Heart of Darkness Reviews: Cleril's Haven

Right, before I get into this review, let me preface it with a game I picked up last year. The game was an RPG for the DS called Magical Starsign, and after getting maybe halfway through it, I found that I had very little interest in the game. The battle system had potential, but got to the point where it was just too fucking repetitive. The characters were flat and felt incredibly one-dimensional, from the annoying "deadpan" robot to the hotheaded ladies' man to the stubborn chick who thinks she's strong enough by herself. To me, this game was the perfect example on how to not make an RPG. But why am I talking about Magical Starsign in a review about a completely different game? More on that later. Heart of Darkness presents...

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Hoo boy. Prepare the Neosporin.

(Warning: this review is long. No TL;DR is available for this program.)

Haven is an independent non-combat RPG produced by the one-man operation that is Cleril Calamity Studios. The game is made in Enterbrain's RPG Maker VX, a program that I respect for its ease of use but quite frankly despise for everything else. The game is still in its building stages, and is updated on a regular basis, adding new content, usually in the form of a quest, every time. Unfortunately, this is one of the few positive things I can say about this game--its regular updates. Everything else in this game is sadly lacking in what makes a game, well, good.

The game puts you in the shoes of Cleril, a bard. He was called to the titular Haven to do what all bards naturally do: fix the island's failing economy. (Confused? It only gets worse from here.) Actually, let's forget about the plot for now. I can devote an entire section to the bard. To put it bluntly, Cleril is in the running for one of the least likable main characters I have ever encountered. Not only is his characterization flawed--swaying widely from sheer disdain for human kind, to his "let me get in yo' pants, gurl" attitude towards the sweet young "thangs," and to switching from both unabashedly (belligerently in some cases) criticizing and showing some modicum of kindness to an NPC in the exact same conversation--he also finds it relevant to force his own philosophical viewpoints down the throats of the player at any possible chance he gets. This can range from something mild, from his disdain from alcohol, to more hot button issues, such as how religion is just a big scam, and these are delivered as subtly as a ten-pound sledgehammer to the head (some might even call it Anvilicious). The sad thing is, though, that whenever Cleril gets into an argument with another NPC, Cleril always wins. And the NPC's perceived relationship with Cleril doesn't seem to degrade in any way. The whole thing reeks of Mary Sue syndrome: Cleril is portrayed as an infallible, all-knowing entity in a world populated by morons.

In addition, Cleril's dialogue and spotty characterization are completely one-dimensional: since Cleril has no flaws, he can do no wrong (and thus has no opportunity to experience character development), which can be seen when Cleril handwaves some of his actions to the point where they no longer matter and the NPCs follow suit with Cleril's actions. This issue does spread farther than the main character, however, as the entire game is pretty one-dimensional. Characters often only show disdain or adoration to Cleril, with some changing their attitude towards him with no provocation whatsoever, and in more cases than not showing complete, unwavering adoration. NPC dialogue is also presented in fabulous 1D, often becoming stilted after attempting to mix backstory, plot points, and adoration for Cleril's poetry all into one conversation. The game also offers plenty of poetry for the reader to "enjoy," if that's the right word; which raises the question on how so much poetry could be available to the people of Haven, and yet there is no explanation for most of them having never heard it before or how the works even got there in the first place. If he really is the last of his kind, the number of readable works should be limited to only one or two books. Actually, I think I do have an explanation for the second point: Cleril is a prolific bard proficient in producing inconsequential works.

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This has more dimensions than all of the characters in Haven.

"So how are they inconsequential?" you may ask (run with it, I'm segueing here). For one, the poetry, like the dialogue, deals with a number of macabre themes, such as death, pain, suffering, and the peace of the grave (some also talk about how awesome Cleril is, but I won't go there). Like the dialogue, the poetry is flat and unidirectional, usually containing a single message that is easily deciphered by reading the text--there are few, if any, alternate interpretations of the text available without going dangerously far into the territory of "you're wrong." Even the game's one excuse for a play is fundamentally flawed: characters are static and only capable of saying one line from their position, half of the cast is guilty of upstaging, and even one actor turns his back to the audience (fellow Thespians, I weep for good theatre). Not to mention the shameless title drop of the play at the end. You do get to respond to the play, though, which is nice, except for the fact that your responses are either limited to "unending adoration to the playwright" or "you don't get the message but are pleased with the performance nonetheless," even though the play has no message and is not enjoyable in the least. To be fair, however, some of the ideas that some of the poems present are interesting and do show potential, but, much like the game itself, either fall flat on their face due to poor presentation or are too cliché to be remarkable.

Speaking of choices, this is another aspect of the game. As a non-combat RPG, something needs to catch the player's attention, and thus a choice system was implemented. Depending on your actions, you can determine whether or not several characters live and even supposedly shape the town around you; however, and this might be due to the game's incompleteness, none of your actions have an adverse effect on your surroundings. Letting characters die has no immediate effect* on the game itself or its progression of events, save for a few differences in dialogue. And any change that is enacted is completely inconsequential to the game--there is no impetus to replay the game again while choosing different actions.

*There is an exception to this, although it is unintentional. This will be explained later.

