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Oni the Beautiful
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« on: 23 June 2011, 09:47:07 »

                
        So here goes my official review of Santhworld Nepris module. Sorry Arti for vanishing for a few days just after got your request to write it! Let's hope the outcome is worth the vanishing..ehm….
 
        By the way initially I started writing it as a teaser supposed to be seen may be at the front page of Santhworld to attract newcomers to give a try at it and so I wanted to make the review short and flashy. But after some time I felt a lot of things missing writing in such a way. So I became a bit detailed, technical and critical. And after halfway I felt that what I am writing is a critic’s review(generally seen at the end of the page, not front!) mostly suitable for the ones involved in creating the game and the ones who played it partially or fully and is not at all suitable as a trailer/teaser to lure newcomers. But I kept writing it in the same way thinking that this review might serve the purpose of providing creative joy of reading an in-depth analysis of a project done or game played and secondly helping developers making the future projects such that more players of diverse taste would be enticed to play them.  That’s why the review ultimately has got a bit long and more than a bit boring.

       So if told I will write another one with the purpose I initially had while starting it.

       Any comment or criticism on the review is most humbly welcomed.
  

                                  Game: Santhworld - The Mysteries of Nepris
                                 Genre: Turn-based fantasy roleplaying


        Set in the village of Nepris, lying at the easternmost corner of eastern Santharia, the game tells the story of an adventurer, striding through this village and even beyond by puzzling out baffling riddles, killing off from minuscule to mammoth enemies and helping the good ones (or not-so-good ones sometimes) serving their purposes, set out to accomplish a task given by the Ximaxian Academy of magic. And accomplishing so, as in most other games of the same genre, he in his journey finds loot usable in his favor, gain experience, become more powerful and skilled to face some formidable foes throughout the game.

Storyline (8.5/10):  ‘The gist of the game is its storyline…’- quite rightly claimed by one of its creator. The game actually will make you roleplay the character just to know the ‘next’ line of the script; “What’s gonna happen next” is at the back of your mind while playing it.  And who isn’t fancier of some unexpected ‘twisting-turn’ at the end after all??
  
Gameplay:  Naturally the gameplay mainly consists of two parts: puzzle solving and fighting which is totally turn-based.
 
Puzzles (7.5/10): Well, the puzzles were thoughtfully created to make them look ingenious and were placed fairly properly throughout the game. A few of them are common, some of them will make you feel tricky (the bird-related one!), while at least one intellectual (yes, the death tower!).
Exclusion of some of the common puzzles and replacing them with the more complex, diverse and/or logic-based ones would surely make the gameplay stronger.
 
Fighting (8/10): The fighting is considerably improved in the latest(second) edition of the game. As the enemies grow stronger with time, the player will actually have to strategize his next few moves while facing some unnerving ones if he doesn’t want to be wasting time through successive dying and eventually winning once by chance.
The story-lovers will find the battles challenging or even tough although surely the ones at least reasonably adroit in playing turn-based/real-time action games will find them easygoing after certain point of the game and unfortunately the point is not too far from where the game starts. The choice of difficulty level at the start or within the game would have solved the problem.

Graphics (7/10): With the severe limitation of being a browser-based online game, the developers do a sleek job by embedding the artworks and paintings(drawn before or for the game) of the existing fantasy world of Caelereth continuously and relevantly as the story progresses.  Specifically the Santharian veterans might be quite charmed time to time to see the places, people and things they have created over the years coming into action through the story and the drawings. But the graphics is for viewing purpose only and cannot be interacted with directly (i.e one cannot go from one place to another arbitrarily for example in a spacious green field but can go to the specified places described in the game map). That costs point in this respect.  

Sound (9/10):  Great job done! The sound is well.. mellifluent in a word. From serene countryside to intense battles, extensive landscape to underground cavern, you will find the accompanying music germane and engaging. Sound effects related to specific objects were not without relevance either. Nothing more to say about it, just savor while playing!

Replayability (8/10) : One would surely fill like facing some foes with a different strategy or to play some part of the game to finish off some additional quests. But the problem is the game doesn’t have different checkpoints from where the player can start playing and rather has a autosave option serving the purpose of a single checkpoint. ( For example a player faces a cool fight and wants to revisit it later. If he keeps playing for a few hours continuously he will very likely find that all of his 5 savegames are saved after that fight and the autosave is pointing to some later checkpoint too). That specific issue decreases the replayability value to great extent which could be solved by giving multiple autosave/checkpoint options and/or more than five savegames.
  
