I would say this is what happens when a game studio doesn’t hire dedicated writers, but looking at the DarkElite Studios website, they have several. I think one of their staff is even from Blizzard, but even throwing a name like that around did nothing for MOAV. Certainly one of the worst games that someone is asking money for. I am not sure why the most terrible games I have played are mostly RPG’s, but this one made me shake my head in disappointment numerous times. It wasn’t all bad, just mostly. Come with me as I plow through this clusterfuck of under-utilized potential. Wow. What a keynote.
Let me start this review off by naming the many things this game did right. The music in Memories of a Vagabond was pretty spectacular. It was appropriate, enjoyable and I often found myself tapping a toe. Battles often found themselves alongside the usual battle-music, while the boss fights had a badass metal riff going. Music provided an acceptable variety with a new jam for each area. Granted, there were one or two recycled songs, but they were still enjoyable. Another fantastic feature of the game was the art. If you are feeling nostalgic for the old days of RPG, a la FFVI or Chronotrigger, this pixel art will definitely feed that craving. Every sprite is lovingly crafted, the areas are imaginative and exotic and the characters are pretty fancy. And when I say characters, I mean all the characters. This leads to anther really great element of the game: its soul-mechanic. Throughout the game, you get the choice of playing as 4 different characters: warrior, mage, bounty hunter and assassin. Should you die, you also get the chance to change to another body. Almost made dying worth your time. I spent most of my time, however, as the Bounty Hunter. That honestly concludes everything good that I have to say about this game. Get your snorkel out, baby. We’re going down into this shit.
Oh my godness is right. I have combed the Dark Elite site looking for evidence that they are primarily made up of people from a non-English-speaking country, but I have found nothing either way. I can say that it seems they could afford to pay for someone to look over the writing on their site, so there is no reason they shouldn’t have been able to correct the gross errors in their dialogue. And it is beyond a few adorable mistakes here and there, they literally have numerous instances of the most common errors in the English language. It seems the editing was either done by someone who is not familiar with English, or the writers just didn’t care. The main story-writers have names seemingly of French origin, so I will give them some leeway here. However, with a dedicated person for text-corrections, I have to wonder if she played through the game even once to pick up on its myriad English faux pas. I will decorate this article with examples in pictorial form as Vlad the Impaler decorated his castle with corpses: to show others what not to do. Granted in Vlad’s case, the message was “you should move to another country”.
Moving on from the language and toward the story, I have to say that this seems the biggest gripe I have over low-budget indie games. They are willing to cut out story and writing in favor of mechanics and coding, which makes some sense on the surface. Codeslingers are the ones that make the game playable. Without them the mechanics, engine and other important elements won’t work. Of course, if you skimp too hard on your writers, as MOAV seems to have done in spades, you get a game that isn’t tolerable. Some fucking morons and reckless retro fanboys might be willing to overlook such “dispensable polish” as story and language, but one of the things that was so spectacular about retro games like Final Fantasy and Chronotrigger was the level of detail they paid to story, art, music and the entire package. In this title, you have a game story that is a joke compared to those games. Your character starts off proposing to his love. No fault here. After a night in bed with his beloved where they “sleep” (I rarely believe titles anyways), she is pulled from bed by some evil demon, who then kills you. After a visit to hell you meet some soul-dealer that will rent you a new body for the low low price of any dignity you soul might possess. If you chose the old man body, that shit is on you. Later you find out, pretty unceremoniously, that the soul-dealer and the demon were working together. The best part is that the soul-dealer is all prophetic when you meet him, then, after time traveling to defeat the demon and save your lady-love, you see him sitting out front the house with the evil demon as if they are both ro-sham-bo-ing for who will steal the broad. I face-palmed. Now they aren’t actually doing this, I am being dramatic, but then he turns to you and you shout something like “traitor!” and this soul-dealing demon of fate replies, “look guy, I don’t know who you are, but I have lives to ruin right now. Take a number and get in line.” Not an exact quote, a creative paraphrase.
There is also the matter of your fellow adventurers. The only one that gets any real explanation is the bunny-girl, who spends a lot of her time early on being inadvertently sexual, and she makes a big deal out of sleeping in a bed with you. She tells her employer that she wants to explore the world, then you suggest she do it with you, to which she replies “that was my idea.” So we have some cute, though awkwardly-handled war-of-the-roses banter. Fun. The other characters are sort of just lumped into your party after you do a mission with them. Nothing is said, and you never tell them that you will be fighting demons. Imagine that conversation “Yea, I am out to find my fiancee, kill a couple eldritch demons of screaming horror, then be home in time for tea.” It almost feels like this game was getting down to the wire and they didn’t have time to throw in any real material for the characters. They are all pretty flat, beyond a mission or a little feature here or there. The hero doesn’t even allow them into the conversation most of the time, occasionally talking at them amidst exploration. As long as they bring their gear to battle. Sure, one is a mercenary, but treating that as an excuse to just have a character thrown into the party that sits there and attacks back is just lazy scriptwriting (not the code kind), and makes me think someone didn’t put more than a weekend into it.