Which brings me to the plot...four paragraphs into the review. (Yes, there is this much stuff to talk about with this game. And I'm just getting started.) Like the characters and supplemental material, the main quest for this game is completely inconsequential. To quote Escapist user NewClassic, the plot "seems to follow along with a sparsely-believable series of events," or, in my words, is nothing more than a series of fetch quests held together with sand, spit, and bad teenage poetry.[1] And the glue that holds the "plot" together is falling apart, due to holes caused by the producer both not paying attention to the game and by suffering from a bad case of Did Not Do the Research (and, at times, from the much more deadly Critical Research Failure). I think this would be best illustrated as a list:

  • At one point, you are asked to help a baker make bread by putting flour, not dough, into an oven.
  • In the same vein, you can make Cleril eat some flour he finds lying around. Not only is it disgusting, but who the hell eats raw flour?
  • You are asked to fix a broken well. No, it's not a pump well. It's one you drop a bucket into.
  • Cleril suggests that maybe a carpenter should fix the well. Hopefully I don't need to explain this one.
  • At one point, you are asked to bring turnips back to a character. Apparently, the seeds work just as well. And she can smell them. And turns the seeds into a drink. To cure drunkenness. So yeah.
  • You are asked to head to another locale to try to negotiate a trade route. Even though the two locales are already trading with each other.
  • You are tasked with having someone warm up the ocean enough to save someone trapped on the ice. Not only is this nigh impossible to do (as should be apparent to anyone who paid attention in chemistry), it would also make more sense to walk across the ice to save her, not melt it.

I...think that covers it. Oh, wait, one more thing. Absolutely none of the quests offer any sort of tangible reward upon their completion. There is no gold (and even the quests that give gold, you can't spend it. And you will lose your piddling sum of gold before the end of the first Act), no usable items, no stat increments, whatever. The only thing that could possibly count as a reward is more poetry, but that feels more like torture than a reward. Now, let's see, what else is next on the list...damnit, I can't find it. DAMNIT, STOP THE CAMERA!!

...Ah, here we are. "Discuss design issues, bugs, and incomplete play-testing before launch." So, let's start this off with design issues: the game is rife with them. Let's start with some of the side-quests and optional plot points: you will be literally forced to wait at points in this game. For an unbearably long period of time. So far, this issue rears its ugly head in two forms: forcing you to wait and not move, and forcing you to wait while wandering aimlessly and not having anything to do. Oh, and don't think about switching screens to do something else, like check your email; the timer only counts down while the game window is active. Your best option here is to just walk away and entertain yourself some other way until the timer runs out, like read a book. (And, for those of you who remember Yahtzee's Super Paper Mario review, feel free to insert his rant about that here.) Another design issue deals with the maps, which are generally much, much too large. Since the game requires you to partake in many fetch quests, which require you to cross the world map no less than six times, this gets rather annoying. Even while running, the maps completely break the game's pacing, making the game more unbearable than necessary. There are also jarring differences with the maps based on size: a tent in the graveyard only covers one tile, yet its interior is larger than the entire graveyard. So yeah.

There are also quite a few bugs in this game: going back to the (*), if you let a certain character die before a certain point in the main quest, the game is rendered unbeatable. Similarly, letting that character live will enable you to get multiple copies of an item relating to another quest due to a broken dialogue tree ('I need an axe.' "What do you need another axe for?"..."Here's an axe for you"). Similarly, some of the events have scripting issues, where if you back out of a dialogue option before a movement command is completed, the game will essentially lock itself up, preventing any movement and requiring a complete reboot of the game; this happens at least twice. And then there are issues with release, as some updates will leave out an important bit of code that renders the rest of the game unplayable.

Well, I've done a lot of fault-finding; let's see if I can change this up a little bit. Can I find something good with Haven? Well, there's...um...hm. I guess I can always talk about graphics and music. To anyone familiar with the RPG Maker VX program, there's nothing remarkable about the graphics, as all of them are pretty much standard fare. Character sprites are low-res, but polished, and colors are vibrant. Individually, environment tiles and character sprites look nice, but they don't look nice together as implemented in this game. Music is also pretty standard, and by standard, I mean that most of it will be stuff you've likely heard before. Some of the music comes standard with the VX program, and a majority of the music comes from other video games, including Animal Crossing, Silent Hill, and Chrono Trigger, to name a few. The remaining five songs are independent compositions from other sources, two from an Elder Scrolls mod and three from, well, me. For the most part, the use of music is done well, as the music generally fits the mood, but a few minor hiccups still manage to manifest themselves here and there (to be honest, Yearnings of the Wind, as it is used in this game, just plain sounds bad. That takes skill to do.). So, although Haven does not have its own OST, its use of music is one of the few things it does right.

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In addition to being large and unremarkable, the maps are very blocky.
It's a problem inherent in VX, but a little more effort wouldn't have killed anyone.

The game promises at least three hours of playtime (some promotional material also touts 50+ hours, but this is just shamelessly wrong), just for the main quest as it is. Honestly, I can get through the entire game as it is in less than half that time, which includes a majority of the side-quests. This game is short and superficial--much like the writing. And although the game offers replayability, there seems to be a dearth of it; without a proper incentive to complete quests differently, there's no reason to go back and replay the game once you've "beaten" it. And even though the game is rated 'M' (by the creator, not by any outside source), honestly, it's not. Since a lot of action is implied rather than shown, there's nothing that offense about Haven. At most, the game is more of a 'T' rating, but with a heavy dose of foul language. Really, nothing in this game screams mature; it all tries to be, of course, but, like teenagers acting "mature," it fails. And then there's it philosophy. Supposedly, it's based on an existential style of thinking. And yet, I don't see it. Much like existentialism itself, the philosophy is intangible and just comes off flat like the writing. It tries too hard and only imports stale, forced morals on the player, resulting in stilted, contrived messages that will most likely scare away most potential players and anger a few others. Not to mention that this is the only philosophy in the game; other philosophies presented by NPCs are predictably shot down by Cleril and essentially rendered moot (which goes back to the whole idea of Mary Sue: everyone, except for Cleril, has a flawed philosophy). The only positive moral that the game imparts is the importance of thinking for yourself, but it contradicts itself by basically telling the player, "Hey, think like Cleril. This is the correct way to think!"

