Saturday, July 28, 2018

Undertale's Toriel's Important Lesson

If you haven’t played Undertale, then don’t read this rant. Period. If you want to spoil yourself for a lot of other games, that’s your prerogative, but I’ll not be party to anyone who lessens their eventual experience with this gem by discovering its central plot points ahead of time.

Also, as a warning, this rant was written while I was a bit feverish, and generally out of it, feels, to me, kind of spacey and unfocused. Still, I think my thoughts on the matter are worth expressing (as much as they ever are, at least), so here you go.

It’s really no exaggeration to say that Undertale is one of the most significant RPGs created in the video game industry’s 40+ years of existence, and I anticipate that it will forever be so. There are multiple claims that Undertale makes to its prominent spot in this art form’s history, but what, in my opinion, truly makes it stand out as a unique work of storytelling in its medium is that Undertale is, to my knowledge, the only game that makes a truly compelling and earnest statement on the power and vital necessity of nonviolence in resolving conflicts.

True, many RPGs are eager to loudly proclaim the importance of forgiveness, diplomacy, tolerance, open-mindedness, and various other factors that together form peaceful conflict resolution, but (again, to my knowledge) none of them actually walk the walk. Their heroes may fight for a peaceful world, they may forgive their foes and spare them, they may try to avoid overcoming their obstacles with violence, but sooner or later, it all still comes down to winning climactic battles. I’m reminded of 1 of Wild Arms 4’s last moments, in which its dimwitted protagonist Jude tells the game’s antagonist with fervent passion that one cannot solve one’s problems with violence...then immediately proceeds into the game’s final battle, during which all involved will be stabbing, shooting, burning, freezing, smashing, and performing various other violent acts upon one another, the outcome of which will, indeed, have solved the conflict definitively. Yes, not a lot of RPGs are as blatantly, immediately, and humorously self-contradictory as Wild Arms 4, which makes sense as not a lot of RPGs are written with such a galling lack of competence as that raging inferno of suck...but ultimately, RPGs still nearly always contradict their messages of lauding nonviolent resolution by having the most important moments of conflict in their course be settled by battles.*

And true, there ARE RPGs, a few of them, in which violence is not necessary. The Deus Ex games have made a point since the first installment of making it possible for a player to make it through them without actually killing anyone. Additionally, while I have never played any (unless Rune Factory counts?), I would assume that most of the farming simulator RPGs** don’t require violence. Still, there is a substantial difference between games in which pacifism has simply been made possible, or games in which there is little to no reason not to be nonviolent, and a game like Undertale, which focuses strongly upon and explores the dilemmas that a nonviolent approach faces, and bases the very heart and soul of its message and story’s course upon pacifism, and the weight and consequences of death and apathy.

In its treatise on nonviolence, Undertale involves the majority of its cast, including even many of its NPCs and monsters of lesser importance. Ultimately, however, I believe that it is Toriel’s lesson to us which is the most valuable, both as a component of Undertale’s story and message, and as a lesson to take away from the game.

For, you see, the trial Toriel presents to the player represents what I believe to be the most absolutely vital aspect of the concept of pacifism and resolving conflicts without violence: patience and determination. It is also the aspect of pacifism that I think is least emphasized by shows, movies, games, and all other storytelling mediums that advocate nonviolent approaches, sadly but not unexpectedly, since it’s hard to really sell the concept of patience without devoting more time to showing it than the limited schedules of most storytelling vehicles are willing (or even able) to commit to.

Before Toriel blocks your way in Undertale, the monsters you encounter are simple enough to get by without resorting to violence. The logic paths necessary to take in order to Spare each one are both short, and easily intuited. Toriel is the first occasion the game throws at you in which the concept of trying to resolve a conflict peacefully is a true challenge, and it is made all the more jarring to the player by the fact that they have been conditioned thus far to have few, if any, complications in Sparing their foes. There has always been a clear avenue to a nonviolent victory, until Toriel flat-out denies your Spare attempts and cannot be appealed to with dialogue. Essentially, Toriel is your first and most iconic encounter with personal conflict in which an opponent refuses to let you settle your differences peacefully.

