By Drew D. / May 11th, 2020
|Release Date||Sept 11, 2019|
|Genre||Mystery, Crime Drama|
Having been impressed with up-and-coming developer Potatobrain and their first production, I recently had the opportunity to play their second ever project, Eva Reynes. Vastly straying from the traditional fantasy RPG stylings and setting of their previous game, Eva Reyes is a crime drama that mixes traditional storytelling with a unique discourse battle system. Players must use their sleuthing and deduction skills to collect evidence and unravel the mysteries before engaging in battles of wit and drawing their conclusions, lest failing to prove guilt and allowing innocence to get caught in the crossfire.
Eva Reynes follows the story of this titular character, a once legendary detective having been disgraced by failing to solve the most crucial case of her career. This case, called the RM-8 incident, not only resulted in Eva’s first ever failure, it also wounded her with the deepest of personal tragedies. Having fallen into an alcohol-soaked depression, Eva has left behind her passion for investigation and her past life. That is until one day, her old apprentice calls her for help, having been accused of murder. Assuming her return to detective life would be a short-lived one, she accepts to clear her young flunky’s name, only to soon realize that the events unfolding connect back to the case that broke her so many years ago. Dredging up old memories and buried pain, Eva is again thrust into the mysteries of the RM-8 incident, determined to expose the truth and bring justice once and for all.
As one would expect from a crime drama, the story of Eva Reynes is a fairly intriguing one, as we join Eva on her quest to uncover the truths of the RM-8 case and put all the pieces together. The majority of the story is delivered through Eva’s eyes, sharing her personal thoughts with us players, thinking her way through the deduction process, as well as interacting with the various characters around her. The story itself is broken into chapters, in which aspects of the RM-8 case are revealed, either in the forms of new, sometimes hidden information, allusions, hints, or doubt-raising words from seemingly innocuous individuals. As for its execution, the main story kept me entertained throughout; an engaging mystery all the while conveying Eva’s emotions, which left me wanting to unravel those mysteries and to see the case to the end.
Chapters also possess their own side cases full of suspects and sub plots. Although not all of these side cases manage to weave into the main RM-8 plotline or influence it in an impactful manner, they still bring with them a degree of intrigue when running in parallel to the main plot. They’re also equally well written and are always a pleasure to experience rather than feeling like a pure tangent or distraction. What I’m particularly impressed with, and wishing to have seen much more, is when the side stories or these minor characters involved end up having their stand-alone conflicts unveil subtle hints and connections that seamlessly tie into the RM-8 plotline. These few moments truly keep the story engaging and unpredictable, exactly what you want in a mystery. I only wish it was a constant throughout all the chapters.
Finally, I’m also impressed with the logic behind the story and the discourse. The overall story makes sense and is plausible to the point that there are zero fantastical leaps necessary to believe how the pieces fit. Equally impressive is the logic behind the miscues. Although many of the deductions or conversation choices are pretty obvious, others are purposely crafted to misguide. You may think you’ve interpreted the evidence or gauged someone’s personality correctly and have drawn the most logical conclusions, only to find out you’ve made a grave error. To have your assumptions or to have some of these wrong answers sound so believable is fantastic, as it mirrors the difficulty of real-life investigation and interrogation, as well as the pressures of drawing the correct conclusions and preventing untold consequences.
The story is only propelled further by the strength of its star character. Eva is superbly written; a tragic heroine who won’t allow the pain of her past to stop her from being who she is or doing what she loves. Her determination through her failures and her knowing that her past must be faced all contribute to convey the sheer strength she possesses. She doesn’t restrain herself either, allowing her playfulness, snark, and humorous sides to all shine. She’s a badass. A poignantly memorable one at that. I’m easily drawn in by her, immersing myself in her struggle and her snark fueled charisma.
Story and character make Eva Reynes memorable, yet I did have a few issues regarding both. One of my strongest points of displeasure is the strength of Eva’s antagonist, as in the what’s and who’s behind the RM-8 incident and her greatest failure. Through Eva, we work towards those final revelations and that journey itself is satisfying, as all of the emotions felt and tragedies along the way possess palpable weight. However, the final confrontations and ultimate resolutions felt lacking in comparison. They lacked that same weight or punch to satisfyingly cap what is a great story. Another issue I have is how some of the mysteries are wrapped up, in that a revelation or reason is dumped on you at the end of a discourse battle or chapter. For example, in Chapter 3, all of the reasons for what transpires are literally dumped on you at the end of the chapter and I felt that there is limited narrative build to support it. Yes, the collected clues and your own deductions will get you there, but the story fails to lend itself to that point as well. A slower build and more reasonable pace will always outshine a load of information tagged on at the end. This would also have been a perfect opportunity for some character development throughout, seeing their thinking and emotions play into the build. Again, using Chapter 3 as an example, it would have made the tragedies more tragic for both key suspects here. Instead, they’re both emotionally static until truths comes out.
Staying with characters, I am disappointed with the sheer lack of depth of the side characters. They come off as one-dimensional, making it difficult to invest in them and this shortcoming is only highlighted by the contrast of Eva’s brilliance. Damien and Tracy, the two of Eva’s colleagues we spend the most time with, fail to impress. Both have forgettable backstories and both respond and act as expected, never growing past the predictable, if at all. The other handful of side characters suffer similarly and are just as unmemorable. There are few exceptions, such as Fubuki, whose character and backstory are stronger, but again, these are definitely the exception. It’s unfortunate, as more development of the side characters could have enriched the experience, as well as helped to support Eva’s character even further.