In short, I get the feeling that the game tries much too hard in all the wrong places. Could this game work? Absolutely. Does it work now? Absolutely not. If the game actually focused more on a strong, coherent central plot with varied, interesting characters and more diverse quests and built itself up from there, this game would indeed play much better than in its current form. However, it feels like the game was made first and foremost with the bland philosophy and lackluster poetry in mind, and everything else was just tacked on as an excuse to hold everything together (seeing as how the plot becomes the most important aspect in a non-combat RPG, this presents a serious problem). Top this off with a script so poorly written and riddled with so many spelling and grammatical mistakes, and you have a game that is not only unabashedly shallow and flat, but also downright painful to read at times.

And now, to finish this off, remember how I talked about Magical Starsign at the beginning of this review and talked about how much I loathed it for its flat characters and repetitive battle system? Well, compared to Haven, Magical Starsign seems like it has varied, multifaceted, interesting characters and a riveting story, complete with an amazing battle mechanic. In the same train of thought, I hate Emily Dickinson's poetry, but compared to the poems found in Haven, Dickinson's poetry is much more favored. And I never thought I would say that. Ever.

Bottom Line: While Haven attempts to do something new and unique with the RPG genre, it impedes itself by its own numerous flaws: unlikeable characters, weak story, one-dimensional writing, and forced philosophy, to name the biggest offenders. The game would benefit from a complete rethinking of the game from one focused on its own morals to one with a stronger cast and plot, with more varied supplemental material.

Recommendation: Avoid it. There's just too much wrong with Haven for it to be classified as a good game. If you really want to satiate your existential desires, you'd be better off with reading Waiting for Godot or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. For dark poetry, give Edgar Allan Poe a read, and for poetry that makes you think, go ahead and read some poems by everyone's favorite crazy attic lady. (If you still want to play the game, message Escapist user Cleril for information.)

Heart of Darkness is a professional student by trade, amateur composer and video game designer by hobby (samples of his work may be downloaded here). He never thought he'd actually prefer Emily Dickinson's poetry over something else. Go figure.

[1] NewClassic's review of Haven. (Remember, reviving old threads counts as necromancy.)

Nice review. The way it flows makes this review seem very natural, and it was enjoyable to read. Even though it was long, it was very informative and told me enough about this game to know that I most likely won't enjoy it.
But, I have a question about one part of your review. Don't some wells have a wooden overhang that buckets are attached to, thus requiring a carpenter to fix it?

Considering that it was made by one guy, its gonna be buggy.

And it wasn't THAT long. I mean, it didn't feel long at least.

Loadius:
Nice review. The way it flows makes this review seem very natural, and it was enjoyable to read. Even though it was long, it was very informative and told me enough about this game to know that I most likely won't enjoy it.
But, I have a question about one part of your review. Don't some wells have a wooden overhang that buckets are attached to, thus requiring a carpenter to fix it?

Well, there is no awning. You need to go into the well in order to fix the flow of the water. There's no wood involved.

Onyx Oblivion:
Considering that it was made by one guy, its gonna be buggy.

And it wasn't THAT long. I mean, it didn't feel long at least.

Well, if it causes the game to freeze, I'd expect some prevention. And while I do agree that some bugs are bound to slip through, RPGMVX is fairly easy to use. WHile there are few bugs already, some greatly impede progression.

And it is a long review. I think it's clocked at around 2,400 words or something. I'm not too sure, though.

EDIT: It's 2,910 words long. This includes the Bottom Line and Recommendation, but does not include the parentheticals, image text, and the author descriptor.

Heart of Darkness:

Loadius:
Nice review. The way it flows makes this review seem very natural, and it was enjoyable to read. Even though it was long, it was very informative and told me enough about this game to know that I most likely won't enjoy it.
But, I have a question about one part of your review. Don't some wells have a wooden overhang that buckets are attached to, thus requiring a carpenter to fix it?

Well, there is no awning. You need to go into the well in order to fix the flow of the water. There's no wood involved.

Well, then I guess it works. But then who, exactly, fixes wells? You don't really specify that, either.

And yeah, 3,000 words is long. Maybe shorter next time, plox?

A very well done review. Yes it was long, but enjoyable the whole way through. Bravo, sir.

While I respectfully disagree with you, I still enjoyed reading what you wrote. Don't shorten down your reviews, it was a pleasure to read.

Well before I get into my debate clothes I'll just say that I came. I made a game worthy of a review, good or bad, I'll take it. Besides, on the Escapist there are three reviews of the game, 2 giving it a bad hit and 1 giving it a grand hailing. I consider that a success for my first game, no?

Now then, onto business:

I think the point your missing Heart of Darkness is that Haven is art. It is meant to be interpreted by the individual, how else do you explain Pimppeter2's review of the game (which is the one thatglows with praise)? Cleril is also meant to be interpreted as are most all of the themes in the game.