Beyond that, she is also the only opponent I can think of in Undertale for whom determination and patience are the keys to success. Certainly you need both of those things to weather the battles against Papyrus, Undyne, the guards, and many others in the game, but in each major conflict following Toriel’s, your patience and determination comes in the form of navigating the long twists of gameplay until you have a chance to succeed in Sparing your opponent--Toriel, by contrast, is simply outright a test of whether you can be determined and patient enough to outlast someone’s enmity in spite of, initially, no sign that there will ever be any opportunity for concord. Which is by itself a thematically intelligent decision from a gameplay perspective, since Toriel, in Undertale, is meant to be linked to the concepts of video game tutorials--so of course, her boss battle itself serves as a final, educational trial run for the foundations of later boss battles, in the sense that, as I said, later major battles take the necessity for patience and persistence and add more levels of gameplay onto it.***

But while other characters in the game build upon Toriel and present different analogies for routes to peaceful resolution, I think Toriel’s is the most important to truly understanding and embracing the concept of pacifism. Yes, it’s important to learn from Undyne the value of giving up on foolish notions of pride as you outlast her through the act of running away and avoidance, which many mistake as cowardice. Yes, it’s important to learn from the dummy that rage and a refusal to forgive are so self-destructive that there is no need to harm those who feel such things toward you, for they eventually destroy themselves. Yes, it’s important to recognize and forgive the fact that hostility is often the result of misplaced feelings of obligation or self-dissatisfaction, as we learn from Papyrus and Alphys. Yes, it’s important to learn what even small-time enemies in the game can teach you, like that sometimes someone may do something injurious to you by accident, having mistakenly thought they would be helping you, as Vulkin does with what they think is healing lava.

But before you realize any of these things about other people, before you come to understand that your enemies have reasons and history for what they do, and before you can draw conclusions and begin to think about how one overcomes such obstacles to find a peaceful solution to one’s conflicts with is essential to understand first and foremost that to choose the highest road, to choose to commit to pacifism, to choose the path to solving problems between people without resorting to violence, takes time, and it takes persistence. You will encounter people in your life who do not want to work toward a positive solution. You may outlast their attempts to harm or destroy you once, but they will not give up just because you did not immediately cave in. Getting through to someone, finding a way to friendship and understanding beyond enmity and have to be willing to fight for that goal for a long time, and you have to be willing to keep trying without despair even when there just doesn’t seem to be any progress.

And that’s what Toriel represents, and teaches. There is no trick of conversation paths, no part of the bullet hell gameplay that you have to perform--there is only the patience and persistence to keep Sparing her, to keep refusing to harm her in spite of her enmity and her refusal to accept your peaceful appeals, until finally, the determination of your love outlasts the lesser power of her feeling of duty, and she gives up and accepts your desire for peace. Diplomat, therapist, teacher, parent, manager, negotiator, mediator, spiritual leader...for any and every one of the countless positions one may pursue in which communicating with people and finding resolutions to their conflicts is a component or focus, Toriel provides the fundamental groundwork for the essence of how to achieve success and greatness.

* I should clarify here that I don’t hold this as a serious flaw against these games. Yes, it is a flaw with Wild Arms 4 because of how stupidly the message is presented, but by and large, RPGs do a fine enough job at encouraging people to view the nonviolent path as the better, and using violence as a last resort. In our world, that is, perhaps, a far more realistically good approach to take. I’d much rather continue to see many RPGs show that the attempt to avoid violence, even if that attempt doesn’t work, is the right thing to do, than have the genre stop even trying out of an inability to get around its gameplay system’s necessities.

** More than 20 years later, I still cannot believe that this is a thing.

*** She also, I suppose, serves as an educational trial run of boss battles for a No Mercy player, in that she is the first time you must kill someone you’re truly emotionally attached to. A taste of the horrible guilt to come for you. And you deserve it, you monster.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Witcher 3's Add-Ons

The Witcher 3 is good. Like, it’s really good. Maybe it’s a bit overrated--I certainly wouldn’t say it’s the greatest RPG ever made, nor even that it’s the greatest RPG of 2015--but it’s still pretty damn great. And when I say a game is pretty damn great even though it has breakable weapons and the horror known as Sailing, that means something.

But even if the game proper is damn fine stuff, that doesn’t necessarily mean its DLCs and expansions will be. Fire Emblem 14, Shin Megami Tensei 4-1 and 4-2, Borderlands 2, and Fallout 4, among many others, certainly show that games of all kinds of high quality can still produce some pretty lousy add-on content. Then again, as Neverwinter Nights 2 shows, it’s also possible (though far less common) for an RPG’s add-on to completely eclipse the main game in terms of quality.