Difficulty (7/10): Fun to learn, challenging to go through and finish and unbeatable nowhere; the game does hit the right spot between easiness and invincibility and great as a online browser-based game driven through an enticing story and maybe ‘fair’ for a hardcore gamer of either action or puzzle genre as they might find lack of stiffness at some point.
The puzzles analogous to  ‘task/group of small tasks which is easy but time-consuming’ should have been kept at the beginning of the game and as the story  progresses  similar type of puzzles could be swapped for  more complex and logic-based  ingenious ones(for example but not necessarily like the one in the tower of death).  The choice of difficulty at the start of the game should be a must which would surely make the game far more enticing to story-lover, hardcore gamers and anyone in between. These two glitches (especially the second one) cuts off point.

        Framed in the fishing village of a fantasy world with a fascinating story full of flabby to furious characters, fun puzzles and fierce battle with formidable foes- the game deserves to be tried by any gamer of the role-playing genre and probably by not those of the said genre alone.


 

  
« Last Edit: 23 June 2011, 17:37:19 by Oni the Beautiful » Logged
Artimidor Federkiel
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« Reply #1 on: 23 June 2011, 15:28:22 »

Many thanks for the review, Oni!  thumbup

I guess it's just fine the way it is, so no need to change anything - reviews live from the fact that everyone has his/her own take on it on how to do it. Splitting it up in various sections was a good idea, so very nicely done!

The idea with a difficulty level to make the fights generally easier is also something we should seriously consider - I think it wouldn't be that complicated to realize. All that is required is that the monster health is considerably lower, maybe even the damage they make. And if you're more the typical adventure type player that would help a lot!

Just two things:

- How about an overall score? If we get more reviews and they are written in different ways, maybe an overall score is something everybody could provide.
- Question: Which character portrait did you use? When I put up the review I guess I could put that one in :)

Once I have those things I guess I can put it up on site in an own review page in the Nepris module, even though we don't have an own Santhworld "site", which is our ultimate intention. So far it will be a bit more difficult to find, but those who're looking for it will find it :)

P.S. In terms of starting at certain points in the game: There's at least the possibility already implemented to start just before freeing Jeremy (= starting point of part II). This is now also revealed as a hidden easter egg when you complete the game. When the credits are rolling you can discover a new entry in the selection list if you open it - and here you learn how to start at the point :)
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« Reply #2 on: 23 June 2011, 17:31:18 »

Okey dokey,  the overall score is convenient to look at by others but to be honest its quite tough for amateur reviewers like us to be unbiased while using it. Because the moment u wanna think about thinking of a game as a whole may be the first things that will come to your mind are the best parts of the game and then you would have a natural tendency to overlook the ordinary parts of it which will lead to an overestimation of the game. Obviously the vice versa may happen. Thats why many of the good professional review sites use the individual scores to review them and overall score is merely the average of them. For example look at these two reviews:

IGN on Dungeon Siege III , Bleacher Report on best sports game ever made.

As you see the sites differ in which aspects the points should be distributed but gameplay, graphics and sound are important aspects to be cared about.

By the way just as a side story I'd like to tell the most reliable and interesting gaming site to me- Gamespot doesn't actually show distinct scores in different aspects and rather gives an overall score but they have professional reviewers with lots of gaming experience and they have a formal review policy and review management team and etc etc. So despite being so, they can afford to be unbiased.

So should other Santharians review it, they should be encouraged to evaluate and number different aspects at first and then come to an overall numerical and/or descriptive conclusion.

And about the picture.. I'd send you the avatar picture I used later through PM.

And what you said about the difficulty is what I meant. :)

And what the game offers now regarding 'checkpoint'- i.e. starting from Jeremy-part isn't enough you might agree. Because there are lots of quests and battles to be played out after that part. So the problem actually remains.
And though I haven't tried it but playing from Jeremy-part through the cheatcode probably start the game with some default weapons and potions other stuffs same for every player right?? But any player is more likely to have something to replay from his custom position. So I think that cheatcode isn't a 'checkpoint' in the sense I meant in the review and rather a way to start Nepris II directly without playing I.

And some things I'd like to explain in regard to what I wrote about 'group of small tasks which are easy but time-consuming’. Personally I think making fairy milk, satisfying the frog with what it needs, satisfying the kuatu with its food are some of them that I remember right now. These are not actually puzzles you might agree; just a few tricky tasks. When the player comes at that stage he/she already has played lets say 20 hours of the game. So you might want to consider if these might be replaced with harder solid puzzles as I asked.
But again I can't certainly say swapping all of them with tough puzzles would be a good idea because sometimes easy tasks and quick rewards make players happy and refreshed and keep them engaged in the game. And continuous hard puzzles might have made them feel exhausted.. So maybe keeping them there is the right decision. Its a tough task to balance things out. But after all as you know the game developer has to think from player's pov too should he want not a good but a great game.  
« Last Edit: 23 June 2011, 23:12:04 by Oni the Beautiful » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: 23 June 2011, 22:45:03 »

I have auried Ori (say that quickly!) for this thorough, detailled, and - apparently fair - review.   Bravo, and you deserve the Adventurer's Aurium Artifact for a task well-done.   

