SKYBORN / Dancing Dragon / PC

I haven't played a lot of RPG Maker games, but the engine does not exactly have a sterling general reputation for quality. You do find some well-made gems in the rough here and there though, and Skyborn is one of them. It calls back to the SNES 16-bit classics of the genre, and while it isn't on par with the greats of that era, it does hit enough of the same notes to be enjoyable for genre fans -- especially those that don't want to get bogged down in some 50-hour opus with tons of level grinding.

It's set in a steampunk-ish world occupied by a ruling class of Skyborn, winged humanoids who apparently won a war with and subjugated the humans at some point in the past. They seem to let humans go about their business for the most part, but they persecute the shit out of half-breed human-Skyborns. Apparently these half-breeds are the only ones who can use magic, though, so they kidnap the children and torture them to test them for magical abilities, and the ones that don't have them get kicked into the ghetto.

Anyway, we play as Claret, an ace mechanic who heads up her family's airship repair shop. Unfortunately for her, her brother sells the shop out from under her, and an arranged marraige is part of the bargain, so she flips out and steals an airship. Since the total playtime is only about 8 to 10 hours, this leads right into a breakneck chain of events that will have Claret joining an underground resistance and fighting to drive the Skyborn out of her homeland.

Despite the dark-ish story, the tone is light and frequently jokey, reminiscent of Skies of Arcadia and Lufia 2. It's also not at all a difficult game. Now, to be fair to the creator, it is billed on Steam as a "casual" game, so you should have some idea of that coming in. But there's health/mana refill points scattered liberally around the dungeon areas, which are never long or complicated anyway. The only challenging bits are a few boss battles that represent sudden jags in difficulty, which the game really just expects you to be on top of your equipment for. Since Claret is a mechanic, there's a crafting system, but it's pretty simple and non-obnoxious. There's a handful of raw material types you can grab out of dungeon walls here and there, and when you find a forge you can basically pick one of these plus a weapon or armor type to make something. There's also an "augment" system where you buy and find gems and such and fuse them into the weapons and armor for boosts.

Again, I haven't played much RPG Maker stuff but scuttlebutt around forums and such is that the game uses a lot of stock assets and enemies, and the battle system is the stock Dragon Quest style of the engine, the only modification being a "Threat" system whereby enemies will prioritize attacking characters that are dealing out the most damage. Without knowing which tiles are stock and which are custom, I thought the world was well-constructed and visually appealing, but RPG Maker vets might chafe at the recycled assets. Though the dungeons are short and simple and towns are on the small side, they're well laid-out, and enemies are visible sprites and can be avoided. The only issue there was that every enemy in the game uses the stock "Imp" sprite, and they all have the same lazy random movement pattern and never go aggro on you.

One point of aesthetic strength is that the designer is a composer by trade, so there's a completely original soundtrack that's pretty good. There's a few songs that sound suspiciously like famous RPG songs, for example the forest town theme sounds like the forest music from Chrono Trigger was kinda just cut up and rearranged, but for the most part it's good.

On the whole I thought the game was pretty good if you don't mind a lighter, less involved Final Fantasy Mystic Quest sort of RPG experience. The only thing I really question here is the price - $15 seems a lot to ask for something that uses so many generic / re-used assets. Keep an eye out for it on a seasonal sale or in a Bunduru if you like the old-school SNES RPGs, though.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video