By Drew D. / January 24th, 2019
|Title||Opaline – 2 Fates 1 Love|
|Developer||Aldorlea Games, Warfare Studios|
|Original Release Date||Nov 20, 2012|
Aldorlea Games had first made its way onto my personal radar after seeing an auto recommendation through Steam while looking into another game. I tend to ignore these, but what had caught my eye that day was the first Millennium game in a 5-part series. After having played, reviewed, and being pleasantly impressed with the overall quality of the entire Millennium series, I had wanted to take a closer look at other productions coming out of this small indie developer. What sticks with me about Aldorlea is the fact that these games are rarely produced by a team of more than three or four individuals. Production with such limited manpower is remarkable all on its own. However, now I wish to find out whether the quality I experienced with Millennium proves consistent. And so the entry from Aldorlea that recently caught my attention is Opaline – 2 Fates 1 Love.
Opaline at its core is one part world saving, one part love story, as one would hope since “love” is in the title. Our story begins in the small remote town of Hermon, where Gallow, an orphaned young man, has been selected as a True Knight candidate; a guardian responsible for protecting the world against the Blight. His childhood friend Liza, whose family looks after Gallow, is grieved to see him leave the village to begin his training. As Gallow leaves, Liza walks with him a final time, but through a series of events, is herself charged with a role to play in the unfolding events that will engulf the two.
The Blight, a powerful, evil force once contained, had been released during the previous kingdom-wide war. Four warriors were responsible for this act and, in repentance, have since established the Crusaders, a group of knights that prepares for the eventual returning threat. This group is the one that recruits Gallow as a True Knight candidate. But before he can begin, the Blight strikes, pulling both Gallow and Liza into a world-wide struggle that forces the two apart. With unknown destinies and a budding love, the two have everyone’s hopes on their shoulders.
The story of Opaline is a familiar one to the RPG genre with a few unique elements along the way. The “2 fates” aspect sees our heroes going down their own paths as they grow and learn of the conflict they’ve been pulled into. As one would expect, this part of the narrative challenges the relationship between our two heroes. Several times during the story, the two meet up again, progressing the love story aspect and letting us, the players, know how things are going for them. In terms of its execution, the world saving elements of the plot are fairly straightforward, as the heroes must go about their ways to defeat the villains. What I like about this part of the plot is the inclusion of a growth theme, as the two heroes learn and seek out the means to become the legends they are meant to be. It adds needed substance to a plot device many have seen before, while also adding depth. I also like how the growth aspects compliment the love element, as they both serve to deliver an engaging, lighthearted story. Yes, there is strife and conflict, but I enjoy how the game keeps a more cheerful, hope-filled tone throughout.
I do feel let down when it comes to the love story itself. If love is in the title, I expect there to be significant depth and development in this regard. Unfortunately, what we get is far too little to satisfy. I will applaud the developers for the few bright spots, such as the final moments of the intro scene or Gallow’s stowaway scene, as they’re charming and brilliant. However, I expected far more than what is actually provided. The quality is there, but the quantity is not and what results is more of a longing by the player rather than an acceptable level of immersion. While the relationship between Liza and Gallow is described as having gone back further than the start of the game, we obviously don’t see that. Yet, I felt too much of the ongoing plot relies on that past reference and, again, the result is a love narrative lacking genuine growth between the two.
Opaline’s character development also suffers from a lack of quantity. Quality is not the issue; the few glimmers we do get are great, but the lack in content hurts the overall story. Only three of the characters are memorable enough to care for by endgame, as the others just feel like extras or filler to address a need in gameplay. Simply put, more is needed. Badly. This is especially evident because of the love narrative and its shortcomings. If we are to care for, or root for, the developing love between Liza and Gallow, we need to know more about them besides their resolve to do the right thing. Instead, the story throws you and its characters into the world-saving almost immediately. We are to just assume Gallow and Liza are good people, so they can be trusted to save the world, just like that. As gamers, we already get it that the good guys are going to do the good guy things and stop the bad guys. That’s a given. I expected more in terms of personality away from the heroism and world-saving elements, but we rarely see it. The few moments we do get to see within the characters’ thoughts towards one another, as well as their shared moments are all outstanding, but they are too few and far between. Yet, there is also a charm here, magnified by Gallow and Liza’s innocence and genuine care for one another. Those few nuggets are enough to hold a player’s attention, as it did mine, but it left me wanting. I really do want to know more about these characters because there are high quality moments to be had. Overall, story and characters needed far more development, more detail, and more depth.