My last complaint is that the game is short, even with all of the misdirection and possible outcomes included. Playing until you uncover the true ending may extend play, but, I wish the game was longer. Referring to my earlier complaints, the opportunities to add that depth of story and character are there, yet they just weren’t always realized. Had they been, then I believe that needed content would have adequately extended the experience to a more satisfying degree.
Leaving story and characters aside, Eva Reynes possesses a blend of standard and unique gameplay mechanics. Starting with the basics, searching for clues is both paramount and what one would expect from an RPG Maker game, in that you need to try and interact with most everything that could potentially hide said clues. If you’re not thorough enough, you will miss clues and may even be locked out of making certain deductions. Needless to say, the scouring of clues can potentially get real tedious real quick. There is some relief in the form of the detection skill, one of four stats that Eva can raise. High detection will allow Eva to find particular clues and also tell you whether you have cleared the room or if pertinent clues still remain. Staying with skills, there are three others; personality, credibility, and discourse. Increasing personality will unveil new choices in conversations for additional hints, as well as add to credibility. Credibility are like your HP during a discourse battle, which are reduced for every mistake you make. Finally, the discourse skill determines how much time you have to choose an option during a battle.
Along with searching for clues, deduction plays a crucial role in progressing. Deduction is depicted through an interactive chart that displays potential interpretations. Choosing available theories builds a chain of thoughts and events in which you must make a final deduction, or draw a conclusion, to continue play. Once you’ve made said deduction, there’s no going back, meaning you have chosen who to accuse and persecute for a crime.
Throughout Eva’s ordeal, she will need to interrogate and engage in battles of wit through discourse. Similar to Ace Attorney, these are a multi-part back-and-forth in which a suspect tells their story or denies their involvement. These battles can be difficult, sometimes downright brutal, however, as each segment of a battle has its exact moments as to when to ask a question, keep silent, and when to interrupt to make an accusation or to present evidence. Ask a question and the chance to present evidence may pass you. Interrupt too soon, or present the incorrect evidence, and your credibility points will take a hit. Lose all credibility points and the game will end. And so identifying the moments when to either ask a question, let the conversation flow, and when to strike with the proper evidence is absolutely critical.
As for its overall execution, gameplay is fairly solid. Tutorials will teach you all you need and the ease of RPG Maker controls allows for no-nonsense interaction. Journals and logs within the menus will remind you of your progress, as well as your next steps. As for the discourse battles, this mechanic is a simple one to master, which is necessary given the attention to detail you must have to win a battle. Patience will be tested, as it will become frustrating at times to find the right combinations of questions, clues, and interruptions. Add in the time limits and nerve-racking mood and you’re in for a stressful time. Despite all this, I found the discourse battle system to be well implemented and I love that verbal jousting is the means of catching someone in the act, unbalancing them, and finally landing a conviction. It’s most definitely satisfying when you finally succeed in those tougher battles.
Gameplay isn’t perfect however, as I ran into a number of bugs along the way. Typical with the use of RPG Maker MV, there are slowdowns and hiccups along the way, regardless of hardware, but fortunately these occurrences are few. Also, only once during my two playthroughs did I experience a hard crash. Not having saved, this was an annoyance, but nothing game breaking. Auto-save helps some, but it’s not a perfect solution. The most adverse bug I ran into is a game breaker, one at the start of Chapter 4 in which Eva gets frozen in place. Reverting to an older save fails to resolve this and so I couldn’t progress at all. I also do not believe the glitch is triggered by the player, but rather a function that occurs between the end of a cutscene and the loading of the next map, and so the occurrence of this bug is completely random. While most of the other issues are manageable, this last one can easily ruin the game for those unwilling to replay. On my own replay, I did manage to dodge the bug, so again, random. A final note, as of this review’s publication, the developers have been made aware of the bug and hopefully a fix is soon made available.
The last aspect I wish to discuss is the aesthetic appeal of Eva Reynes, which I find is a step in the right direction over Potatobrain’s first game. While Eredia both looks and sounds great, it has a heavy reliance on premade assets with limited custom or original art. Eva Reynes features much more original artwork and the difference is apparent. I appreciate each character having a unique, individual look to them and I especially like how all the characters have sets of depicted facial emotions. With my complaint earlier regarding the side characters’ lack of development, having the opportunity to at least see their depicted emotions and reactions definitely helps to flesh them out. And of course, this only helps to propel Eva’s strong characterization even further. Not so much a complaint, but as Eva Reynes has that visual novel feel, I would have liked to have seen more visuals overall. Perhaps more CGs during cutscenes or play, for these are limited to just a few throughout. As for the audio, there is, again, a reliance on free-use assets, however, the selection is adequate, as the tracks used raise the intensity of the mood when called for. A perfect example is during the discourse battles, for the track selections only add to the stress and those feelings of urgency and time slipping away as you try to argue against the accused. Overall, the aesthetics are satisfactory and I hope the trend of implementing more original assets is continued in Potatobrain’s future.
Eva Reynes is a captivating crime drama, managing to combine mystery and plausibility to make for a poignant experience. Again, the game is a bit short, however, as a first playthrough whose path unlocks all the chapters will take around 8 hours. Subsequent playthroughs may take shorter time, but are no less engaging and replayability is acceptable, for earning the true ending is no small feat. And I can say, achieving that true end makes the journey all the more memorable and rewarding. A fantastically clever heroine ready to dive into a sea of mystery, Eva Reynes impresses throughout, easily stirring my want to see what Potatobrain comes up with next.
Review copy provided by developer
crimedramaEva ReynesIndieMysteryPotatobrainPotatobrain GamesRPG Maker MVstrategy