So the question is: how do the add-ons of The Witcher 3 hold up? Do they keep things going strong? Do they falter? Do they actually manage to surpass the excellent main story? And do you give even the slightest crap at all about these DLC rants of mine? Let’s discover the answers to all but 1 of those questions.

Contract: Missing Miners: When people think of the add-ons to The Witcher 3, they tend to only think of the 2 major expansions. And we’ll definitely get to them! But, there were quite a few free little DLCs released for the game, too. Some were unimportant stuff like alternate costumes and new armor, which I’m not going to bother rating because they’re meaningless cosmetic and/or gameplay changes rather than anything substantial, but there were also several new sidequests to be had, too.

The first of these, Contract: Missing Miners, is fine. That’s all there is to say about it. It’s adequate as a sidequest, fitting the lore of the game and giving Geralt yet 1 more decision to make about who he should and shouldn’t help. I do like that it adds another troll interaction with the game; I’m quite fond of Witcher series trolls. And hey, it’s free, which is always good. So, good job with this one. Moving on!

Fool’s Gold: Like Contract: Missing Miners, this DLC’s a freebie. It’s a bit longer and larger than the last, and it, too, is pretty decent, providing yet another example of the miniature adventures that Geralt just seems to stumble over the way other people sometimes trip over the occasional rock in their path. I mean, I guess I will say that I don’t like it as much as Contract: Missing Miners, because the previous DLC gives you a good feeling for doing a good turn for a troll just trying to defend his home, while in this sidequest, the people you save are a bunch of hostile, ignorant jackasses...but this is The Witcher 3. That kind of quest conclusion ain’t exactly a rarity, and fits the setting, so I certainly don’t hold it against Fool’s Gold. So yeah, overall, decent.

Skellige’s Most Wanted: Now this sidequest is really quite good! Another free DLC, Skellige’s Most Wanted sees Geralt walk into a trap set by some monsters who have heard of his deeds and want to see that he’s punished for them. What I really like about this add-on is that its climax, in which Geralt defends himself against his attackers’ accusations, really does a great job in laying out in clear terms the true nature of Geralt and the Witcher profession, as a bridge between 2 worlds, not just a slayer of 1. The nature of what is and is not a ‘monster’, and how the role of monster-slayer should be seen in an ever-evolving world of men, has been 1 of the more interesting questions posed by the Witcher trilogy, a dilemma that Geralt has puzzled at since the very first game and still grapples with balancing even now. I also like that Geralt defends himself based on your own actions and whether you, as the player, have understood the deeper levels of being a Witcher through what you’ve had Geralt do during various moments in the game. For a tiny little free sidequest, Skellige’s Most Wanted accomplishes a lot as another look at the philosophy of the series, a confirmation of Geralt’s character, and a validation of the player’s choices.

Scavenger Hunt: Wolf School Gear: Meh, I have no thoughts on this 1 either way. It’s a free DLC again, so I can’t fault it, but there’s also only barely enough story content to even give it a look. It’s the same as the rest of the armor set scavenger hunt quests: you look for some stuff, in finding it you find notes or somesuch from long ago, the end. The bit of lore you uncover with this is fine, but doesn’t really capture my attention at all. So I don’t really have anything positive to say about it, but there’s nothing negative, either. It’s just there, and free.

Where the Cat and Wolf Play: This is another good free DLC sidequest. I liked Skellige’s Most Wanted a little more, but this is definitely solid stuff. In this, Geralt discovers an almost entirely slaughtered village, and has a decision to make once he finds the culprit. As a sidequest story, it’s pretty good, not great, but what makes it stand out to me is that the decision Geralt has to make in regards to the killer is personal to him, for in many ways the killer’s situation bears similarities to certain experiences Geralt himself has had, and sins he has committed. The decision to be made is still pretty clearly a right-and-wrong situation, not as grey as most of the stuff in this game, but the fact that it personally ties to Geralt makes it compelling all the same. So Where the Cat and Wolf Play gets a thumbs-up from me.

Also, the reward the village survivor will give you if you return to her at a later time to check in with her? Love it.

Hearts of Stone: Having done with the free DLC sidequests, we can get to the add-ons most people think of first: Hearts of Stone, and Blood and Wine.

