User Content Review: Cleril's "Haven"

Cleril's "Haven"

It's not very often the RPGs do things new and interesting. They almost all fall under the free-roaming wRPG stereotype, or a "retro"-inspired or modernized turn based format highly famous from the jRPG stereotype. It's not very often that an RPG completely avoids the combat system at all, focusing intently on the writing and story. Interestingly enough, the game has been done by the Escapist user Cleril, and was done in RPG Maker VX.

Surprisingly enough, the "No Combat" style of the game works surprisingly competently. There's no equipment, or stats, or leveling, so there's little in the way of customization. The protagonist is pre-set, the progression of the plot is completely linear, and aside from randomly placed side quests, little is completely unique. The meat of the game lies in two facets: The atmosphere, and the writing. Both of these are equally important to the game, and play out both independently and cooperatively where necessary.

To that end, the atmosphere of the game is well done. The piano remains a consistent theme throughout, really setting a pensive tone. This matches the philosophical tone the game sets, and carries itself well with the various segments of the game. Changes in weather, lighting, and decor all seem to accompany the music and overarching tone the game is setting. It does this so well that the game actually encourages tension and worry during appropriate times, and can really settle a knot of tension at the pit of the stomach. Although the music and lighting is consistent throughout the game, the tension isn't always perfect. Sometimes, highs and lows come too quickly or too slowly, being ineffective at building the proper stresses that make the game's various conflicts. At times, it can even suck the life out of the game's events.

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Having been built in RPG Maker VX, anyone familiar with the layout won't find a lot unique about Haven's style. The graphics are sprite-based, of a comparatively low resolution, but they're quite polished. The colors blend together well both within the sprites and in the background details and effects. However, the map composition can be crowded at times. The fields, buildings, and settings pick alternating times to be overcrowded with debris, and too blank to be remarkable. As well as that, the sprites just sometimes don't fit. A tent, at one point, appear smaller than a headstone. The interior, however, is larger than an entire building more than twice its size.

This means that while the implementation of effects and music are almost always placed wonderfully, the rest of the game hiccups in odd places. All of the sprites individually look good, have a lot of polish, but they don't look good together.

Which would normally be excusable, but the other facet is sadly lacking. The game is based on the protagonist, a poet and bard named "Cleril." The game refers to him as the last of his kind, which is boggling. For such a eternally pensive game, it stands to reason that more of the game's NPCs and denizens should show favor to reading and learning more about the arts. Normally this could be excused if Haven's NPCs had more practical or functional preferences, but they don't. They show unerring favor for Cleril's poetry, or any of the books, plays, or poems found throughout the game's nooks and crannies.

More to the point, every seeming poet and ponderer in the game has an unfailing pessimist attitude. Most of the poems hold a dark, saddening theme. They favor selfishness, tales of self-pity or woe, with dark thoughts on darker horizons. Throughout the game, NPCs seem to either have a "Keep myself busy to avoid sadness" tone, or a tone of suicidal sadness. The poems make reference constantly to demons, damnation, sadness, insomnia, torture, blisslessness, abysmal darkness, and any other buzzword that could be found from any depressive poetry collection. Throughout the game, there is a single happy-go-lucky writer, who sits in a spring park with joyous music, and no matter how the player tries to respond, the character Cleril will dismiss the writer as tosh. Everyone else, however, seems to idolize (or in the least, respect) Cleril's dark and brooding tone.

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However, Cleril doesn't seem to be as intelligent as he makes himself out to be, nor as ever NPC seems to regard him as. Structurally speaking, the writing in Haven is flawed because it is completely one-dimensional. Everything about the world has the pseudo-philosophical stance, and the whole thing could use some rounding out. The writing encourages the player to regard Cleril as one of heroic intellect, drunks as brooding drunkards not worth the code of which they're written, the people as mindless passers-by unable to comprehend the complete intellect of the almighty bard, and the sheer bald-faced evil that comes from the mayor of the village.

However, the tone reeks of Mary Sue because the protagonist is a close-minded braggart unable to summon respect of anyone that he so self-righteously demands of everyone else, every character seems unable to fill out their own agendas, coming off as even more flat than the protagonist. Even the passage of events seems to follow along with a sparsely-believable series of events. If anything, the writing strikes the vein of a all-encompassing parody of philosophicals and the working class, but a parody that has no punch line. It all just seems so unabashedly shallow.