There were also a number of 4th-wall breaking elements of the script that felt less like clever little “we’re making a game” jokes, and more like careless writing. In some places it even felt like an outright refusal to give any fucks and arrogant dick-wagging like they thought they were creating some masterwork. This is barely a finger painting. Granted, it was hung on a billion-dollar refrigerator, but Steam needs to learn how to vet its selection. This just shows low standards.
While we are talking about characters, there is this fiancee. With all the attention paid to her side of things, she might as well be a Princess Peach life-size sex doll. At least DLC Quest had the decency to call their lady “Princess McGuffin” and obviate the fact that she is little more than motivation for the hero to act. I am not one to go all activist on a game, but she is a sex-token that does nothing for indie games and treating women with any kind of respect in gaming. At the end I thought she would turn out to be the villain, but she just kind of lilts and says how glad she is to see you. Y’know, like a good little Stepford robot. See those bodies around on the ground? They are, as I realized hours later, her fucking family. The hero pays them no mind, nothing is said about them if you “interact” with them. There is no dramatic elements drawn from the wholesale slaughter of her family, and they are not explored in any fashion to give you the feeling of them being anything more than randomly selected sprites on a rooftop. There is a vague dream-sequence that I just now realized includes them, but they say these detached lines and mill about in a spectral manner. It feels like they are just figments of the dreamworld, and they have as little relevance by now as possible. Any drama to be gleaned from them is diluted heavily.
There is also the matter of ???? island. Wander to the lower-right edge of the main continent, and you will find a row boat to ???? island. It has a small town with some guy that buys journals and another lake with a fishing spot, one of two in the game that I found. Go inside the houses, and the rain follows you. Sure, there is some thatch roofing involved, but they were never this bad. Seriously, it is like aliens invaded only to replace their roofs with holograms before disappearing without evidence of having been there. At this point I realized the entire game is a broken, unfinished mess. Or so it feels. It’s almost as if the game has cardboard cut outs stuck up and put out. Sure, you could argue that publishing unfinished games is now the industry standard for indie games, and you’d be right. But that is for “pre-release” or “early-release” games, not supposedly completed titles like MOAV. And with a name attached to this like Blizzard, I have to wonder where that guy’s influence was. It must have been a case where someone knew the guy and he stood in the room and used their bathroom to give some credentials to the title. Don’t be fooled. This is not a piece of mastery, it is a shoddy piece of work that is scarcely better than the games that my friends and I made on pirated copies of RPGMaker 2000 back in middle school. Before Steam. Fuck you, shit was tough to come by.
Overall, this game is pretty easy, non-complex and has a storyline with as much depth as a snack cracker. The characters mostly feel like cardboard stand-ups and the language and writing is so god-awful unprofessional that I almost puked. I feel like this is what CoD players see at the epitome of RPG gaming, because the other RPGs are too “complicated and wordy” for their tiny brains, although I am certain they would phrase that “fagit gamez for FAGGITZ!” The best parts of this game are the music and the art, which seemed to get all of the attention. The mechanics have a lot of potential, especially the soul-changing concept, but that could have been better employed. I would have liked to see the developers give each body a different story that you had to help sort out before being able to find your own lady and resolve your own quest. Instead, this plays like a twelve-year-old raging through the world after his sex-bot is taken, bashing in the heads of any nebulous foe that appears until he gets strong enough to fight the last bad guy. There was also a battle arena, but that was literally like putting up a sign saying “grind here. we were too lazy to make an actual game.” I didn’t even bother to try fighting in there. Another point of interest. I didn’t want to purchase the services of the mercenary in the beginning, thinking “hey, the devs might have added more interesting and involved characters later.” I mean, all I did with this guy was meet him and get his axe in exchange for armor. Then at the end, each character gets a nostalgic little send-off, which would be great, except that there was no bonding with the characters. There was no interaction. Just, “I helped you so you’re now my friend that will help me get my sex-doll back.” This game costs money , too. It is currently 5.99$ on Steam. 5.99$!!!! I wouldn’t give them a turd in a blanket for this game, let alone 5.99$. This game should be 0.12$ on itch.io or Desura, not cluttering up Steam and making it dirty. Not recommended, but you are certainly welcome to make your own judgments on this one. Steam needs to get some standards, this game is evidence.