Hearts of Stone is pretty damn good. This expansion adds a sizable new quest with a good story that’s interesting, has several fun twists, and raises questions about human nature the way that The Witcher series is fond of doing. Hearts of Stone also pleasantly references and expands on the trilogy’s events and characters in ways you don’t expect--it’s nice that it brings Shani back, who we haven’t seen since the first Witcher game (although I’m not a fan of how hard it is not to sex her up during this adventure), I like that there’s a moment in which we get a little insight into Vesemir’s past, and even though I played this game long after the fan community was busily reporting to one another their ways of breaking the game’s economy, I still appreciate and chuckle at the metahumor of Geralt being accosted by a tax collector. I do so love when developers put in subtle little nods to their fanbase like that. It’s part of what made Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC so great.

Of course, the real stars of this DLC are its central figures, Olgierd von Everec and Gaunter O’Dimm. Olgierd’s a character whose after-the-fact development is handled well, and provides a good question of morality and redemption to us in the choice Geralt must make regarding him at the DLC’s finale. And Gaunter O’Dimm? He’s an awesome villain, far more compelling than any other in the Witcher series--as well he should be! Gaunter is a fantastic portrayal of the Devil (or a Devil-figure, at least): unique, charismatic, imposing, terrifying, able to command your attention with so little effort and fanfare. This guy definitely feels like a portrayal of an old-fashioned perception of the Devil, and CD Projekt Red very skillfully builds his mystery, his charm, and his foreboding.

The only real downside to this expansion is that Geralt himself isn’t especially important to it. I mean, he’s the essential cog that moves all things forward, as any RPG hero is (well, almost any RPG hero...Final Fantasy 12’s Vaan was pretty damn superfluous), but beyond just doing what he has to as the protagonist, Geralt as a character doesn’t really seem all that significant a part to it all. Still, that flaw is far outweighed by the rest of the add-on’s merits, so in my opinion, Hearts of Stone is well worth the $10 it cost at time of release.

Blood and Wine: Well, this is different. But nice. The Blood and Wine expansion brings Geralt to another land, the duchy of Touissant, and it is very, very different from the Witcher trilogy we’ve known so far. This place is bright, colorful, and beautiful, and its people, though they have their problems, actually seem to largely be happy. If the rest of the Witcher is an unflinching look at the gritty, dirty nature of the medieval age, then Blood and Wine gives us a much appreciated, much needed snapshot of the medieval age as we like to remember it: an exciting time of wonder and chivalry.

As jarring as the setting is, though, it’s but a tiny part of this expansion’s commanding presence. Blood and Wine is excellently crafted, managing to be a brand new and exciting adventure, while also feeling like a perfect finale to the Witcher trilogy. Its plot is a solid and engaging one of vampires and vengeance, of the power of love to be a force both of corruption and of salvation. Its characters are compelling, particularly Regis and Anna Henrietta. It’s huge, with lots to explore and do, sidequests to perform both small and large. It’s full of meta-references to the games’ fandom and audiences in general, and it has tons of callbacks and connections to the rest of the Witcher trilogy. It’s got a lot of neat extras to enjoy, from Geralt’s vineyard to the illusion land you briefly traipse that’s both an amusing and somewhat sad look at fairytales left neglected. It’s got good development for Geralt, too--the use of Regis was a really smart move by CD Projekt Red, because as a character we’ve never seen before, we get the benefit of a new, well-written personality to meet and get to know, but as a character who has a history of friendship with Geralt, we also get to see more of Geralt’s past from the novels revealed to us, and used skillfully as a way to cement Regis in our minds as a buddy of Geralt’s to the same extent as we would think of Zoltan, Dandelion, Iorveth, or Roche.

Honestly, I could go into this expansion a lot, but ultimately, there’s really only 1 thing to say about it: Blood and Wine is really good. It’s really good on its own, it’s really good as a new and refreshing adventure for Geralt, and it’s really good as a final note to the Witcher trilogy. It values the history of the trilogy even as it takes the time to reveal 1 final part of the Witcher world to us for the first time, and it feels very much like the final love letter from CD Projekt Red to both the series that brought them into the world of game development, and to the dedicated fans who have loved that series. Blood and Wine premiered at a $20 price tag, which is pretty high, but not an unusual price for a proper expansion. And I can say pretty confidently that it is, was, and will be worth that and more. As a send-off add-on to a good, long saga, you won’t find many better than Blood and Wine.

And that’s that. So how does The Witcher 3 fare overall on the add-on scene? Unsurprisingly, it’s top-notch. Rare is the RPG which not only has high quality add-ons, but has consistency in that high quality.