I believe I told you this long ago but I guess it didn't take. I didn't make Haven to tell you something. I made it for you the player to give it meaning. Cleril himself has really no reason to be in Haven for the most part and yet he is there. Other characters have little reason for existing as Cleril would think, so why are they existing? It's all how you interpret it.

Also, I do believe the baker does ask for turnip seeds, not actual turnips. As far as I'm concerned I'e never encountered a game-ending bug. You are the only player I hear this from out of 50. I'm sure someone else would have picked up on it if such a bug existed. Also, the ice issue with the quest you mentioned is made clear....there is no way to get to her via walking, only through a ship, which cannot be sent out or else it will be a medieval titanic situation. Haven isn't set in a definite time period anyway so why can't fantasy technology exist such as that machine which warms up the ocean?

Now for personal feelings, the wonder:

This review made me think of just tossing the project aside. 190+ hours of work for this? But then I quickly thought of how most other players genuinely love Haven. I got at least 1 positive review so far, I must be doing something right then, no?

After all, how would I have 50 or so players essentially play-testing for me if I wasn't making a good game?

My point is that while you say Haven is essentially trash, others disagree. Call it defending myself because it probably is. That's all I have to say.

As a final note I do appreciate yet another review of Haven being made on The Escapist. I'm glad it wasn't someone new to writing reviews or perhaps someone who writes crap reviews.

Thanks Heart of Darkness. I guess.

Oh, I forgot mention, Cleril does have flaws and they're obviously present in the game though they may not be obvious right away.

He hallucinates or talks to himself. This leads him to odd scenarios that no normal person should experience.

He makes everyone believe him, therefore making everyone a drone of sorts, no?

He is detached from humanity as a whole.

He has no reason to exist. Other than for the sake of other people whom which he doesn't give a damn about and yet there he is, existing.

He has numerous flaws. It's not my fault if you can't spot them because they are there, perhaps you didn't look hard enough?

If this sounds snippy it might be or it might not be, that's your choice. I was once again just defending myself and my game.

Loadius:
Nice review. The way it flows makes this review seem very natural, and it was enjoyable to read. Even though it was long, it was very informative and told me enough about this game to know that I most likely won't enjoy it.
But, I have a question about one part of your review. Don't some wells have a wooden overhang that buckets are attached to, thus requiring a carpenter to fix it?

Eh, it's a niche game and free. Can't expect everyone to enjoy it but you can try it....through me that is, just let me know if you'd like to and I'll send you the link.

Pimppeter2:
While I respectfully disagree with you, I still enjoyed reading what you wrote. Don't shorten down your reviews, it was a pleasure to read.

Did you disagree with the whole thing or just parts of it and if so what parts?

I would like to know. ;)

DrDeath3191:
A very well done review. Yes it was long, but enjoyable the whole way through. Bravo, sir.

Ah, thank you very much.

Pimppeter2:
While I respectfully disagree with you, I still enjoyed reading what you wrote. Don't shorten down your reviews, it was a pleasure to read.

And a thank you to you, too. I'll try to keep my reviews a pleasurable read in the future...assuming I actually have time to write them. Stupid art class...

Cleril:
-snip-

A lot of it boils down to personal taste. While Haven has a tendency to rub me the wrong way, it harmonizes with Peter. This easily explains why his review was glowing with praise, and why mine is not. (For future reference, let's call this Point A.)

And what you intend as interpretation I view as a forcing of viewpoints. Normally, I wouldn't mind it, but you don't offer other paths for interpretation. At least in other works of art (painting, drawing, sculpture, and music excluded), other characters serve as vessels for a different worldview; this doesn't exist in Haven. As far as not making this to tell players something? See the previous point. It's all about viewpoints. Offer more than what you have, and your game will be rife for interpretation. As it stands now, it tastes anvilicious.

For the ice: So, no one's thought about dragging a boat across the ice, and instead go for the highly impractical solution of pumping somewhere in the vicinity of a billion joules of heat into the ocean to melt the ice? (I can check the math later.) Fantastical or not, there are few things that just can't simply be done without the intervention of an omnipotent being, assuming that the physics in this universe apply to your in-game universe, which is assumed to be a 'yes,' as no significant deviation yet exists to differentiate the two. Melting the ice on an arctic ocean is one of those things.

Others: See Point A. Any media, no matter how bad it is, is bound to have fans. This includes Too Human, the Silent Hill movie, and the Twilight saga, to name a few examples. So to use others as an indication of how "good" something is is fruitless; you can only say that xx people like this. Correlation does not necessarily imply causation. And, TBH, if 67% of outside material to my works was in the negative, I'd be a little concerned about my ability and find out exactly what I'm doing wrong to change it. Since, in your case, it's 2 out of 3 reviews (literally), I'd wait for more input, but take it as a sign as "maybe I can do something better."

And I'd look at more data than just your player base if I were you. Compare your player base to how many times total your game has been downloaded, factor out multiple downloads/test downloads, and then turn it into a ratio against the people who like it (i.e., 49:(x-49) where x is the number of individuals who have not responded or didn't like the game). I'd be more worried as to how (x-49) compares to 49.

