Hi I'm Ray Hardgrit and this is Super Adventures, I play games for an hour or two and try to figure out what they are and if they're any good. Today game is indie RPG Paper Sorcerer, the debut title by UltraRunawayGames (aka. Jesse Gallagher), and no relation as far as I'm aware to Paper Mario.
I realise the game's been out for almost a year now so it's perhaps a bit late (or half a decade too early) to show it off, but it was gifted to me by a kind and hopefully patient reader, and I promised I'd write something about it. So that's what I'm doing.
(Click the pictures to open up a bigger version and get a better look at the art).
Dragon Age's illustrated intro had an indie game synth soundtrack.
The narration explains that once there was a Sorcerer who terrorised the land with evil minions. Until one day he stopped. Lights could still be seen burning in the windows of his dark tower however, and the king decided this would would be a great time send to some of his men up there to sort the wicked wizard out.
So wait, I'm not actually playing as these guys then? Oh of course, it's going with a classic 'ultimate evil was sealed away for a thousand years... until now' plot isn't it? Man after putting nearly 100 RPGs up on the site I really should've seen that coming.
"In a blinding flash of light Sorcerer and minions were all sealed away. But that is just the beginning of our tale..."
OH! I'm playing as the defeated Sorcerer aren't I? Man I'm quick on the uptake today.
The mouse kindly lifts the insidious magic field holding me in the cell and I take my chance to make a run for it.
Fortunately clicking on a minion brings up a bit more information about how they operate, so I'm not entirely working in the dark here, but I haven't even seen how the fights play out yet so how am I know what sort of sidekick I'll need first? Though thinking about it, I could probably use someone with any kind of ability to heal, seeing as I left my first aid kit back in my evil tower.
Yeah, as tempting as it would be to bring out a werewolf monk or a skeleton paladin, I'm going to start out with a doctor, preferably one who hasn't taken an oath to do no harm.
Fine, I'll go with the boring sensible option. The cultist sounds like someone who can take a bit of punishment, and that's what I'll need considering he'll be the only thing keeping my people on their feet.
BUT THEN, IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS.
Dragon Quest style first person menu-driven turn-based battle system! I was expecting to be constantly clicking on attack icons like in Eye of the Beholder or Legend of Grimrock, but nope it's actually more similar to Final Fantasy. Actually it'd probably make more sense to compare it to the Wizardry games... except I haven't played any of them yet so I wouldn't really know.
Every turn I get to choose a single move for my Sorcerer and then his Cultist, then the guard I'm fighting gets his chance to hit me. It's not an unusual set up for an RPG really.
Fortunately the guard turned out to have a glass jaw and so it wasn't long before I relieved him of his 5 Gems, 1 Leather Helmet +6def, 1 Basic Tough Rune +10HP, and got a bit of experience for my trouble too. He didn't drop any other clothing so I suppose I must have hit him so hard that I vaporised his pants.
Oh by the way, these battles scenes are exactly how they look: motionless sprites overlaid against a static pre-illustrated background straight out of a game manual. My blokes appear on screen each turn to carry out their two frame attack animations, but there's no cel shaded 3D thing going on here.
Damn I just figured this out: I'm trapped in that bloody book aren't I? Man, I'll have to be careful with the fire magic then, I could accidentally incinerate the universe with me in it.
Plenty of other interesting things to investigate in here anyway. Like... that chest over there on the right!
Okay, there's two exits to this room so I think I'll try heading... left.
Okay, back to the other door then.
I've got a proper dialogue box here packed full of questions, so I'm finally able to fill in some of the blanks. Turns out that the mouse I met earlier is the 'Spirit of the Book', and we really are all trapped inside that Librum Claustrum artifact: the Book of Closure (or something like that). He also explains that the gems I've been collecting have value in here as they allow people a glimpse of reality through the eyes of someone else on the outside, which is a nice bit of world building.
Can't stay here chatting all day though, I'm taking my mop and going in search of exits and XP.
beepiest battle music (youtube link) I've ever heard in a hand drawn western RPG. Nice tune though, I like it.
There's another twist to combat I should mention: when a character is attacked, their defence stat is subtracted from the physical damage sent their way; so if they're hit for 8 damage and then have 10 DEF, then they lose 0 hit points. BUT, defence is worn down every time they're physically hit, so if a battle drags on long enough they'll be utterly defenceless. At least, that's my understanding of what the tutorial just told me.
So my Sorcerer can either:
1. Blast the enemy with magic whenever he has the energy, bypassing their defence entirely and dealing a good amount of damage directly to their health bar.
2. Hit them with a dagger and do limited damage, but help chip away their armour so that my other two characters can deal more hurt. Well, other one character, seeing as my Minotaur seems to have picked up a nasty status effect and is sitting this one out.
Honestly though right now it doesn't seem to matter much what I do, I'm still going to win against these low level goons. And then at the end of the fight I'll get all my defence back ready for the next set of them.
Harry Potter RPG I suffered with a couple of months back. Plus it's always nice to be able to save any time I want instead of having to hold out until the next save point.
I've got a full party now (finally got my goblin thief) and I'm managing to keep them in good health and full energy between fights just fine. I have the option to use healing magic outside of battles, but if I'm out of energy I'll be stuck using up health potions.
+3 next to my damage stat and assure me that the thing is far better than the 11-27 dmg Steel Long Sword in my hand.
A FEW HALLWAYS LATER.
Fortunately I'm playing on normal difficulty so this wasn't the massacre it could've been. I bet if I'd turned this up to '1980' mode though things wouldn't have gone so well. Difficulty modes named after years are never a good sign.
It's a good time to introduce the town I reckon, because at this point I know the systems a little and I have an idea of what stats are likely to benefit me at the moment. So I immediately dumped half my cast on the Skill Trainer and told him to make me better at defence.
First thing I need to do is to sell all the trash I've been picking up, one junk item at a time, to earn enough cash for more skill training. Actually I should probably scan through the weapon and armour lists while I'm here and see if there's anything in there that my cash might be better spent on.
My goal, given to me by the Spirit of the Book, is to tear the book apart by making my way through each block in turn and destroying the bindings. Once the bindings are broken we may do as we please. I can also return to that block I just came from, but with the rooms looted and the enemies dead there's not much point. Not much scope for grinding in this one, grind fans.
And that's Paper Sorcerer then I guess. Doesn't seem to be much point in showing off the next cellblock as I'm sure it'll be pretty similar looking.
Okay I really am turning this off now, while I still can.
Paper Sorcerer is what you get when one man sets out to create a traditional turn-based RPG... and succeeds. There's no massive twist to the tale here, at least not at the point I've played up to; it's a solid imitation of an 80s first person dungeon crawler RPG with a fresh coat of paint over the top. Not that it doesn't bring new ideas to the table, and it's certainly designed to look and sound different to the crowd, but the core of it will be very familiar to fans of the genre and they'll likely find a lot to like in it. The writing especially seems a cut above the average RPG, and you can tell from the screenshots that it usually goes for the joke without being awkward about it.
Of course I've only seen the first hour or so of it (I haven't even found a puzzle yet), so for all I know it eventually degrades into a tedious crawl as enemies take longer and longer to kill and the battle animations begin to wear out their welcome...
Right now though it seems good to me. I'd play more of it.