And you may be wondering: if that’s the case, why bother to make 1 of these rants about its DLC to begin with? I mean, if there’s no reason not to get any of its add-ons, then what purpose does this serve? Well, I wanted to make this rant for me, and for anyone who, after having read my DLC rants and/or played the add-ons of the same games as I have, feels the way that I do. See, if I had to rate my overall experience with DLCs, expansions, and the like, over the course of all the RPGs I’ve played which possess such things, I’d have to say that it’s been overall negative. There have been a lot of great side stories, true, but there have been more mediocre and poor ones, and more often an RPGs’ add-ons will disappoint than delight. Even when you find a jewel like Fallout 4’s Far Harbor or Borderlands 2’s Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, it’s frequently hidden among subpar or even outright poor-quality peers. But a game like The Witcher 3, whose developers and writers made sure to keep going the extra mile right to the bitter end with their add-ons, really gives me hope for the DLC scene and keeps me going. Great and consistent quality in add-ons like this is possible, and maybe, just maybe, this will be the standard, rather than the exception, some day. And I want to make my appreciation for this consistent level of quality, when such a thing is so much less common than it should be, publicly known. Doubtless the next game whose DLC I rant about will be back to the usual disappointing slog, but for now, I’m satisfied by The Witcher 3’s add-ons better than I have been by an RPG for quite some time.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Darkblood Chronicles

Well, I’ve recently finished playing an Indie RPG that I think is good, so you know what that means: it’s time for a rant extolling its virtues and trying to convince you that it’s worth buying and playing. Why? Because a good RPG is a good RPG, but the little guys need the attention more to keep making them.

So, before we begin, I’ll be transparent about this: the creator of Darkblood Chronicles, Dorian Tokici, personally contacted me and asked me to play his game and write a rant about it. I haven’t been bribed or anything--he did offer me a free copy of the game, but I opted to buy it naturally--but if you’re concerned about my vanity getting in the way of my objectivity, then it’s only fair to warn you that I was very flattered to be personally asked. Subjective or not, however, my opinion is that Darkblood Chronicles is a solid, intelligent, and singular RPG, that I am better off for having played.

So what is Darkblood Chronicles? Well, I can tell you what it isn’t: what it’s advertised to be. Yeah, on its Steam page, the game’s blurb describes it as a Survival Horror JRPG, and 1 of the games this summary draws a parallel to is Parasite Eve. That ain’t true, and don’t go into Darkblood Chronicles expecting anything of the sort. It’s a dark game with an atmosphere of gloom and desolation, but it doesn’t inspire or use fear, it doesn’t use visual and audio cues to unsettle you, and it’s no more a survival situation than any other given RPG environment. That’s not to say that Darkblood Chronicles doesn’t have certain elements you can find in some survival horror games--Dorian Tokici has listed Silent Hill as 1 of this game’s inspirations, and it shows--but the elements Darkblood Chronicles takes from such titles are more of an intellectual nature, rather than visceral or emotional.

Which, frankly, is not a bad thing, if you ask me. I don’t really care much for horror as an overall genre, and while Parasite Eve 1 was, indeed, a great RPG, it hits a pretty difficult target. I think I much prefer what I perceive Darkblood Chronicles to actually be: an 80s-style dark fantasy adventure, like Labyrinth, or The Neverending Story. It’s an adventure through a dark, strange, vaguely-disturbing yet somehow uniquely appealing other realm whose existence and nature are intrinsically tied to the protagonist, a world which may not even be anything more than a manifestation of its protagonist’s psyche as she tries to work through the weight of the torments within her heart. Thus, it definitely seems to me to have more to do with Fantastica, or Jareth’s Kingdom, or even a much darker version of the Land of Oz, than it does with most survival horror settings and approaches. Which, again, I’m perfectly happy with, because not only is that a lot more palatable to me anyway, not to mention a more natural fit to the RPG genre, but it also makes Darkblood Chronicles far more unique, as I have yet to play any other RPG that really hits that particular note.

Don’t let the movies I compared it to throw you off, however: I simply use them as a way of describing its overall premise, approach, and aesthetic, to some degree. This is not a kids’ RPG. Darkblood Chronicles is an RPG that wants to describe and explore the concept of loss, show its hold over us and the destructive power it has upon those left behind to deal with it, and the game incorporates things such as ritual sacrifice, abusive family environments, and serial killers into its narrative and lore, along with a whole, heaping bunch of symbolism. Darkblood Chronicles is an RPG defined very skillfully by its theme, with the miasma of loss not only the focus of its plot and protagonist, but also permeating the environment, the visual style, and the music. The atmosphere itself is a symbol, in Darkblood Chronicles.

