It's been a year and a half since I downloaded the rom for DS title, not so well known (which is a shame cos despite all the shortcomings I think it could be a great inspiration for game devs interested in innovative gameplay) and peculiar Avalon Code.
It caught my attention because of the interesting mechanics and the plot that revolves around the magic, sentient book...
I've been playing it on and off for the past while and decided to throw in the towel and write a post about my experience with it instead. I haven't come across a better concept for a game in a long time, but it was poorly implemented, classic instance of unrealized potential... As in the Old Testament stories, god Kullervo (WEF) is dissatisfied with the creation and how the world is unfurling, so he decides to obliterate it, performing a kind of great reset and you've been given the task of saving what you deem worthy in the Book of Prophecy
(external hard disk of sorts)... To record something in it's pages (it can be anything from a living organism to a weapon) the player must perform a "Code Scan". Code is something like a DNA of an objects and it's represented by puzzle pieces of different shapes and sizes that fit into the object's grid. Player is not just a mere archivist but more of a Demiurge figure as creating different combinations of codes, by adding and removing them, can have a major effect on the object, changing its properties. For instance I removed stone code from stone goblin and added to it ill code, making it easier to kill.. Later I added that stone code to warm loaf of bread, turning it to stone bread, but apart from the name and color, nothing substantial changes... This cool mechanic isn't used well enough in my opinion, cos imagine how fun it would be if by adding a dog code to a sword, you were wielding a bristled mutt
But the biggest downside for me, since I played it on my Android phone (yeah, don't ask
) is that rotating the screen rotates the controls
One half of a split DS screen is reserved for the book and the interface controls on DraStic emulator are in the way of properly interacting with it. In emulator options I can go fullscreen on the book, but sometimes I still have to awkwardly rotate my phone in order to press the correct button. The book is full of content with hundreds of pages, and from the start I felt irritation creeping in... I highly doubt this would be a problem on a desktop computer but it is what it is, since my gaming hours are reserved for the roads.
This was just an introduction to my problems with the game cos MP (Mystic Points) is required to use items, such as our delicious stone bread... You are also spending MP every time you add or remove a code in the book, which is a major hassle, as you can refill the bar only by sleeping in your house or by performing combos during fights..
Almost every page in the book has a CP (Code Points) value (map pages, character pages, item pages, even your page). Certain actions will increase that value, depending on the type of page. For non-dungeon map pages, it all comes down to exploring, and by "exploring" I mean pressing A. Every area has three to five hot-spots to be examined, each of which will add CP. There is no indication of where these hot-spots are, which means running around mashing the A button on everything that looks even vaguely interesting. Worse, even when you're looking at the right object, it often won't register unless you're in the right position.
Character CP increases as you talk to NPCs, giving them gifts and doing sidequests for them. They also have "aspirations", which are certain combinations of codes that yield the highest possible CP for the page.
Once you gather enough CP, the book will level up. This will eventually expand the code grid (or Mental Map, to give it its proper name)... On the paper everything sounds über fun but the sad truth is that soon everything becomes stale, and you are just going through the motions as you try to trigger the next chapter point.
As with many aspects of Avalon Code, I like the idea of it... I liked the idea of exploration being a goal unto itself, but for that to work, there must be well-designed maps with interesting stuff to find. Landmarks, ruins, relics, things that have stories attached to them. Things that someone tasked with recording the world would care to record. Instead the game quickly devolves into dungeon delving which is the least interesting part of it, and experimenting with various codes frustrating MP menagement... Please don't be deterred by my negative review, cos despite all the complaints, I think this is pretty unique title that every fan of JRPGs should at least give a try...