It has been well established that Steam Greenlight was a disaster. Due to an absence of quality control aside from a fee, it allowed the service to become flooded with dozens of poorly made and amateurish titles ranging from buggy Minecraft clones, dull and substance-less walking simulators, Twine novels, horribly drawn and translated visual novels, and dozens of “retro throwbacks” that look like Atari 2600 titles and bare more similarities to the Shovelware published by LJN than any of the classics. There were even periods where games made to encourage violence towards gay and transgender people and games with literal snuff footage made it onto the service, and the latter is STILL UP!
Another example of these pervasive trends includes RPG Maker titles; those being games developed in the RPG Maker game engine. It is usually very easy to tell when games were made using this engine due to various reasons. There is a distinguished look that RPG Maker has, and changing this visual style will often require alterations to the engine which will not happen since RPG Maker is often used as a crutch by amateur developers.
That is not to say that RPG Maker games are inherently bad, as there have been a number of great games made in the engine such as To the Moon, Haven, Mad Father, Cognitive Dissonance, Ao Oni, and Actual Sunlight. The problem is that these games tend to be in the minority, and most RPG Maker titles tend to come in one of two variations. The first variation from an experienced and professional developer that uses RPG Maker to save time and put out a large number of well made products in a short period of time. The obvious problem with this approach is that it has an obvious “quantity over quality” mindset and shows that there isn’t much thought put into new ideas.
The other one is a game made by an amateur developer who uses the engine as a tool to counteract their lack of experience. As someone who has very briefly tried to create something with RPG Maker, I can definitely say that it is still difficult to fully comprehend; so I can only imagine how difficult it would be to program an engine from scratch. As such, I find myself being one of the rare few who gives RPG Maker games a chance and decides to judge them on their own merits.
Unfortunately, amateur developers still make amateur mistakes, and ambition cannot offset a lack of knowledge and experience. Despite being a finished product, Final Quest is one of, if not the worst, RPGs I have ever played, and it has very little redeeming quality. The only positive I can think of, beyond scrounging for basic features like “there are no major bugs” is that the music is decent. Additionally, I have tried listening through the RPG Maker VX Ace soundtrack and have not noticed any of the defaults used. Unfortunately, the music SOUNDS like it would be default RPG Maker material, and for all I know it could have been music from another version. Hell I am pretty sure the title screen music is default since I briefly used RPG Maker enough to see the default title screen. I can also tell because the upbeat adventurous tune does not fit with a title screen with a dark and depressing color scheme.
Everything else may or may not have been default assets, by my money is going on the former. The reason for this is quite simple; nothing about this game is original. Even the title is just a combination of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. If you want to take this even further, another game also combined the titles of those two games that was called Dragon Fantasy. It should be worth noting that Dragon Fantasy was a parody, and thus can get away with a half-assed title for comedic effect. Additionally, Dragon Fantasy was made from scratch and not using an engine someone else created.
Even though the creator of RPG Maker does allow the defaults to be used in commercial products, I still cannot help but feel it isn’t even ethical to put something up for sale that is mostly made up of someone else’s work. It would not be that different from if people started selling rom hacks as professional products. I am not saying that games using another person’s engine are inherently unethical considering that the creators of the original engine are getting paid, but if one is serious about creating a game then one should at least try to make it look like it was their own vision.
Games are supposed to be art and art is a reflection of self, so what does it say about the quality of one’s work when it looks like it looks like a by the numbers assembly line product literally made in a program called “RPG Maker?” The real problem with most RPG Maker games isn’t that they all look the same; it’s that they inherently all ARE the same. While having a pre-made engine does make it easier for an amateur to create a game, the limitations of the system are always going to limit what can and can’t be implemented into these games. The only way around this would be to make alterations to the engine itself, and most amateurs are not going to be capable of that.
Without RPG Maker, amateur developers are forced to either git gud enough to create their own engine or give up. While RPG Maker helps new creators learn more as they go along, that also means that the bar is lowered and that there will be more poorly made products. Simply put, RPG Video was not qualified to make a product fit for a professional release on a service like Steam (Ignore the fact that Steam has a terrible reputation for a lack of quality control. I’m talking about how it SHOULD be, not how it is.). This is not just from the fact that Final Quest was bad, but from the fact that they released 5 games within the second half of 2016. The fact that they haven’t made anything since then may show that they are trying to improve themselves and make a more advanced game, but they should have been doing this before putting their products on Steam and stuck to a site like Itch.io.