(some frantic whispering from Grinch and other devvers)

What?  Of course we have. ... we don't?   We what?  Really, how careless.  Golden palettes and sage pendants and bardic rings lying about all over the Compendium and no one thought to....  Well, I shall have a few words with our  in-house dwarven smiths, that I shall.   

(clears throat).  Anyhow, Ori m'lad, we should like to present you with this nice shiny aura point all for your very own.  I'm sure a few others will be along in no time as well to express further appreciation for all that hard work!
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« Reply #4 on: 24 June 2011, 03:22:24 »

I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say with your score explanation, Oni - there was no problem with scores at the various categories, so... Also: Scores of individual players are subjective, of course. The overall score is meant to be a rough indicator for players who have a glance at the review page, and see: Ok, there are people who liked it very much, others not so much - and use that to decide to try the game or not. I wouldn't make a science of it all :) We're non-professionals, working on the project in our spare time, so it's fine if reviews aren't perfectly "professional" either. ;)

@Talia: Maybe if you have time you could make some sort of review as well, representing the developer's view as well. Then we'd have already two on the page, and that definitely can't hurt :) Choose any format and length you like, score or not, main thing is we get a bit more on that page.

Back to Oni:

Checkpoint thingy: What I mentioned is an easter egg, nothing more. Note however that the decisions on where to use skill points starts only after this point, so there are no random skills provided.

Aside from that you need to know that there are natural limits on what we can do as spare time developers (and I need to maintain a huge site as well!). Like implementing checkpoints or changing puzzles in an existing game. If the complexity of implementation is too high and too time consuming it won't happen. In such cases we can look into comments and try to make it better next time, of course, but our resources are limited.
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« Reply #5 on: 24 June 2011, 04:20:53 »

I'll try to do it as soon as possible, but we are all away until Sunday, so it may take a while.

Generally I would not change too much, would not make the fights easier. I found it balanced when I played it the first time. The second time now the fights are so much easier, I don't know, why I died so often in the first run. Well, practise, I guess! Or shield and one-hand weapon is easier than fighting with two weapons. 
Some more distinct, carefully thought out hints to solve the puzzles, some other smaller changes I'll propose to you later, but not more. Don't spoil it!



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« Reply #6 on: 24 June 2011, 04:56:10 »

Artimidor, may be I got a bit much messy in my last post with too many citations to different websites. I am sorry if that confused you or others.
All I mean is that it is better to think about distinctive aspects of a certain sample first and then come to the conclusion by binding together the decisions taken from each distinct aspects. I just discouraged the process of analyzing something as a whole. Just wanted to say that there. No big deal !

And by the way, I just want to add, we are not professionals but its alway good to perfect up whatever we do. We're not professional writers either(or some of us actuallly are!?! rolleyes)  but enough care is taken here when an entry is made in terms of writing,commenting,editing and finalizing. Right? And I find this habit very healthy.  :)

Edit: All I recommeneded in the review(including puzzles and checkpoint) were for future projects as I said at the 'prologue' of the review. I totally understand game-developing is a spare time job for you. So I didn't mean to- let's say- 'hurry' you to any change in the present game; nor can I do that. I rather just pointed out some aspects where there might be still place for improvement.  ;)
« Last Edit: 24 June 2011, 05:56:47 by Oni the Beautiful » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: 24 June 2011, 05:45:58 »

Thank you so much for the review, Oni!

It's great to have Nepris evaluated by an experienced gamer, and the care you have taken to evaluate each of seven game features is much appreciated. If I live long enough to contribute to another Santhworld game, your points will give me things to think about in terms of game construction.

Regarding the Overall Score: could we derive this from the seven feature-specific scores you have given by simply taking their sum? This way, we'd take account of each game feature, which is the point you want to emphasize, as far as I understand. Anyway, summing your scores we would get a summary score of 55/70, or 79 %. Would "79%" be an adequate summary of your evaluation (insofar as single numbers can ever be adequate)?
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« Reply #8 on: 24 June 2011, 06:08:36 »

Hi Shaba! Thanks for the spur!!

