The Way

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Real Men Make Fan Games
Project of the Month winner for May 2009
Title: The Way, Episodes I-V
Author: Crestfallen Studios
Reviewer: madriel222

Have you ever heard of the graphics creation program “Bryce?” If you are yet to be acquainted with this miraculous device, you are certainly in for a real treat. Sporting the most unique graphics of any RPG Maker game with the exception of “Sunset Over Imdahl,” Crestfallen Studios’s “The Way” series will simply take your breath away.

This fantastic series, however, is not merely flash and fancy mapping, but an immersing and realistic experience that will surely whisk you away from this world and into the realm of a wonderful story teller.

Plot (4/5)
As a whole, the plot of “The Way” series is not entirely original. With revenge, lost love, searching, and purpose being the primary characteristics of its design, this series is built upon a foundation of trite RPG themes. Not to say, however, that these are inherent flaws in the craft of these games, but just a notice for all of the writers out there hoping to gain something from playing an amateur game. “The Way” will never be heralded as an amazing plot, especially against the likes of “A Blurred Line” or “Darkness Shall Bleed.” Character development and pacing are also done well, though not spectacularly, in this series. At times, I thought the game was moving far too slowly.

What this game lacks in its originality it makes up for with a complete new world with no missing details. Within “The Way” is a realm of different ethics, different thought processes, different ways of life. Nothing within it will remind you of our own world, and yet it is just as rich and full of culture. What is even more beautiful is the fact that Crestfallen Studios has gone to great lengths in order to make the comings and goings of this world subtle, yet informative. The player comes to know the makings of “purpose” and the “way” without being bombarded with useless stories or tutorials. As a player, I found it refreshing to learn about the world slowly and surely, as if I myself was being raised in this culture. Without a doubt, this element makes “The Way” series the great one it is.

Graphics (4/5)
I know exactly what you, the reader, is probably thinking: “You just said this game had the most unique graphics in an RPG Maker game! How can it only score a 4/5?”

Do not misunderstand me in the slightest, the Bryce generated maps featured throughout the vast majority of this series are downright beautiful. Gorgeous terrains, perspective, and depth are all utilized to perfection. At first hearing about these three dimensional maps, I was extremely skeptical about RPG Maker’s ability to handle such images with only 256 available colors and a low resolution. These fears were quickly brushed aside, though. After playing this series, I was immediately interested in purchasing a copy of Bryce myself.

Furthermore, the system graphics were absolutely amazing. The menu graphics looked professionally done, the Plunge graphics were expertly crafted, and more importantly, with functionality in mind. Speaking of the Plunge, which is effectively a duel, I felt as if it were more of a dance than a fight at times. Perhaps it was just the music, or maybe the intricately designed sprites, but these clashes of steel and will possessed an aura of elegance around them that defied the bloody nature of the sport.

The downfall of “The Way” series as far as graphics was the spriting and the normal battle system. Regarding the sprites, Crestfallen decided to use, in large part, the default graphics that came with the Run Time Package in RPG Maker 2000. In all honesty, there is nothing wrong with those graphics, but those graphics must also be used in a setting that they fit in with. Surrounded with Bryce generated masterpieces, these sprites just did not belong. I have a similar critique regarding the regular battle system. The monsters, the battle backgrounds, they simply did not match the terrain, the beauty of the maps. Such a dichotomy keeps “The Way” series from having a perfect graphics score. Do not let that fool you, however, these games are visually stunning.

Sound (3/5)
Music and sound effects were acceptable at best throughout “The Way.”

Regarding music, it seemed off at times. As early as the introduction, the music was not in line with the epic mood that the author was attempting to set, being far too upbeat. Also, the music actually disappeared for no reason at times. Occasionally this would occur after a battle, or maybe after entering and exiting a tent, but regardless of the case, such incidents ruined the tone of the game for me. A vast majority of the music was well chosen, but nothing truly spectacular.

The sound effects were few and far between, which sometimes created a feeling of monotony. When used, these effects showed great promise and enhanced the stunning world. In this author’s opinion, such a technique went sorely underused.

Mechanics (5/5)
Custom menus and The Plunge separate “The Way” series from virtually every other game out there right now, professional or not. I hearty gamer, I myself was perplexed about the inner workings of the systems at hand. From notches to auras to X-life, Crestfallen Studios crafted a set of systems unlike anything ever seen before in any game, professional or amateur. I will not bore you with a detailed description of the fantastic menus, and I have already expressed my great enjoyment of The Plunge system earlier, so I will leave this section with the simple statement that “The Way” would win my vote for “Best Mechanics of All Time” in any arena.

Conclusion:
A visually stunning and immersive world may be just what you are looking for should you be looking to kill a few hours of your weekend. You may as well join the thousands of fans who have downloaded this project and continue on the arduous odyssey that is “The Way” series.

Final Rating:
4/5

Game Download:  http://www.rpgmaker.net/games/507/downloads/
« Last Edit: July 24, 2008, 03:41:23 PM by madriel222 »