By Phil Schipper / June 1st, 2015
|Title||Remnants of Isolation|
|Release Date||May 1, 2015|
A young girl has been trapped in a cage for as long as she can remember. One day, suddenly, the door opens, and she goes out to find a young man fighting the hideous monsters around them. He, too, has been condemned to live in this empty, lifeless castle forever. Together, their journey begins in Remnants of Isolation.
The basic structure of Remnants of Isolation is rooted in the engine of RPG Maker VX Ace, with some modifications to fit the partner system. Instead of a full party, you face your adventure with only the two characters. Each one is a gifted magic user that has access to two types of magic in battle: innate magic and card magic. The characters learn innate magic as they level up, granting various bonuses, stealing health from enemies, or other effects. Card spells have to be found and equipped in each character’s limited slots, encompassing elemental and healing magic.
The two characters take their turn together, in either order the player chooses. If you cast an innate spell with one character, then a card spell with the other, the card spell will be enhanced and turned into another technique entirely. With that, you can cause status effects, spread your spells to multiple targets, give your characters elemental barriers, and much more. Most of the time, your turns will be spent going after these combinations, because they’re very effective. You do have to strategize based on mana — you start with only a small amount and gain some each turn — but guarding also gives you a boost to it. Altogether, this is one RPG where you will find yourself rarely, if ever, using the normal attack command — not a bad thing in a world where mindlessly using the same skill repeatedly is the norm.
The two also bring their own contributions to the map field. Celesta can play her magic keyboard for various effects, while Melchior has the ability to jump across gaps. The latter sometimes separates the two, so you end up having to battle with only one character — a jarring challenge that makes you thankful you have two characters the rest of the time. There’s a decent amount of exploration and even a few puzzles outside of this mechanic, which isn’t interrupted by too many battles. The visible on-map encounters, which stay gone until you leave the zone entirely, make sure of that.
The adventure itself isn’t very complicated. Since the two of you are trapped inside a huge, monster-filled castle with no exits, the game’s story is mainly about trying to escape. However, you will frequently encounter the corpses of those who had been locked in here previously and died, along with their diaries. Their stories are relevant to yours in surprising ways, bringing an interesting kind of emotion to a game that would otherwise have little dialogue. As you finish, you’ll get the chance to close the story off with one of three different endings. You can pretty much see the branches coming and make a save beforehand, so, unfortunately, they don’t add any replay value to the game. The first two are sort of predictable and unrewarding, but I have to admit that the final ending was a bit challenging to obtain.
Honestly, that was the only thing that was very hard about the game. While it’s true that the system is good at making you adapt and make decisions every turn in battle, there were a lot of times when I felt as if those choices were really obvious. By fighting most enemies I encountered, I was able to squash even some of the big bosses in just a couple of turns.
Besides the main characters and enemies, which appear to be custom-made, the graphics are almost entirely composed of the RPG Maker VX Ace defaults, with a few extras from the community. From the map tiles to the menu and battle screens, Remnants of Isolation has the look of a typical RPG Maker title, if partly modified. The sound, likewise, seems to be original, but keeps to the feel of its source material. Most sound effects match the stock ones, but the music is all new, if not terribly memorable. The tune Celesta plays is the only one that sticks out as particularly good.
There are really only about three hours of gameplay in Remnants of Isolation. It’s not a huge game, nor did it change my life, but I have to say that I admire the love that seems to have gone into it. The story is not half bad, and the battle mechanics are some of the most solid ones I’ve seen in a long time. While $9.99 is a little pricey for a game of this size, I would definitely consider it for those who want to try something different in a turn-based RPG.
Review copy supplied by the publisher
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