Ouu.. 79... missing the A+ mark by a whisker... Okay so the game seems slightly underrated with 79.. Well.. let's say its 'strictly' ;) rated! So 79 is okay for me.... 
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« Reply #9 on: 24 June 2011, 17:22:20 »

I think Shaba hit the nail on the head.

Btw, thank you for the review, it is much appreciated. I like the categories they are quite fitting and can be generally applied to various other santhworld modules.

So if we break the reviews down into the following categories:
  - Storyline, Puzzles, Fighting, Graphics, Sound, Replayability, Difficulty

we would have a nice normalized score system where you can calculate the final percentage like Shab suggested.

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« Reply #10 on: 25 June 2011, 22:44:04 »

Concerning an overall score: Personally I wouldn't add scores and make an overage out of it however, because thus certain aspects can dominate over others. E.g. game with bad graphics, little sound and minimal replayability can still be a lot of fun (and that should be the factor to decide upon an overall score). That's why game reviews usually stay away from deciding upon an overall score - the overall impression, independent from single scores, is what counts.

If you're more or less fine with the 79% though, Oni: As you only give half points however, we should also have only half-points for the overall score I'd say, and I then can display it nicely with stars. So we'd then have 8/10 - eight stars. Which should be ok in general, especially as you say it's probably slightly underrated.
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« Reply #11 on: 26 June 2011, 00:49:42 »

 
Quote
That's why game reviews usually stay away from deciding upon an overall score

I am afraid I can't understand what makes you think that. Because I've seen more than a few sites who give an overall score based on the individual scores.
But because of the fact(what u pointed)-- a game can still be lot of fun with lack of individual aspects like graphics,sound etc- what some reviewers do is to make another individual aspect called 'intangibles' or something like that and its score solely depends on the overall impression of the game reviewer. So in this way the review becomes a bit subjective(which probably you prefer) but not too much subjective as the other evaluated aspects are objective.

Quote
Oni: As you only give half points however, we should also have only half-points for the overall score I'd say

Sorry, I haven't understood what you've meant by that and by half-points.
But anyway expressing score with stars is a fine idea. Although my personal opinion is stars are best used in movie reviews and in game reviews score out of 5,10 or 100 is orthdox and convenient. But as a said it's just my personal opinion.

One thing I can suggest is: if you create a review page you can have an option where anyone viewing the site can rate the game directly by an overall score out of 10 or 100 or by stars. But besides this option there will be an 'Advanced Review' tab, wdhich if clicked, will open a new set of options with 7 catagories(or preferably 8 catagories with the 'intangibles' included) and players can evaluate each catagory either numerically(out of 5 or 10) or with stars(5 or 10 stars). And then the website will automatically average out the 8 aspects and take the average as the overall score.

And the average of all overall scores evaluated by all users till then(either evaluated directly or through 'advanced tab') will be shown in some area of the review page(may be in the top middle.. i dont know) such that someone visiting the page looks at that first.

I know what I suggest might sound a bit complicated for the users but it probably isn't. I found similar type of review in a movie site which I can't remember now but it looked cool and smart certainly.
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« Reply #12 on: 26 June 2011, 01:01:48 »

Oni ... you gave 8.5 for storyline and 7.5 for puzzles ... that is what Artimidor means by half points , I suspect.
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« Reply #13 on: 26 June 2011, 02:36:10 »

Please, don't make a science out of it, Oni! I'm just trying to get a first review up on the site which is consistently presented and can be compared with others later. For one we won't get lots of reviews, secondly for those who provide a much simpler review can do so, just give a single overall score and we have a way to set the reviews in relation to each other, and that's it. We don't really need to spend a lot of time in considering how to do reviews, it's sufficient that it's simple and easy to implement. And that's what I'm doing right now.
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« Reply #14 on: 26 June 2011, 03:47:16 »

I beg to differ. Pointing out what might be smarter for the site doesnt necessarily imply making a science out of it, nor does it imply- something won't remain 'simple'. And I believe what I suggested wouldn't make anyone spend 'a lot of time' in anything; it would rather make them express themselves better.
 
You don't like what I suggested that's okay. But the reasons you gave behind it doesn't seem sound to me I am afraid. 'A few people will use a systerm, so what's good in improving it'- just doesn't seem like an attitude that supports progressiveness. But hey I'm not gonna strech it any further, because this discussion on review seemingly goes nowhere I see. You told me to give a review, I gave it. At the end of the day, you are the admin. So naturally you can do whatever you think is 'simple'...
« Last Edit: 26 June 2011, 06:21:37 by Oni the Beautiful » Logged
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