This time it’s quite different. Inotia 3: Children of Carnia is a role-playing game available for free on the Android Market. This is, as one might expect, thanks to micro-transactions, but I find that in games like RPGs, micro-transactions can actually be ignored if so desired. There are ads too, but you just have to close them and get back to your game.
On the plus side, while the game is mostly free, the graphics are stellar. The portraits are particularly lovely, although the sprites are a little too…jumpy for my tastes. It may not have the budget or aesthetic sense of 3D console games, but it is way above what one would expect to play on a phone or tablet. (for the record, I play it on my tablet.) The music is forgettable, but not annoying. The gameplay is comparable to a Flash or SNES RPG.
However, the story is bumpy at best. I played for about an hour and a half to two hours, and while the story never actively lost me, it didn’t grab me either. I played the game while watching old episodes of Castle, and nothing in the game took my attention so much that I had to pause the episode, apart from missions that named locations. And then, I only had to pause so that I could commit the boring standard-fantasy name to memory for a few seconds.
The first problem is the game’s hook. Not only is the intro utterly indistinguishable from anyone’s first attempt at an RPGMaker title, but it is also nearly identical to (part of) that of an RPG that came out for the Playstation in 2000, Legend of Dragoon.
In the section of Legend of Dragoon’s intro that I’m talking about, the main character, thinly (if at all) characterised, tromps into the village to find a girl who is important to him, and is attacked by the people who destroyed the village.
In Inotia 3, a warrior with long white hair, presumably the main character, runs to a spot in a dark village looking for “Irene”. He fights some goblins, assumes they took her, and runs to find her. When he does, a big satanic demon fights him, and then cuts off the fight in the middle to make a speech about the innate violence and evil in humans, and basically corrupts Irene into attacking her brother… with insta-magic.
The best part of this predictable, empty mishmash, is…well, it’s two things, really. First, is that although the dialogue bar has names attached to each person’s speech, the supposed main character always has the infamous ??? tag. Even though Irene says his name.
The second best part is that after all that, our real hero just wakes up in a forest. It was a dream.
There are seminars about why that is a bad beginning to a story. This is a perfect example of a dead-horse hook. A hook that has been used to death. In fact, the scene itself is one. I like that they’re paired. It makes it easier not to care whether I like the game or not.
To make things even better, the second, what I will call “true” beginning of the game, is even more rote than the first. Your character is a young man being told to kill creatures to obtain x number of items in preparation for his coming of age ceremony. I kept waiting for someone to say, “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”
And just about his only noticeable character trait is that he has a crush on the other kid growing up in the ceremony. She’s a pretty girl. He can’t tell her how he feels… because he’s in a Japanese story.
Charlie Brown made wishy-washy a personality trait. This kid, Lucio, merely owns two stereotypes–coming of age ceremony and cannot confess crush.
As one might expect, the next part of the story is a fetch quest that is apparently a way to celebrate being adults. Really. “Go get us a holy leaf, now you’re bigguns,” basically. “We all celebrate it that way.” Also as one might expect, the monsters on the way to the sacred tree are pushovers, and then, still expected, the small-time quest is interrupted by something ~mysterious~ that sends your party on another quest.
The only thing I didn’t expect was that the girl Lucio has a crush on, a (sigh) predictably healer girl named Ameli, is the real hero. Although probably oblivious to Loser-o’s crush, she is civil-almost-friendly to him, and takes charge in both events where the first major quest is uprooted and then expanded.
It’s so easy to spot what’s wrong with this game’s story. But is it easy to fix? We need the right hero in the spotlight, a more interesting hook, and the premier main quest needs to be more original.
Ameli hefted her sack, grinning as she neared the Charmer’s villa. Three days before, she had presented Charmer Shuiga with a set of perfect white kid gloves. It had taken Ameli weeks of work learning from Tanner Chess, but in the end, those gloves had been of her own making.
With such a tribute, she had been an obvious choice for initiate. Some complained about the arbitrary system of favours, but Ameli saw it as a way to ensure that every initiate was capable of a useful trade. Now that she was good with her hands, Charmer Shuiga would teach her magic.
No one but charmers were allowed past the receiving room. Ameli lingered there, holding her rucksack in front of her, like a child.
A hand on her shoulder brought her wheeling around, eyes wide with alarm.
“Rafe,” she snapped, then punched her friend in the arm, laughing with him. “You scared me half to death.”
Rafe had been the one who had suggested she take up leatherwork to produce her tribute. He worked for Charmer Shuiga as a carpenter, the only non-charmer in the village with even occasional access to the inner sanctum. “Sorry. But you looked so awestruck, I was afraid you were under enchantment.”
“I’ll be the one casting enchantments,” she announced proudly. “For the good of our village.”
He beamed at her. Rafe’s first child would be born soon, and there were times that Ameli could see him practising his fatherliness on her. This was one, but she didn’t mind. Much. “Good on you. That’s actually why I’m here–Charmer Shuiga wanted me to send you to her soon as you’ve gotten your things in your room. She has a task for you. Normal initiate job, I should think.”
Ameli nodded with the brisk force of a salute. “I’ll report immediately.”
Before he could reply, she dashed up the stairs where the welcomer waited to show her where she would live for the rest of her life.
This ran quite long, so I’ll sum up a first mission. She is sent as part of an envoy to the next village, where the people are starving. There, she feeds the hungry, and outs a bandit. But she takes care of him anyway, and then calls in the guard. He goes to jail saying he owes her for both her kindness and her condemnation.
It could go a lot of places from there.