Quintessence: The Blighted Venom

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Real Men Make Fan Games
Project of the Month winner for May 2009
Title: Quintessence: The Blighted Venom
Author: Reives
Reviewer: madriel222

Though we only have chapters 1-8 available to us right now, I think it is safe to say that Reives has graciously given us one of the single greatest games of the RM generation.  Quintessence: The Blighted Venom (QBV) is a visual novel that will keep you enraptured with its deep, complex storyline, its thought out, purposeful battle system, and its positively stunning aesthetics.  For those of you who are yet to have the pleasure, download this one immediately; you will not be disappointed.

Plot: (5/5)

Instead of breaking down the plot for you and creating a myriad of spoilers, I am instead going to explain how real, professional storytelling is done and Reives masterfully displays these qualities.

Pacing is absolutely perfect.  In so many jRPGs to date, the authors force their plots upon us.  They do not wait for things to develop, but rather have some sage divulge the entire game's story in one extremely rushed moment.  Reives takes much care in letting the story dictate where it goes.  In other words, Reives is not an author acting upon the world of QBV, he is merely a messenger relaying what goes on in this self-functioning realm.  At times, the plot moves quickly, but not overly fast, and the author uses this technique to get your heart racing.  At other times, the plot slows down, but not to a crawl, and this creates an amazing sense of climatic build up. 

Also, character development is an aspect of the game that Reives has obviously poured heart and soul to.  These are individuals that you actually care for right from the beginning.  While articulate, they are not overly dry.  More importantly, each character shows us the full range of emotions while being consistent with their own personal identities.  Reives has done a fantastic job in fleshing out his characters into substantive individuals that each of us can, in one way or another, relate to.  Having issues with your friends?  Might want to pick up this game then; these characters are probably the next best thing to real people.

I could continue pouring over the gorgeous literary techniques employed throughout QBV, but I think that my intelligent audience out there should be able to connect the dots.  Pull up a chair next to Reives, he will tell you a fine tale.

Graphics (4/5)

I mentioned before that this game serves a graphic novel.  The game, therefore, would not be the stunning masterpiece it is if it did offer top notch visual style.  Believe me, it delivers. 

Throughout chapters 1 through 8 the player is constantly bombarded by beautiful scenery featuring vast amounts of custom artwork.  From panoramas to overlays to spriting, QBV is full of eye candy.  More than that though, the game flows so well together from a graphical standpoint.  Everything locks into place so effortlessly.  Unlike many other games out there that borrow from rips or a multitude of game edits, there is a unifying style to Reives's graphical prowess. 

I especially enjoy the cutscenes.  They are dynamic pieces of art.  With differing perspectives, great movement, and tone-setting lighting, Reives has done all in his power to make the aesthetics of his game as powerful as his storytelling.

That said, I did not give QBV a perfect graphical score, just a 4 out of 5.  Rest assured that if I could, I would have given it a 99 out of 100, though.  I noticed the occasional mapping bug, a priority error here and there, but nothing common, and nothing that really detracts from the game play experience.  It took me 4 play-throughs to notice a piece of grass to high or a slightly out of place looking shrub; these little faults are nothing of importance.  It is a graphically stunning piece, and these problems do not in any way put this into question.

Sound (5/5)
I do not believe there is a single amateur game designer who has put more thought into the musical score as Reives has.  Sporting a custom soundtrack, each piece of musical glory has been fine tuned to ebb and flow with the scenes they are included in.  Down to the frame, Reives does an amazing job building tension and putting his players on edge simply by revealing a potent musical story. 

Like I have said in many of my reviews, I am not one to pay much attention to the musical aspects of a game.  I have no training in this field and honestly I do not feel comfortable giving scores out to something so nebulous to me.  That is just not the case this time around.  The music in QBV is simply perfect, a machination that does not merely reflect the mood of the story at the moment, but rather emphasizes it.  Every note has an explicit purpose, hence the 5 out of 5 given for this section.

Mechanics (5/5)

A visual novel should focus on the storyline, not the game play, right?  Not if you asked Reives. 

The battle system, like the plot and the graphics, is a piece of art.  Not overly difficult, but not a spacebar fest by any stretch of the imagination, battles are meaningful, potentially fatal affairs.  Like any good tactician, battles can be often avoided, saving us from those terrible days of the random encounter.  Bosses, and even lesser monsters to a lesser extent, require that the player actually know the ins and outs of the system.  Each battle is fought uniquely, with a different strategy to overcome each foe.  Reives does a wonderful job of making sure that the battle sequences do not get in the way of the storytelling.  Rather, the battles are integrated into the whole of QBV, making them extremely enjoyable experiences. 

What can I say about the other mechanics?  From impressive "whack-a-mole" sort of mini games to assuming the aspects of beasts, Reives keeps the gaming experience a fruitful one.  It simply never gets boring; in no part do you wish to end the struggle; in no way are you ever discouraged by the prospect of power leveling or grinding for a particular item. 

Conclusion:

There is a reason why QBV took home so many MISAOs, why Reives has been quickly gaining popularity in the RM community.  Quintessence: The Blighted Venom, I would argue, is the single greatest game in the RMXP generation.  Looking further into the past, it rivals the likes of A Blurred Line, Sunset Over Imdahl, and others from that treasure trove of rm2k/3 classics.  QBV is one of the essential amateur games.  Everyone who crafts games needs to download this immediately.  People who enjoy a good game need to do likewise.  So, here's to Reives; thank you for giving us this wonderful gift!

Final Score: 5/5

Game Download:  http://www.quintessence-tbv.com/Q_C1-8v1.0.exe
« Last Edit: July 24, 2008, 03:48:04 PM by madriel222 »