Moving on to gameplay, Opaline is mostly an old-school RPG, but with a few appreciated twists. Plot and combat drive the campaign, as our heroes are separated and players experience the story from two different perspectives. I like this because it allows multiple plotlines to play out simultaneously. We also have the chance to manage teams with varying styles and skillsets. At the beginning of the game, combat is almost bland to the point of repetitive. However, as the game progresses, combat becomes more intriguing with the need for strategy. Mastering stat boosts, elemental affinities, ailment skills, multi-hit skills, and having a grasp on when to use them and against whom will all influence your success in combat. When the two teams join, selecting who you bring will also heavily impact success, especially at endgame. While it may not be anything new or innovative, its implementation is tight and it helps to break the monotony that may stem from the turn-based style. I also compliment the fact that leveling up and difficulty scaling is perfectly implemented. I feel the game, in terms of challenge level, is incredibly fair, so much so that I would say Aldorlea is a gold standard in this regard. Developers from other studios, such as Kemco, can learn much from this small indie.
Outside of combat and the main quest line, there are a collection of subquests and Secret Rooms to find. Subquests are common fare, ranging from simple collection quests, to deliveries, and enemy hunts. Besides items or money, subquests always yield experience points, which is a welcome help. Although they are not the most intriguing or innovative, these subquests do add to the overall experience and charm of the game. My only complaint about subquests is the lack of tracking. There is no system to remind ourselves of the subquests that are open or available, nor of their completion conditions. You’ll have to do your best to find them and remember their requirements. As for the Secret Rooms, this has typically been a complaint of mine throughout my reviews of the Millennium series games, but here, they are indeed easier to find. With the Millennium series, mouse controls, specifically the pointer, was helpful when there was a corresponding change to the pointer icon, indicating a hidden secret. Not all the Millennium games implemented this and Opaline, too does not. However, Opaline does an excellent job of indicating a Secret Room though visual cues on the map. If you see a peculiar object or a random extra jut in the wall, chances are good that there’s a Secret Room nearby. Their rewards, in that they often hide excellent weaponry or armor, are very much worth the effort in searching for them. On my first playthrough and without any guide, I managed to find most of the Secret Rooms with minimal effort; it’s nowhere near the level of anxiety, cheapness, and tedium seen in several of the Millennium games. Finally, there is a grading system, which grades you according to completed subquests, Secret Rooms found, and how many times you saved your game. Similar to the codenames you earn in the Metal Gear series, grading and titles are shown at endgame and depending on how impressive or humorous your grade title, you may be encouraged to replay the game for a better one.
Aldorlea’s aesthetic efforts for the Millennium series impressed me overall and it was a major factor I had looked forward to in my play of Opaline. Unfortunately, Opaline’s aesthetics leave much to be desired. The game is still presented in a familiar, pleasing 16-bit style reminiscent of the classic RPGs from the 90’s and in the current Aldorlea style. The use of RPG Maker mixed with custom tilesets and assets create a beautiful world that’s fun to explore. Beyond this, however, the visuals are uninspired. The portraits are rather bland and there are no full-body or torso shots; only head portraits. Also, there are only two real pieces of art, the title screen and a CG that gets reused. They clearly had a talented artist, as these two pieces are beautiful, but just two is a crime and to recycle one is inexcusable. I’m very let down here, as I’ve seen far better from Aldorlea. As for the audio, the music selection is strong, pairing tracks appropriate to the events and circumstances on-screen. In the past, Aldorlea has used public domain music and I believe this is the case again, as no composer was named in the credits. Regardless, the quality of the music is solid and its implementation is satisfactory. Audibly, Aldorlea is on point, however, as visual aesthetics have been a nonissue in the past, the degree of letdown I felt here really makes it stands out greatly.
Overall, I enjoyed Opaline. Its roughness is noticeable, but the entirety of the experience is pleasing. It’s full of charm and has some brilliant moments that will keep you engaged until the end. I’m giving Opaline a 3 out of 5 stars because what it does right it does extremely well. Yet, it’s a far cry from a 3.5 or 4 because, plainly, it needs so much more. More story depth, more relationship development, more character development. It has the foundation and makings of something truly special, but it’s disheartening that the game falls short of its full potential. The price of $15.99 on Aldorlea’s website is completely absurd (no, it’s not a typo), but the $5.99 price on Steam is wholly acceptable. In spite of its shortcomings, it was still a pleasure to play; I’m genuinely glad I did so.
2 Fates 1 LovealdorleaAldorlea Gamesclassic rpgOpalineRPGtwo fates one loveWarfare Studios