In this new era of the indie game, you can’t swing a stick without hitting a few dozen or so retro RPGs asking for your attention. A combination of Steam Greenlight, Sony’s adoption of the indie scene and easy to use utilities like RPGmaker have made the indie scene bigger than ever. The problem now with so many of these games out there jockeying for position is how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
Back at the start of this month, a little RPG quietly went up on Kickstarter. This game, Legena: Union Tides, is one of the few that really stick out as something special to me.
The game revolves around Tetiro, the King of a foreign land called Orenna. This young King is taken in by the fairy tales of his land’s past and meets a strange man known only as “scholar” that coerces him into finding a defeating the “Narrator.”
This Narrator is considered a mere legend, a monster meant to keep children in line and give people something to talk about around campfires, but the romantic idea of finding and defeating him enchants Tetiro and he and his friend/advisor Atesan decide to go after him.
What I like about Legena is that it adds a few neat little kinks in the tired old JRPG formula that make it appealing. Most notable among these is an impressive reputation system tied into the conversations that change the way your party members perform in battle. At several times during the game, you are asked to choose a response to your party member’s questions.
The answers you give can increase or decrease their loyalty to you, resulting in changes to how they perform in combat. This is usually something you find in a modern RPG and it caught me a bit by surprise when I encountered it in a retro 8bit indie RPG. It adds a little bit of freedom to the usually unchangable/static JRPG gameplay we’ve been accustomed to.
Another thing that adds some freedom to the mix is how spells are handled. Rather than learning them at level-up, you find feathers in the game world that can be equipped to your characters and give them new magic. Like Materia in Final Fantasy 7 (Or Mystec in Anachronox) these items can be given to whomever you wish, letting you craft characters more tailored to your taste.
Yet another little twist is that you can manipulate the game’s weather, giving you bonuses in combat. Casting a weather spell can give you a nice edge in a tough fight, especially when a big meteor falls down on an enemy that is whooping you.
Also of note is the music. Though the video I linked at the top of the article doesn’t show it, the music is *very good*. It has that SNES aesthetic other indie RPGs have without sounding like a Nobuo Uematsu tribute. If I was the creator I’d swap the music out of his Kickstarter video with the song that plays during the walkabout in the first town.
It’s getting crowded on Kickstarter, sure, but I will say that Legena is one of the better games asking for a shot on the service. You can donate to them here on their project page and hopefully help them reach their £5,000 goal.