DC is a very intelligent RPG, that wants its audience to really think about the ideas and facts of life that it presents. Needless to say, I greatly appreciate that, because what I most love in my RPGs is food for thought, ideas and philosophies and emotions that I can carry with me and nibble ponderously upon. Essentially, what I like in an RPG is heavy storytelling art to grow myself from, and Darkblood Chronicles is 1 of many titles in the genre to provide this. But it is also, I should note, a worthwhile adventure on a surface level, as well; it does not require you to be in full analysis mode to enjoy it to some degree. Like, it's more Fallout than Planescape: Torment, if you follow.

1 thing I also find quite neat about this game is that it takes a unique approach to multiple endings. Lots of RPGs have more than 1 possible ending, of course. Some go with the standard Bad, Normal, True ending formula, like, say, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, or have different endings which are all roughly equal in quality, dependant upon what you chose to do during the game’s course, such as Knights of the Old Republic 1. But in pretty much every RPG I can recall having played, each ending is a distinctive, set entity, and the only reason to see more than 1 is curiosity at how things play out according to a different path. Darkblood Chronicles, however, takes a different approach with its 5 endings. Each 1 shows a different conclusion, as you would expect, but you’re really meant to experience all 5 to get the most out of any individual ending among them, because each ending reveals a lot about the lore and nature of the game’s setting and defining past events, which not only affect your understanding of and appreciation for the game’s story, theme, and characters, but also increases what you can get from the other endings, as they all connect to and rely on the stuff revealed in the others. It’s an interesting and engaging way to get you to put in the effort to see every possible conclusion to the game, because even if you got the ending you personally prefer, you’ll only be able to like it more by seeing the other possible paths.

I also like that Darkblood Chronicles manages to walk a very tricky line between homage and complete originality, and get the best of both sides. DC is proud of the games from which it draws inspiration, and Mr. Tokici clearly wants to pay respect to the RPGs that defined his younger days. As such, expect to see all kinds of references and aesthetic/method nods to Chrono Trigger, Suikoden, Wild Arms, Shadow Hearts, Shin Megami Tensei, and many other major titles of the SNES and 32-bit days of RPGs. Yet, Darkblood Chronicles nonetheless feels very much like an entity unto itself, rather than like it has had to lift or lean upon any of its or its creator’s influences. That’s a tough thing to manage when you have as many references as this game does, and I certainly couldn’t hope to define how it’s accomplished. But I do know that DC does it.

Now, this game does have some drawbacks, make no mistake. It takes a bit of time for its plot to really start grabbing you enough to get you thinking and connecting dots, and likewise, its protagonist, Sam, takes a while to really hold your attention, since the majority of her noteworthy traits are related to her connection to the game’s story and purpose. The dialogue is, at times, a little stiff (which oddly seems to be a common problem in RPG Maker games; what’s up with that?). Gameplay-wise, it’s not very forgiving, which may or may not be a problem for you, and if you’re not into searching for hidden passages nonstop, then you’re gonna miss a LOT of stuff. Additionally, while it’s possibly the least RPG-Maker-feeling RPG Maker game I’ve played so far, there are certain technical details and aesthetics inherent to RPG Maker that Darkblood Chronicles can’t really escape from, so if you just absolutely can’t handle this development engine, well, that’ll be a turn-off. Finally, while I appreciate a game that lets you suss stuff out for yourself rather than be completely obvious and explicit in every aspect of its lore and philosophy, I do think that Darkblood Chronicles could have benefited from a little more directness in its lore’s secrets and in its ideas. I like figuring some stuff out, peeling away hidden layers of the story and the characters, but I don’t like to feel like I’m probably missing some important stuff because not enough bread crumbs were left to follow the trail, and there are a few moments in Darkblood Chronicles where that feels like the case.

But no RPG is perfect. Even games like Grandia 2 and Planescape: Torment could be improved upon, albeit in very tiny and mostly negligible ways. And while Darkblood Chronicles may not be Grandia 2 or PT, it is definitely a good RPG, maybe even a great one, and I recommend it to you. If you’re looking to recapture some of the feeling of those old 80s Dark Fantasy worlds, and/or if you’re interested in playing an RPG that will challenge you to really think about it, then give Darkblood Chronicles a try.