of charging your weapon a turn to dish out more damage which worked well in the early part of the game. All this is explained by your (in-game) father as well as a nice tutorial from a villager. Later on, you get to use magic (and can learn more via Tomas) but sometimes it’s better to just spam out some regular attacks then wait for a charge. The reason being that replenishments are easy to acquire and your magic points is conserved. The battles were slightly unbalanced at times, I had some problems with the first boss as he kept on poisoning me but on a retry, he only managed to poison me once and spent the rest of the fight just slicing me up. Overall, I’d say the battles are decent until you realise that if you were avoiding monsters for the sake of saving time and effort then you’ll struggle with the boss battles later on.
The second part of this game features a lot of side quests and I was actually looking forward to this part as I had a peek at the missions guide included in the download during my chicken-hunting woes. Unfortunately, despite the fact that you’re free to do the side quests as you please, it turns out you need to do them anyway in order for the plot to progress. I got overwhelmed with all the quests I had to do but it would’ve been fine if I felt a sense of accomplishment after doing each one but with the one-dimensional townfolk, I didn’t really feel I needed to help them. It might have worked out better if the quests were gradually introduced rather all at one, giving enough time for the player to bond with the townfolk or at least pace the game a bit better.
There are a truckload of mini-games including fishing which is very easy yet rewarding as well as one where you need to swim past sea enemies while avoiding rocks been thrown at you. I got the game-over screen on that several times but if you’re looking for ideas for your own games then this game is certainly worth having a look at.
The music and sound effects were good although nothing really that memorable (I know it had well-known tunes but I failed to recall them as usual). It would’ve been nice if some of the music files looped though as it breaks the atmosphere a little.
I encountered a couple of glitches in this game as well as the common “chipset pass-ability” issue. The first game-breaking one was when I was fishing for the first time, the game just closed on an event script error, it hasn’t happened since then though. The second one was much more frustrating and it’s been mentioned by amerkevicius as well, just don’t go jumping onto crates in Willow during daylight hours!
A Home Far Away looked very promising from what I was seeing on it’s game page. I started playing the game in short periods as it was very tedious. Once I got that out of the way, there were other things like the swimming mini-game which frustrated me a great deal but I thought the game was improving as I played on. I didn’t manage to finish the game simply because I lost the will to go on once I got to the main-side-quest part. If this part of the game was re-designed in a more manageable way then I would have probably continued playing to the end but even so, the story and characters left me wanting so much more. I didn’t share Danias’ and Farrah’s desire to return home and ultimately, this ruined much of the game for me.
Overall verdict: good
You can download A Home Far Away at RPGMaker.net