Also, those aren't necessarily "flaws:"

--I talk to myself all the time, does that make me flawed, or do I do it to relieve boredom? What about medical conditions that cause people to do this? Are they 'flawed?'
--Others' flaws of one-mindedness are not flaws for one individual. This is not a flaw for Cleril, no matter how you slice it.
--Define "detached." As it stands, he still interacts with people, and still wants to bang someone, implied or no. If I were to take it as my interpreted message of "detached," Cleril would have to be a hermit and practically shun others like Dickinson did (and whether or not she had outside communication is debatable, I just forget details about her and am too tired to check). Misanthropism, which is what I think you mean, is not necessarily a flaw, either.
--Contradiction. Having no reason to exist...except for others means that his reason to exist is to exist for others, whether he likes it or not. Sometimes the reason is the simplest one.

As I've stated, this is highlighted by the fact that Cleril is a static character. If you want to use "flaws" 1, 3, or 4 as flaws, make Cleril change in some significant way in order to make the comparison; don't leave it up to player interpretation. You can't say that a diamond is flawed without something to compare it to. So, while I may not have looked hard enough, the other option--that I can't find what isn't there--also exists.

To your final note: You're welcome. Make of this what you will, and do of it what you will. Either disregard everything I've said, or take it as a means to make a better game. Your choice.

Heart of Darkness:

DrDeath3191:
A very well done review. Yes it was long, but enjoyable the whole way through. Bravo, sir.

Ah, thank you very much.

Pimppeter2:
While I respectfully disagree with you, I still enjoyed reading what you wrote. Don't shorten down your reviews, it was a pleasure to read.

And a thank you to you, too. I'll try to keep my reviews a pleasurable read in the future...assuming I actually have time to write them. Stupid art class...

Cleril:
-snip-

A lot of it boils down to personal taste. While Haven has a tendency to rub me the wrong way, it harmonizes with Peter. This easily explains why his review was glowing with praise, and why mine is not. (For future reference, let's call this Point A.)

And what you intend as interpretation I view as a forcing of viewpoints. Normally, I wouldn't mind it, but you don't offer other paths for interpretation. At least in other works of art (painting, drawing, sculpture, and music excluded), other characters serve as vessels for a different worldview; this doesn't exist in Haven. As far as not making this to tell players something? See the previous point. It's all about viewpoints. Offer more than what you have, and your game will be rife for interpretation. As it stands now, it tastes anvilicious.

For the ice: So, no one's thought about dragging a boat across the ice, and instead go for the highly impractical solution of pumping somewhere in the vicinity of a billion joules of heat into the ocean to melt the ice? (I can check the math later.) Fantastical or not, there are few things that just can't simply be done without the intervention of an omnipotent being, assuming that the physics in this universe apply to your in-game universe, which is assumed to be a 'yes,' as no significant deviation yet exists to differentiate the two. Melting the ice on an arctic ocean is one of those things.

Others: See Point A. Any media, no matter how bad it is, is bound to have fans. This includes Too Human, the Silent Hill movie, and the Twilight saga, to name a few examples. So to use others as an indication of how "good" something is is fruitless; you can only say that xx people like this. Correlation does not necessarily imply causation. And, TBH, if 67% of outside material to my works was in the negative, I'd be a little concerned about my ability and find out exactly what I'm doing wrong to change it. Since, in your case, it's 2 out of 3 reviews (literally), I'd wait for more input, but take it as a sign as "maybe I can do something better."

And I'd look at more data than just your player base if I were you. Compare your player base to how many times total your game has been downloaded, factor out multiple downloads/test downloads, and then turn it into a ratio against the people who like it (i.e., 49:(x-49) where x is the number of individuals who have not responded or didn't like the game). I'd be more worried as to how (x-49) compares to 49.

Also, those aren't necessarily "flaws:"

--I talk to myself all the time, does that make me flawed, or do I do it to relieve boredom? What about medical conditions that cause people to do this? Are they 'flawed?'
--Others' flaws of one-mindedness are not flaws for one individual. This is not a flaw for Cleril, no matter how you slice it.
--Define "detached." As it stands, he still interacts with people, and still wants to bang someone, implied or no. If I were to take it as my interpreted message of "detached," Cleril would have to be a hermit and practically shun others like Dickinson did (and whether or not she had outside communication is debatable, I just forget details about her and am too tired to check). Misanthropism, which is what I think you mean, is not necessarily a flaw, either.
--Contradiction. Having no reason to exist...except for others means that his reason to exist is to exist for others, whether he likes it or not. Sometimes the reason is the simplest one.

As I've stated, this is highlighted by the fact that Cleril is a static character. If you want to use "flaws" 1, 3, or 4 as flaws, make Cleril change in some significant way in order to make the comparison; don't leave it up to player interpretation. You can't say that a diamond is flawed without something to compare it to. So, while I may not have looked hard enough, the other option--that I can't find what isn't there--also exists.

To your final note: You're welcome. Make of this what you will, and do of it what you will. Either disregard everything I've said, or take it as a means to make a better game. Your choice.

Well, I suppose debating on it won't affect anything. The problem with the whole download to feedback ratio is that I never get as much feedback as I need (or deserve in my opinion). 46 or so downloads of The Fall(en), 4 comments on the forum topic....not very helpful.

Of course I would like to see what you'd say about The Fall(en) as it's different from Haven for the most part. If you decide to play it that is.

Then there's Peekaboo which will tell the story in a different way for the most part. Also, it takes place in the modern world of Haven.

