The Dawn of Tactical RPGs on RPG Maker?
First ever strategy RPG made in RM2K?
That’s what came to mind when DFalcon proclaimed that Aurora Wing was indeed a tactical RPG. There haven’t been many (if any) in the genre and with good reason too, the RPG Maker engine was never intended to be used to make such a system yet here we have a completed game. So how does it compare to the likes of commercial games such as Fire Emblem? That question may seem a bit unfair but that in itself poses another question, what can this game be compared to in the RPG Maker community? So far it’s standing on its own merit and that is what it’ll be judged on in this review.
Before going any further it’s worth mentioning that the game comes with a battle guide along with the game’s background story which you’ll find very useful.
The Continent of Wode
The story is set in a land called Wode where Ignas manages to lead his city Pathas to glory with the discovery of bronze and a new discipline called Worus. His successor Rale brings all the city states under the Empire of Wode which rules peacefully for many years. Of course as with all empires this one crumbles down into smaller states over time which results in bitter feud between two of the three states and war seems imminent.
The game starts off with a group of people lead by Nash (the hero of the game) getting ambushed by an army fraction and thus the first battle of the game commences. The game unfolds the plot as the gamer progresses deeper in the game and there are a few surprises although the basic framework is eventually boiled down to you being the peacekeeper and having to do most of the dirty work (mainly killing) for other people.
The dialogue in the game is very well written and the humour is well placed and used appropriately and is even maintained nicely to the end of the game. There were one or two lines of text that got cut off the end of the message box during a cut scene but nothing too big to spoil the aesthetic feel of the game.
The graphics works fairly well with a few glitches here and there. The diagonal sprites do sometimes clash with the north-south background and chipset but again it’s not a game killing flaw. The cursor in some maps hides under walls and other edges but it is actually quite easy to navigate with once you get used to it. The face sets and game text are commonly used but work in favour of the look of the game as does the various menus that appear in battle and in the preparation screen.
Now for the most interesting part in Aurora Wing, its custom battle system. The battle is laid out on an isometric grid as appose to the standard north-east-south-west movement used in RPG Maker 2000 so DFalcon coded the grid movement on a four-directional keypad. Does it work? Not at first but eventually you learn to deal with the limitations and somewhat fiddly controls. What makes it more challenging is that character movement is done as you press each button unlike games like Final Fantasy Tactics which would display the range of movement for you then allow you to choose where to move. Thankfully there’s a cancel option so if you do accidentally run into trouble you can go back and do what you intended to do in the first place.
From moving to equipping to attacking the player characters are limited by their stamina in the game. If infinite stamina was a cheat in this game it’d take only one character to wipe out an entire army!
You also get the usual job classes like soldier, archer and mages although these are preset to individual characters and not customisable. To make things a little more interesting DFalcon has also included terrain effects so if you’re walking into woods your stamina is used up a little more than it would if you were to walk on a road. Defensive cover is also introduced into the terrains. Furthermore, the characters can have three different styles of fighting which are the Worus, Zophan and Aklet or no styles at all and these work in a rock, paper and scissors relationship.
So how do all these factors play into the actual game play? Excellently it has to be said. The key to success lies in the way stamina is used and on so many occasions it’s best just to conserve stamina and wait for your opponent to get to you so you can dish out as much damage as possible. The AI is pretty good with very little lag on the computer used to run this game. When two characters engage in battle an animation runs through showing the damage dealt along with the HP of both characters. This can be switched to a no-animation display which is a lot quicker.
There are three difficulties available but I played on the default Normal option. It can be really punishing at times. During my playthrough, Ardra (the white mage you get at the start) died forever (RIP Ardra) as all revives provided were consumed early on. Luckily Ardra wasn’t needed much but the in-battle saves are of great help.
The variety of missions is quite large. There are a total of 18 main missions along with secondary missions which are optional and these involve ambushing, following and chasing the enemies.
Out of battle you get a screen with several options which are self explanatory. “Scene” is where you can converse with the party members and help build character and depth to the story. The shop is a bit frustrating to use as you need to go in there one at time but like other elements of Aurora Wing you gradually get accustomed to it. The amount of gold is strictly controlled so you’ll find that Iron Sword you need is unaffordable until the next mission which makes for a more challenging battle.
Most of the MIDIs in the game are ripped no doubt about that but they are implemented fittingly and help to bring that war feel to the game (even though there is no war going on!). The sound effects are probably from the RTP pack which isn’t really a bad thing. Original soundtracks or more obscure music would’ve been nice but perfectly understandable if DFalcon thought otherwise.
So after nine hours of gruelling battles (and 80 game saves, a massive kill count and a dead comrade) this game has been the best and only tactical RPG I’ve played on the RPG Maker platform not to mention the possibility of another ending. The story line is admittedly unoriginal but its seamless innovative battle system coupled with a well written dialogue proves that these types of games are very much possible on RPG Maker. Whether or not this will lead to more tactical RPGs remains to be seen but one thing’s for sure, Aurora Wings will remain the greatest tactical RPG ever made for some time.
Overall verdict: excellent
You can download Aurora Wing at RPGMaker.net
Please note: This is a review I originally wrote back in 2008.