Considering more than half of the game rests on the writing, and that the writing lacks any sufficient depth, there's so little to the game as a whole. The production value, the polish of the assembly, belies a lot of potential in the function of game making. The game is fundamentally flawed. It's all problematic, because a game about a narrative without a strong narrative cannot be a good game. Had the writing been different, the potential here betrays something that could have been great. However, the strongest drawing point to this no-combat RPG - the writing - isn't a drawing point at all. If anything, it is the nail in the coffin that has buried Haven.

Bottom Line: Haven has potential where composition is concerned, but the writing does nothing but detract from the whole experience. Considering that is the main purpose of the experience, Haven needs something more to be good.

For more information about Haven, feel free to learn more about it here.

I get what you're saying, but those are pretty much the reasons why I love the character

Anyway, Cleril sure has lots of potential.

It's a good game, I really enjoy it. The Non-combat thing got me at first, but then you realize there's more to games than the sexy violence, as Final Fantasy points out.

I have to admit, it has alot of potential.

I played it for a while, I appreciated Cleril's clever writing, but I just didn't get sucked into it. I felt like I was just going through the motions.

I feel, honored I guess would be the right word to use. Though, for the sake of a proper review of Haven you have to mention a few big details.

1. What version of the game are/were you playing? The game isn't done yet and has been updated on a weekly basis. Currently V 0.4.1 known as "Little Inkling." To make the review seem at least accurate you should state what version you're playing. If you're unsure then just tell me when the game "stops" in the main quest department and I can tell you if you're playing earlier versions.

2. You never mention (or I never read it) that the player has an impact on the story. Sure they cannot change Cleril's underlying personality but the story changes drastically based on what the player does, how they do it, and what they don't do. 90% of quests are connected in some way. Even minor things like how a location looks and such.

Other than that the review is grand. While I can see that you didn't like the game I don't plan on faulting you for that. The review itself is professionally done. Though, I would like if you mentioned those two details in your review, at least the first one because if you're playing an earlier version of the game you'll obviously get a lower quality product.

Thanks for taking the time to not only play Haven, but review it in it's nearly halfway done development state. That is meant to be a serious thank you.

Cleril:
1. What version of the game are/were you playing? The game isn't done yet and has been updated on a weekly basis. Currently V 0.4.1 known as "Little Inkling." To make the review seem at least accurate you should state what version you're playing. If you're unsure then just tell me when the game "stops" in the main quest department and I can tell you if you're playing earlier versions.

I got stuck in an igloo on Frostbite. I'm assuming this as far as the game is programmed, though I'd have no way of knowing if this were by design or glitch.

2. You never mention (or I never read it) that the player has an impact on the story. Sure they cannot change Cleril's underlying personality but the story changes drastically based on what the player does, how they do it, and what they don't do. 90% of quests are connected in some way. Even minor things like how a location looks and such.

The problem isn't Cleril, it's the rest of the world. I stand behind my opinion that the writing is too single-dimensional. The barkeep, often insulting and boorish, pays little respect to Cleril. The jester jokes, and is supremely an ass. The mayor is clearly written to be self-centered. These notations excepting, I can count the baker, the guard, the daughter, the farmer, and the writer that all respect and aspire to Cleril's greatness. In my personal opinion, I find Cleril is the most miserable and self-righteous of sorts. Excepting maybe the jester, not a single character shares this opinion with me.

I feel like a world with more breath, air, and likeness would have opinions wavering at all ends of the spectrum, including distaste and hate rather than plateauing at apathy. Given how small the town is, there really is no need for as much of the goings-on as they're portrayed. I can't help but feel like Cleril may not need to change internally, but at least have the hope to grow as a character. Instead, he's simply a constant, and in my opinion, he's constantly a self-important ass. This doesn't speak poor for that particular character, just that the world around him sees no reason to question it, even the writer with whom Cleril often disagrees, to the point of insulting.

As far as the "little things" for story changes goes, I felt that it was unimportant to mention. Aside from one or two moments in-missions, and in a single case - the change of how a quest is completed - there's little result from the outcome of any specific event. While "Old Greg" may have enabled a change in some way within his own mission, whether he dies with his family or alone, he is still dead. No other villager acknowledges the change, and no one can even visit the grave site again after the fact. The changes, while supposedly impacting, do nothing for the whole of the game. It's a fun little side-quest (sometimes), but all it does is waste a minute. It doesn't impact the game as a whole.

