Xerion is the latest demo release from MADSOFT games. This installment only spans about 30 minutes, with promises of another release next month. Unfortunately, I hope that with the next demo, several issues that are present are fixed before more content is added.
You play as Tyler, a young man who is teleported into what looks like a warzone on some other planet. Upon arriving on the other side, you meet a man who encourages you to follow him to safety. After this point, you are free to search the area. One of the first things you will notice is that Tyler, your average teenager, is actually a pretty darn good swordsman. Not that it really matters though, because your newfound friend is a beast himself. There is a chest or two, and you are also bound to fight against some guards. You eventually make it to an area with the device responsible for bringing you to this planet. The man your team meets there explains that they were actually trying to send warriors to this planet to help in the war at present. Instead, the machine seems to have malfunctioned to due an explosion nearby, thus bringing you here by accident. They explain that Tyler will not be able to leave until the machine is fixed, which is unfortunately powered by the rare Xerion rocks (or the four elemental crystals). Shortly thereafter, some guards show up and the men you just met urge you to take the escape route via a trapdoor.
You are then dumped into a “dungeon”, where you are once again free to roam around. There is not much to discover here besides a lone prisoner who asks for your help and some rats in the walls. After searching a few of these “rat holes” you discover a key to the prisoner’s chamber. You immediately trust him to help you get out of the dungeon alive. As you further delve into the dungeon, you make your way through a short sewer and are pitted against a gigantic slime. Once you make short work of him, you end up in your first town.
Again, there is not much to do or see here. You can talk with some of the townsfolk, but you will find that most of them say the exact same thing. There are two weapon and armor shops in the same town for some reason. You can also hire a White Mage to help you, but you won’t really need it. The only thing you can really do at this point is visit the tavern in the southern section of town. Up on the wall, you will find a prospect, or quest, posted by a man named Glenn to defeat a Mutant Tree in a forest somewhere. Because you are stuck here anyways, and have nothing better to do, Tyler decides to accept the challenge.
You will find Glenn in the southern desert, who tells you that the Mutant Tree can be found north of town, and to meet him in the pub after you have finished the job. Upon going north of town, you will meet a man who will join you in your quest for no apparent reason. You will eventually meet the Mutant Tree, but he proves no match for you. Back at the pub, Glenn is surprised to see you back in one piece. He gives you a reward, and the demo is over.
As you can see, there isn’t much to the story at this point. As said before, most of the townspeople say the same thing, or speak of areas not yet available in the game. There are also a few spelling errors that should have been caught given the length of the demo, but it is not a huge bother. I suppose the game will eventually revolve around getting Tyler back home, but he doesn’t seem to mind this unknown place he has come across. I hope that with the next release, we will see the story fleshed out just a bit more so that we have a better idea of what is exactly going on.
Battles are button mashing at its finest. The heroes don’t have many abilities at their disposal, and battles are incredibly easy. As mentioned before, you can purchase a White Mage to help in your quest, but it is really just overkill. His/her melee attack is strong enough to take down most foes in a couple of hits, not to mention you will never have to heal, ever. Although it is not necessary to have a huge assortment of abilities to choose from at the beginning of the game, it would be nice to have a couple of alternate attacks for each character. That way, the heroes would feel a bit more unique rather than carbon copies of each other.
MADSOFT has some ideas that unfortunately fail to be fleshed out for this release, such as the custom start screen. You are able to errorneously access the hero’s menu from it. If you climb up stairs, your characters will lose speed, which is a nice touch. This generally works fine going up stairs, but it seems to go a tile or two more than it should going back down. The script at the licensing shop is a bit buggy as well (you cannot talk to the people behind the counter after the script has been run). It seems that one must buy these “licenses” to be able to purchase certain items at the shop, much like the system used in Final Fantasy XII. MADSOFT also promises multiple class options for characters, but that is also missing from the demo. The game seems to be leaning towards a questing system, similar to the one used in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. There is only one quest to do in the demo, so it is hard to say whether or not it will be a nice addition to the game.
One thing you are likely to notice is that Xerion is HUGE for an OHR game, like 30 megs. I think this stems from some mp3 usage, even though most of the music in the demo sounds like midi files. 90% of the music is from Final Fantasy Tactics, which albeit is nice music, is a huge turnoff for me personally. Tunes that are so well known, no matter how nice they sound, generally don’t fare well with the majority of users.
The graphics are definitely the strongest point of the game. The original graphics are alright; although some of the animations are missing (most of the hero battle sprites besides Tyler do not have a “walking” animation). Some of the interior graphics are obviously ripped from Vikings of Midgard, and the battle backdrops are nice but do not match the tiles of their respective map. This leads me to beleive that they might also be ripped. Some of the enemies, especially the tree, did look nice and seem to have a lot of potential.
It is always an exciting thing when you have some playable content for a new game. However, it generally isn’t a good idea to release it as soon as possible. From personal experience, I know that this can result in bugs and errors that ultimately turn people off your game, fast. I hate to be so critical, but I feel that this stuff needs to be addressed at this point. MADSOFT has some unique gameplay ideas, but they desperately need to be tweaked, or else most will not care for the game. My suggestion would be to lose the Final Fantasy music, heck, the blatant Final Fantasy rip-off feel as a whole. Work on the questing and licensing systems, and change their names. Try putting out a bit more useful dialogue rather than having mimics run rampant throughout town. Because the class system has yet to be uncovered, I would also consider re-examining it before a release so that it is not plagued by the same problems mentioned above. I think if MADSOFT were to work on some of these problems, we could eventually have a decent game on our hands.