I'll see what I can do. I assure you that your actions will have consequences....I just haven't reached the part where I can take you back to Haven.

Oh and about the warming up the ocean thing, the blast of heat was only enough to remove the ice leading up to the girl. Cleril asks if he can go back to Haven which he can't as glaciers and such are still in the way. The machine was designed to warm up land in the first place, not water. I also believe that quest is broken and you can't complete it so you may not know all of those details.

Also, you don't tell anyone how they could play this game. If you just say at the bottom or something that anyone interested in playing should message me that'd be fantastic. The topic for Haven got thrown in the graveyard and I'm not making another one till I update it.

I did enjoy the read even if it was a bit disheartening. All the same I'm just happy to see that I made something worth reviewing, to me that says something.

I also enjoyed the review, it was well written and informative. That said, I'm not personally interested in playing Haven because I'm not much for games for force interpretation. I prefer a story be told to me, not to be the one making the story myself. It's an interesting concept, but one I feel indie games far too often get caught up in. It comes across to me as pretension for pretension's sake.

I do think it's awesome that Cleril made this game though. It's obviously a real work of passion on his part to hear him talk about it and his enthusiasm is worth a whole lot. I tooled around with rpg maker once and got a solid hour of playtime into a game I was working on. It didn't take long after that to give it up.

Independent game design is something you have to LOVE to do. You have to totally give yourself over to the project if you want to see the outcome, and for that I applaud this game's designer, if not the game. I might play it one day but as it stands, it just sounds like something I wouldn't be interested in.

Hiphophippo:
I also enjoyed the review, it was well written and informative. That said, I'm not personally interested in playing Haven because I'm not much for games for force interpretation. I prefer a story be told to me, not to be the one making the story myself. It's an interesting concept, but one I feel indie games far too often get caught up in. It comes across to me as pretension for pretension's sake.

I do think it's awesome that Cleril made this game though. It's obviously a real work of passion on his part to hear him talk about it and his enthusiasm is worth a whole lot. I tooled around with rpg maker once and got a solid hour of playtime into a game I was working on. It didn't take long after that to give it up.

Independent game design is something you have to LOVE to do. You have to totally give yourself over to the project if you want to see the outcome, and for that I applaud this game's designer, if not the game. I might play it one day but as it stands, it just sounds like something I wouldn't be interested in.

Thanks for the comment.

And yeah, dedication usually is a good sign. I tooled in RPG Maker before, too, got three hours of playtime out of it, and essentially stopped because I found out that some of the scripts I was using interfered with one another and borked my game. I haven't gone in to fix it, nor have I went back to RPG Maker yet. Not having time to do that also doesn't help.

Cleril:
<!--snip-->

But that's the kind of data you should be looking at. If your comment:download ratio is 4:42, or a whole 9%, I'd take it to mean "perhaps I can do something better." Since the data isn't concrete, only open to interpretation, it's hard to actually judge what it means, so even this method of garnering community feedback is flawed.

And again, it's basic chemistry. I'd assume that in a permanently frozen, arctic climate, the ice on the ocean would be quite thick. Assuming a ten-foot depth of ice, that still takes a lot of energy to do. Not to mention that heat would dissipate out of the area you'd want to heat up into the atmosphere, the surrounding ice, and even the ocean itself once you got down far enough, and the energy requirement increases dramatically (and liquid water is more resilient to heat change than ice, with nearly double the amount of heat needed to raise it a single degree). You also have the issue of melting only occurring at the surface, yet freezing occurring throughout the liquid: if the melted ice isn't being constantly warmed, it'll refreeze and need to be melted again. Again, dragging a rowboat across the ice would be a cheaper, more practical solution.

And this is part of the reason why I'm skeptical about your other games: if I don't like the writing now, there's a good chance I won't like the writing in your other games. And if your writing is the biggest selling point, you can see why I'm hesitant. Perhaps I will try them in the future, though, just don't be surprised if I end up not liking them.

Heart of Darkness:

Hiphophippo:
I also enjoyed the review, it was well written and informative. That said, I'm not personally interested in playing Haven because I'm not much for games for force interpretation. I prefer a story be told to me, not to be the one making the story myself. It's an interesting concept, but one I feel indie games far too often get caught up in. It comes across to me as pretension for pretension's sake.

I do think it's awesome that Cleril made this game though. It's obviously a real work of passion on his part to hear him talk about it and his enthusiasm is worth a whole lot. I tooled around with rpg maker once and got a solid hour of playtime into a game I was working on. It didn't take long after that to give it up.

Independent game design is something you have to LOVE to do. You have to totally give yourself over to the project if you want to see the outcome, and for that I applaud this game's designer, if not the game. I might play it one day but as it stands, it just sounds like something I wouldn't be interested in.

Thanks for the comment.

And yeah, dedication usually is a good sign. I tooled in RPG Maker before, too, got three hours of playtime out of it, and essentially stopped because I found out that some of the scripts I was using interfered with one another and borked my game. I haven't gone in to fix it, nor have I went back to RPG Maker yet. Not having time to do that also doesn't help.

Cleril:
<!--snip-->

But that's the kind of data you should be looking at. If your comment:download ratio is 4:42, or a whole 9%, I'd take it to mean "perhaps I can do something better." Since the data isn't concrete, only open to interpretation, it's hard to actually judge what it means, so even this method of garnering community feedback is flawed.