The little decisions are just a waste of time if they're done without result, without impact. For explanation, it's like giving a quiz in which the first 50 of 70 questions are worth no points. They are, very simply, filler. Cute, and technically interesting filler, but it's nothing but filler in the long run.

So, I will stand behind my opinion. Maybe with some more diversity, and purpose, I'd rank the game a bit higher. But as it stands, it needs a bit more polish, and for the consequences of actions have have effects reaching beyond five or so minutes.

NewClassic:

Cleril:
1. What version of the game are/were you playing? The game isn't done yet and has been updated on a weekly basis. Currently V 0.4.1 known as "Little Inkling." To make the review seem at least accurate you should state what version you're playing. If you're unsure then just tell me when the game "stops" in the main quest department and I can tell you if you're playing earlier versions.

I got stuck in an igloo on Frostbite. I'm assuming this as far as the game is programmed, though I'd have no way of knowing if this were by design or glitch.

2. You never mention (or I never read it) that the player has an impact on the story. Sure they cannot change Cleril's underlying personality but the story changes drastically based on what the player does, how they do it, and what they don't do. 90% of quests are connected in some way. Even minor things like how a location looks and such.

The problem isn't Cleril, it's the rest of the world. I stand behind my opinion that the writing is too single-dimensional. The barkeep, often insulting and boorish, pays little respect to Cleril. The jester jokes, and is supremely an ass. The mayor is clearly written to be self-centered. These notations excepting, I can count the baker, the guard, the daughter, the farmer, and the writer that all respect and aspire to Cleril's greatness. In my personal opinion, I find Cleril is the most miserable and self-righteous of sorts. Excepting maybe the jester, not a single character shares this opinion with me.

I feel like a world with more breath, air, and likeness would have opinions wavering at all ends of the spectrum, including distaste and hate rather than plateauing at apathy. Given how small the town is, there really is no need for as much of the goings-on as they're portrayed. I can't help but feel like Cleril may not need to change internally, but at least have the hope to grow as a character. Instead, he's simply a constant, and in my opinion, he's constantly a self-important ass. This doesn't speak poor for that particular character, just that the world around him sees no reason to question it, even the writer with whom Cleril often disagrees, to the point of insulting.

As far as the "little things" for story changes goes, I felt that it was unimportant to mention. Aside from one or two moments in-missions, and in a single case - the change of how a quest is completed - there's little result from the outcome of any specific event. While "Old Greg" may have enabled a change in some way within his own mission, whether he dies with his family or alone, he is still dead. No other villager acknowledges the change, and no one can even visit the grave site again after the fact. The changes, while supposedly impacting, do nothing for the whole of the game. It's a fun little side-quest (sometimes), but all it does is waste a minute. It doesn't impact the game as a whole.

The little decisions are just a waste of time if they're done without result, without impact. For explanation, it's like giving a quiz in which the first 50 of 70 questions are worth no points. They are, very simply, filler. Cute, and technically interesting filler, but it's nothing but filler in the long run.

So, I will stand behind my opinion. Maybe with some more diversity, and purpose, I'd rank the game a bit higher. But as it stands, it needs a bit more polish, and for the consequences of actions have have effects reaching beyond five or so minutes.

Ah, V 0.4.0 then you have. The igloo is part of the game just not in the first isle. It was a glitch but has been fixed in V 0.4.1 "Little Inkling" which is out now. I assume you have yet to get to Frostbite then?

Now I could spoil things for you and explain how things affect the game in the long run but instead I'll explain where Cleril goes throughout the game.

Haven -> Frostbite (The current part of the project being worked on) -> (New) Haven

(New) Haven will not only be more developed but everything you did, how you did it, and what you didn't do will affect it. To make it clearer...Greg's spirit was one full of sadness, hatred....what do you think the Graveyard will look like in New Haven had you not done the quest or if you got a "bad" ending?

The choices you make for now don't have a long lasting effect on anything, yet. To be fair most of the game will likely take place in Frostbite and not Haven itself. I suggest downloading V 0.4.1 and following the main quest. You'll reach Frostbite.

Now onto Cleril on a character. Cleril is far from constant, in my opinion. I consider him to be a master manipulator. That is why so many fall under his slight influence. Also...

I'd like to have you on the player list so I can keep you updated on the game and then we won't have the issue of you being backwards on the game. If you want to. There's a bonus content "disc" for the game which has a lot of extra features, I'd be happy to message you the download link for it.

I do hope I didn't offend you, I respect your opinion on the game, and your free to it.

 

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