If there were any unique graphics or sound effects used for Final Quest, then it will certainly be news to me. Yes, the assets can still be used well, but that would require a sense of nuance, and the towns in Final Quest are absolutely lifeless. You know how in most RPGs, you can talk to NPCs and can go inside houses; you know, the kind of stuff that we assume these games have by default? These things exist in Final Quest, but it will appear as if RPG Video got bored of programming them after a few days (or hours, I have no idea how long it takes to program this stuff) and left a lot of NPCs who will stand still with no dialogue prompt, and houses with visibly open entrances that you can’t go inside. Additionally, enemies during battle are often facing the screen as if this game had a first person Dragon Quest view of battles, but the actual battles are designed with a side view ala Final Fantasy. This only makes battles look even more awkwardly designed.
Worst of all is how the Kickstarter backers were implemented into this game. Ignoring the fact that this game shouldn’t even need a Kickstarter campaign considering how infinitely higher quality games have been made on their own, RPG video decides to honor the people who paid for their game to be made by putting their names on signs placed at random throughout the game. Good games made through Kickstarter find a clever way to incorporate their backers into the game, such as letting them write their own piece of dialogue or even have a boss based after them. Final Quest just randomly writes their name on a sign that serves no purpose in the game other than to break immersion.
I am normally very hesitant to use the word “lazy” when describing a game considering that it is a lot harder to develop a game than most would think, and it comes across as incredibly arrogant when someone calls a developer lazy over a design decision that could have very well existed due to a lack of budget or being rushed. However, there is no word that can describe this decision other than lazy. It’s not just a case of the game being less good, it’s downright disrespectful to the people who put their own hard earned cash into this game. Additionally, most of the backer rewards consisted of being able to pick the names of characters, places, abilities, and enemies “within reason,” meaning you can’t even give them ridiculous names, which is stupid because your Kickstarter will get a lot more money when 4chan finds out about it and donates en masse so they can name every character after a racial slur. The top rewards are a physical copy of the game, soundtrack, and a T-shirt; how thrilling! Considering that the lowest one could pledge was five Pounds and it now costs one dollar on Steam, I’m thinking the backers feel pretty ripped off.
Literally just put in the middle of a dungeon without context.
The story is so flat that I can barely even remember it or the names of any of the characters other than Ralph, the main character. All I can clearly remember is that Ralph and his friends are on a quest to defeat an evil villain and he promised his mom this is his “Final Quest” in a bit that was basically screaming “hey look, we actually had a reason for the name Final Quest. We aren’t actually ripping off Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest!” Of course if that one time wasn’t enough, they shoehorn in title drops ad nauseam with so little subtlety that it may as well have Peter Griffin show up and say “Ah Ah! He said it!”
Then why is there a sequel?
Afterwards, you fight against a bad guy whose name I can’t remember, but get defeated in a scripted battle that probably could have worked as a normal boss in a well balanced game, and then you need to travel to a bunch of temples before you can fight the big bad again. I am not really sure because I could not bring myself to complete this game due to its terrible design that I’ll get to later. Really, it doesn’t matter what the story is because it is not interesting at all. Every character has zero personality and the dialogue is horrendously written.
I do not even mean this in that it is bland or lifeless; I mean that it is not even grammatically correct. Sentences have awkward structure that often lack commas which results in almost every other line being a run, on sentence with no breaks or pauses that goes on a lot longer than it should like this. Furthermore, you will have lines like “they are the eviliest creatures in the whole of Paylea” that forget capitalization, use made up words like “evilest” that sound like something George W Bush would say, and use the awkward phrasing “the whole of Paylea” when they could have just said “in Paylea.” Might I remind you that this game was written in English by a native English speaker yet still possesses Zero Wing level Engrish that would give your English teacher nightmares?
Of course, there is also the gameplay element to consider. Technically one doesn’t even need to have a new battle system to be good gameplay wise; they just need to be well balanced and offer a hard but fair challenge or have something engaging about its gameplay, but I’m sure we all know how that turns out unless you didn’t pay attention to the context clues, in which case your English teacher will be disappointed. Why yes, I seem to be mentioning English teachers a lot in this review. This game has made me think about English class instead of playing video games because it’s just that bad.