And again, it's basic chemistry. I'd assume that in a permanently frozen, arctic climate, the ice on the ocean would be quite thick. Assuming a ten-foot depth of ice, that still takes a lot of energy to do. Not to mention that heat would dissipate out of the area you'd want to heat up into the atmosphere, the surrounding ice, and even the ocean itself once you got down far enough, and the energy requirement increases dramatically (and liquid water is more resilient to heat change than ice, with nearly double the amount of heat needed to raise it a single degree). You also have the issue of melting only occurring at the surface, yet freezing occurring throughout the liquid: if the melted ice isn't being constantly warmed, it'll refreeze and need to be melted again. Again, dragging a rowboat across the ice would be a cheaper, more practical solution.

And this is part of the reason why I'm skeptical about your other games: if I don't like the writing now, there's a good chance I won't like the writing in your other games. And if your writing is the biggest selling point, you can see why I'm hesitant. Perhaps I will try them in the future, though, just don't be surprised if I end up not liking them.

I suppose, it could just be laziness of people since I'm not enforcing feedback on The Fall(en) as I am with Haven.

Who said Frostbite was in the polar region? Maybe it's just winter, who knows? They only had to warm up the ice enough so that it could reach her. There was no way to drag a row boat since the ice is only partial, it's not sheets of ice that you can walk on, just dots. I know that warming up water is harder than land and again the machine was built for warming land (so that they could farm), not to warm the ocean. The machine only warmed it enough to reach her and therefore Cleril still can't leave as a full fledged ship would be ripped to shreds.

Well The Fall(en) is shorter to the extreme than Haven so it's not that much of a commitment to play. The total playtime via replay value with The Fall(en) is 30 minutes, according to a friend who played it. Peekaboo will probably be longer than The Fall(en) in total time but probably won't have much if any replay value. Also, Peekaboo isn't being told via writing. It's being told through mainly visual and sound aspects. If you don't like my writing then Peekaboo is your best bet when I finish it enough for a demo. Only the main character talks via text and items are described in text as well. The antagonist speaks via sound and puzzles are solved mainly through visuals. The puzzles themselves will tell several stories in one, both about the child and about his.....deeds and those involved in them.

Hiphophippo:
I also enjoyed the review, it was well written and informative. That said, I'm not personally interested in playing Haven because I'm not much for games for force interpretation. I prefer a story be told to me, not to be the one making the story myself. It's an interesting concept, but one I feel indie games far too often get caught up in. It comes across to me as pretension for pretension's sake.

I do think it's awesome that Cleril made this game though. It's obviously a real work of passion on his part to hear him talk about it and his enthusiasm is worth a whole lot. I tooled around with rpg maker once and got a solid hour of playtime into a game I was working on. It didn't take long after that to give it up.

Independent game design is something you have to LOVE to do. You have to totally give yourself over to the project if you want to see the outcome, and for that I applaud this game's designer, if not the game. I might play it one day but as it stands, it just sounds like something I wouldn't be interested in.

If you'd like to try a game of mine with a story that is told to you then I suggest The Fall(en), which is my first finished game (Haven is just V 0.4.8). The Fall(en) has only 30 minutes of playtime via replay value. You can "beat" it in one minute, or 5 or less. With the multiple monologue trees the replay value ups that to roughly 30 minutes.

If you want to learn more or play it please message me....I was told by the mods not to advertise my games on other topics. You won't find it on google, only through me.

Again, I didn't finish Haven yet, just barely halfway done with it after 200+ hours of work now. In comparison The Fall(en) took 9 hours to complete. Peekaboo (my latest game, a psychological horror, not playable) has 4 hours so far of work put into it.

For now it's a hobby but I plan to use these games in my portfolio to get into a company as a writer/designer.

Thanks for the support regardless if you choose not to play any games of mine (Just Haven and The Fall(en) can be played as of now.....2 other games, Grey, and Peekaboo are being made.....Peekaboo will have a demo eventually this month.), Hiphophippo.

Off-topic: Does your name imply that you dance or enjoy hip-hop? Just asking because I myself dance.

Cleril:
//Snip

Heavy, heavy, heavy implication. Here's why:
--Significant name: Why call it Frostbite if it's not cold year round?
--Glaciers: are a part of any arctic ocean. You said so yourself, in this thread, that there are glaciers in the water.
--Climate: If it's not cold year round, and actually does warm up, then you should be able to grow some sort of crop. The area you've depicted most closely represents the taiga biome, which can produce legumes. From your implications, even this isn't possible, hence the building of a climate control device. If it isn't possible, then you've created a tundra region, which raises more problems (as trees cannot grow in tundra, and there is clearly a forest).
--The ocean itself: These don't freeze easily, especially in seasonal areas. Since you depict AND imply ice in the ocean, this has to be a polar ocean.

As an aside to that, ice tends to freeze in sheets, not "dots." Even if it is broken up (from the shipwreck), you can still maneuver a rowboat through it; there's no need to go for the, once again, impractical and improbable solution. No matter how you slice this, there's a problem. And I'm only willing to suspend my disbelief so far.

As far as Peekaboo goes, didn't you also want horror elements in Haven, and, if I recall correctly, implement some? If that's the case, then no, I'll pass.

