In Chronicles of a Dark Lord by Kisareth Studios, you take the role of an atypical ‘hero’. Rather than the usual RPG kid-turned-hero, you’re taking on the role of a kid-turned-evil who goes after even more evil than his amount of evil. I know, I could’ve totally phrased that better. You still understood though, right?
The game has… some cool things, and some not cool things. But lets start at the beginning!
First thing you get when you start the game is an option for resolutions. It’s an RPG Maker game, and so the engine make the resolution choices so very, very odd. I have nothing against RPG Maker games, truly, but this one just seemed to bump into all the things I don’t like about RPG Maker as an engine. Not the least of which was trying to take a screenshot, and ending up closing the game without a warning. Hah. That was not an amusing moment, specially because the game starts with a rather long, somewhat boring, friggin’ unskippable intro scene made of text about how dark the whole thing is and will be, and the fight of darkness and light, and the chronicles of the Dark Lord, and etc, etc, etc. Yawn. Can we not learn this while we’re playing? I mean, I appreciate some backstory, but this is the first episode/installment, so shouldn’t the story begin here? And this is a game. If I want to read a book, I’ll go grab one, not a game.
I get it, it’s dark. It’s right on the title. Lets move long!
Already from the get-go I’m torn about the art. Even if I like RPGs like this, pixel art is not my favorite style, but I know you can do really neat stuff with it, and really cute (and really dark) stuff as well, but the pixel art on this looks pretty generic. The tiles that make up the world are, too me, too bold and bright, and I don’t mean it only for the story type and ambiance (which as I understand, is ~dark~). The character sprites are cute and I like them, but again: they’re generic to RPG maker. The character heads when the text pops up are also cute, but all characters are rather similar to one another, by which I mean there is a limited amount of sprite bases that had hair type and color and eye color interchanged. Some had some differences, but for the most, they were all too similar, and all too basic-RPG Maker style. It would’ve been nice if, for a change, they would’ve had some expression in the avatars that went along with the emotions of what was being said, or just… general, notable differences.
I’ll also say it’s consistently inconsistent in its art. During the fights (more on the battle system later) the enemy sprites are turned into larger, grown-up sprites with a lot more detail. This would not be so bad, except that they 1. don’t match the background with the level of detail and 2. don’t match your own sprites, which are still tiny chibified things. Reading on it, I came to find out that was actually a choice by the developer to keep it this way… and a (relatively recent at the time of starting this review) update. Just why you would change one sprite and not the other is beyond me.
You see what I mean? It just doesn’t fit.
Moving onto the sound aspect, the music is fairly good, but quite repetitive, so I ended up lowering the volume for it (which I often do anyway). We get a decent range of options on the menu, by the way, rare in RPG Maker games… and a save-anytime button there too. Cookie points for that. I do like compulsively saving every five minutes and after cut-scenes.
The gameplay is rather typical of most old styled RPGs – move around the map with your keyboard, interact with enter, esc for cancelling things. If you’ve played RPGs before you will be used to checking absolutely everything, from shelves to barrels to piles of hay… and the good thing about Chronicles is, in this, it does pay off. You can get some items for your trouble and find out amusing things – like the piano not being just decoration but actually getting to make some music out of it (it’s no mini-game mind you, just the interaction sound), or the cat actually meowing at you, or how they went through the trouble of putting your wife’s photo in a frame on your bedroom – it’s a nice detail, but it’s made too obvious with, again, slightly clashing styles in the pixel art.
Some of the maps are rather big and empty, even though you can tell they tried to fill it up aesthetically. It’s a weird contradiction, but there you have it. On the upside, you can run (or ‘dash’), which is cool.
The battle system is simple and concise, and also interesting. I was quite fond of it. It’s a typical turn based, random-encounter styled fight system, however, it’s not really random at all. You have a very nifty bar at the top which fills as you walk around certain areas, and when it’s full, you have an encounter. If you stop, the bar slowly depletes. Thus, you can sort of control if you want to have an encounter or not, and it’s not entirely random. The skills you can get through leveling up make sense, seem balanced enough, and are no bloat. You’ll probably have a use for everything you end up having. The art, however… as I’ve already said, is inconsistent and slightly distracting. The only downside was I couldn’t find a way to see the enemy HP, which was really annoying.
I’ve already touched a bit on the story, but it’s basically this:
It’s been foreordained that some kid would be born that would inherit some dark powers and be evil, but would also be the savior of the world in some war or another with an even eviler evil. Oh well, the better of two evils, right? The game gets cookie points for originality in actually being (one of the) the bad guy(s).
The names of the characters are kind of fanfiction-y, and so seem to be their personality types (and there’s not a lot of personality or types in them); so is the lesbianism, which would be better if it actually made sense in the story, but ends up just seeming gratuitous (again, I have no trouble with this normally, but it either has to make sense or the game be strictly about it). By the way, the ‘fanfitcion-y’ thing was not a compliment. (Disclaimer: I know there’s good fanfiction out there, that’s not the one I was referring to).
It seems like they wanted to give you options, like being really evil or not so evil, and they promise it will affect the outcome of the story, but I couldn’t notice any major impact during gameplay on what your choices are save for the occasional option to kill a random NPC – and a few times it wasn’t even an option at all – and even that didn’t seem to have great consequences. Granted, I got too fed up with the game to see it through the end.
Also, the game is trying too hard at everything. It tries too hard to be dark and gothic, and then they throw out “funny” lines that make it try too hard to be funny in a not-dark-at-all kind of way (as opposed to finding humour within the darkness of it).
Finally, there’s no steam overlay. That was sad. Very, very sad. But it’s to be expected with RPG Maker games, so...
The game offers some 20 to 25 hours of generic gameplay, so if you’re very into old styled RPGs and don’t care much about the downsides of it, or if it’s on sale, then it might still be worth the money. Otherwise… I'd steer clear.
TL;DR: Generic art, decent music, meh story, undecided style, cookie points for an attempt at originality.
Would I recommend it? Not unless you’re very into RPGs.