The battle system is, predictably, an active time battle system in the same vain as Final Fantasy IV through IX; as well as a bunch of other RPG Maker games because it’s the default system. You play with whatever characters the plot demands you play as but can only use four at a time even when you have more than four in your party; and you can’t switch them out. The only customization is that you can choose Ralph’s character class early on in the storyline where they don’t explain what the differences between each of the classes are and you can’t switch to a different one.
Of course that won’t really matter because battles in Final Quest are absolutely mindless. The battles pretty much amount to “press confirm to win.” The only time things become any different is if an enemy afflicts you with a status ailment or drains your MP, and these are nothing more than an annoyance considering how plentiful item drops are. Battles will inevitably get boring fast and you will just want to get on with the game, but the exospheric random encounter rate will not let that happen. The encounter rate in this game is on the same level as Phantasy Star Gaiden, Black Sigil, and Final Fantasy Legend II in that you will have multiple random encounters that happen after only one step, and you will see them multiple times in a row.
This would normally be bad on its own, but when you combine it with Final Quest’s labyrinthine dungeons, you end up with a game that’s tantamount to unplayable. The first dungeon in Final Quest was badly designed, but it could at least be navigated without a map. It was badly designed because it had long off shooting paths that lead to dead ends and just made the player waste their time dealing with the encounter rate. It also had enemies that you can visibly run into and had them crowd up corridors to the point where you would have to fight five of them to pass through. Yeah, this one was good by Final Quest standards.
Other dungeons are mazes that consist of multiple paths in separate directions that loop back around to each other, and no way to tell them apart because everything looks the same. It may have been manageable through trial and error if you didn’t have the encounter rate to deal with, but otherwise it causes you to forget where you are when you’re done with battle. I spent about an hour wandering through the game’s second dungeon before reaching the boss. But wait, the game has a free strategy guide available, and by strategy guide I mean a bunch of screenshots with almost no text until over halfway through.
There really is no reason to play Final Quest unless you want a prime example of how not to make an RPG. Its price has been dropped to $1.00, but even one dollar can contribute to one’s personal benefit. I cannot think of any reason to play Final Quest other than to see how bad it is; but I’d actually recommend some people do for that reason. I constantly see gamers who will unironically proclaim that professionally made AAA games are the worst they have ever played, and I cannot help but cringe in response
The thing to understand is that no developer intentionally sets out to make bad games to scam people out of their money. Everyone wants to create something that players can enjoy, and just about everyone has their own vision for a possible game. That’s why I can say that Jonathon Morgan had good intentions with this game, and it’s clear he wanted this to be bigger than it was. Final Quest is the video game equivalent of the American Idol contestant that thinks they have what it takes to be a star, only for them to do horribly in the auditions and embarrass themselves. Yes, Final Quest is a bad game, but most of the time; someone’s first attempt is not going to go well. One only improves through experience and practice, as cliche as it may sound; and THAT’S when you should start out with a professional release.
The mistake was not in creating Final Quest; it was in releasing it on Steam and presenting it as a professional product when it is just not up to that level of quality. The only way I can see someone appreciating Final Quest is if they are new to using RPG Maker themselves and are using it as a tool to teach themselves. Unfortunately, there are a ton of other RPG Maker games that will serve this same purpose.
Final Quest was actually RPG Video’s 2nd game according to GameFAQ’s release data, and there is actually a Final Quest II; the only sequel that less people asked for than Knack 2. However, there has been nothing from them since last year, and they have since then been working on a new game called Sol Ni Koro, and that one actually looks pretty sweet. It is also worth mentioning that they have been very well receptive to criticism, probably more so than I would be capable of. When you can hear someone comment “scrap the whole thing” but focus more on the legit points that they provided than the way they said it you know that they really care about their work.
They also said that the game is getting a patch that will fix a lot of the issues, but I’m skeptical considering that such a thing would be changing so much that it may as well be a different game. It seems like a more logical approach would just be to move on to something else since I don’t see how this game can be profitable anymore and its reputation is completely shattered, but if the game is getting a complete overhaul then I’m not complaining. Either way, this is likely the Final Quest for Ralph and his crew, but hopefully this is just the beginning for RPG Video.
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