Heart of Darkness:

Cleril:
//Snip

Heavy, heavy, heavy implication. Here's why:
--Significant name: Why call it Frostbite if it's not cold year round?
--Glaciers: are a part of any arctic ocean. You said so yourself, in this thread, that there are glaciers in the water.
--Climate: If it's not cold year round, and actually does warm up, then you should be able to grow some sort of crop. The area you've depicted most closely represents the taiga biome, which can produce legumes. From your implications, even this isn't possible, hence the building of a climate control device. If it isn't possible, then you've created a tundra region, which raises more problems (as trees cannot grow in tundra, and there is clearly a forest).
--The ocean itself: These don't freeze easily, especially in seasonal areas. Since you depict AND imply ice in the ocean, this has to be a polar ocean.

As an aside to that, ice tends to freeze in sheets, not "dots." Even if it is broken up (from the shipwreck), you can still maneuver a rowboat through it; there's no need to go for the, once again, impractical and improbable solution. No matter how you slice this, there's a problem. And I'm only willing to suspend my disbelief so far.

As far as Peekaboo goes, didn't you also want horror elements in Haven, and, if I recall correctly, implement some? If that's the case, then no, I'll pass.

Well, people call Greenland and Iceland polar opposites. Greenland is actually mostly ice and Iceland is mostly green. After all Haven is the first town's name and quite clearly it isn't much of a Haven for anyone at it's current state.

Different horror though is present in Haven. In Haven it's pop-out scares and just creepy stuffs going on in the insomnia quests.

In Peekaboo it's purely psychological. There might be a pop-out scare or two but the main focus is on what you perceive inside your own head. Even then the puzzles will be original if the horror doesn't grab you.

Cleril:
Well, people call Greenland and Iceland polar opposites. Greenland is actually mostly ice and Iceland is mostly green. After all Haven is the first town's name and quite clearly it isn't much of a Haven for anyone at it's current state.

Different horror though is present in Haven. In Haven it's pop-out scares and just creepy stuffs going on in the insomnia quests.

In Peekaboo it's purely psychological. There might be a pop-out scare or two but the main focus is on what you perceive inside your own head. Even then the puzzles will be original if the horror doesn't grab you.

And? Who doesn't know that? Greenland was only called that to attract people; Iceland to deter people from the comfortable climate and hot springs. Iceland's warm climate comes primarily from the warm water currents that pass by the island, giving it a subpolar oceanic climate; Greenland is comprised of tundra, subarctic, and arctic regions. Also, what does this have to do with the debate on geography, exactly?

And meh. Psychological horror in games doesn't tend work on me, at least from the games I've played. It didn't affect me in Mother 3 to the same level it did Itoi. But, since I wasn't phased at all by the horror in Haven, I don't think it'll affect me at all in Peekaboo.

In light that this was already made for this game, and I have no desire to make a new thread just to post my opinion. Here is my review.

Haven
A small review.

Do I think?
That is the opening question in the game of Haven. From here we are set up for an RPG diving into the "haven" of a small boy's mind. From there we are dropped in the island named Haven. Already loving the naming system being used here. At least I won't have to remember a lot of name for my review.
So we start out walking around Haven in the shoe of Cleril. A bard of sorts that seems to enjoy running errands for the Mayor and braking up marriages. It should also be noted that he is a poet, as this save a man's from committing suicide. I must say that I like the idea of words causing a man to look deep into his soul and find his inner worth, but I am in this for the game. So moving on.
Running around doing the Mayors busy work seems to be Cleril lot in life, as that is almost all he does. I guess I should ask to much of a teacher, but I wanted to go on some guest. Go sailing or something. Baking and sobering up people was not in the job description. I also like to go on record that basements should not be used as grave sites.
The graphic are 8 bit and there is nothing bad about that. It brings me back to my Final Fantasy days. Text base chatting and pictures for talking to people, reading what the character is seeing and looking at. Not a bad formula to use. Well tested and refined. The land mass is colorful where establishment are gray and brown. Which has that real world appeal.
Music is classic. It's mode setting and well used in each area. I felt a little sad in the grave are and happy in the garden. Effects are minimum, but good. Not much else can be said. One gripe I had was that the piano 'solo' seemed to have a sting instrument playing along, most likely a chello. I know that sounds like nagging, but I do have a bit of a music critic in me.
I should go over how there is a HP \ MP gauge and other an hour in and nothing caused me to lose 1% of either one. But the creator admitted to me that this was an unfinished work, as well as his first attempt to make a game. So this is more of testing the mechanics and what he could accomplish. So if this is to compare as an artist getting his feet wet, this would be a sketch. A rough piece with no depth or character of it's own. But that is what it is supposed to be. It's testing the waters, picking up a brush for the first time, a rough draft. So as a game, I was bored. But as an observe to an up and coming artist, I was impressed that he did this all on his own. Do I think? Yes, but I am trying not too.

Atlus0016:
-snip-

Was it really necessary to necro a thread that's been dead for a half of a year? You would get more feedback by posting your reviews in new threads, rather than appending them to someone else's. I know you don't want to start a thread just to post your opinion, but really that's all a review is: your opinion based on your experience of the game(s) you review.

But, just for the heck of it: if you do want to get better as a writer, you're going to need to work on using transitions and work on phasing sentence fragments and run-ons from your writing. More proofreading would have also been nice, as it could've eliminated the few grammatical errors your review had in what was otherwise above-average grammar. As a final point, expand on your points, and try to go into why/why not the things do(n't) work, and put breaks between your paragraphs for better readability.

I'd still suggest you post this in a new thread, though.

 

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