A genuinely good attempt
I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to games made with RPG Maker. It’s cool and everything that there’s a program that lets aspiring designers make games with ease, but it can saturate the genre pretty heavily – especially when it comes to the Steam market. There are so many RPG Maker titles on Steam that lack any sort of real effort and depth. Games that are cool to show to your friends maybe, but not something that you should be trying to sell. But, while most of them aren’t too great, there are a few of them that really aren’t too bad. There are a few RPG Maker games that, while far from being a AAA title, are made with genuine effort and are worth a shot. Aldorlea Games’ A Timely Intervention is one such example.
A Timely Intervention begins in the distant future with protagonist Pradeus, a journalist, sneaking into the top-secret Marrlon Facility under the guise of a janitor, in hopes of getting his next big scoop regarding a top-secret experiment that he had caught wind of. After fumbling around a bit, Pradeus actually manages to get all the way to the back of the facility where he discovers a strange machine. Not wanting to waste any time, Pradeus throws caution to the wind, turning the machine on – only to realize too late what the machine did, sucking both himself and a scientist by the name of Alissa back into the past.
I’ll be the first to admit that time travel is a bit of an overused trope, but I have to give credit where credit is due – A Timely Intervention actually handled it pretty well. Throughout the entirety of the game, it’s obvious that your characters (at least the ones from the future) are incredibly out of place. Constant references are being made by others (most notably past-era party members) about your protagonists’ mannerisms and knowledge – such as how Alissa and Pradeus can read and write (a rarity in the past), but seem bewildered by the fact that there are elves, or, even better yet, trees. The constant questioning from past-era people combined with the protagonists’ need to save face is not only amusing, but thought out pretty well.
It’s also worth noting that, upon realizing what happened, the higher-ups at Marrlon didn’t just sit idly by. Worrying that their unwanted guests had the potential to mess with the past (which they were right to do), they sent a pair of soldiers by the names of Jallund and Kayte to set things straight. Players are also given control of these characters. That’s right, you’re playing as two parties – one party trying to get home, and the other party trying to stop the first party. I’m actually not aware of two many games that make you play both protagonist and antagonist at the same time, but it’s a rather charming concept. What’s more is that these two parties will end up shifting around a bit throughout the game meaning that, although you still switch between parties, the members making each of them up will change as you progress.
Quirky party mechanics aside, the rest of A Timely Intervention is pretty much what you’d come to expect from something made with RPG Maker. The game controls in the same vein as classic JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, with the player exploring a number of dungeons while battling monsters and collecting treasures (with the occasional town sprinkled in). While exploration in A Timely Intervention does invoke a certain sense of nostalgia, it isn’t anything that you haven’t seen before. Dungeon layouts largely consist of needing to go from Point A to Point B with little variation in-between. Exploration isn’t entirely without its charm, however. Throughout the entire game are 30 Secret Rooms, each of which hides plenty of nice goodies. While the Secret Rooms obviously aren’t necessary, they’re a boon to your party and are worth keeping an eye out for.
I was also amazed by just how much banter goes on, even when mid-dungeon (and sometimes mid-battle!). Someone almost always has something to say about the current situation, and I honestly liked that a lot. The fact that the characters talk so much helped to not only flesh out their personalities a bit (which was somewhat necessary), but also broke up the tedium that exploration sometimes presented. Banter was even more present in towns, where nearly every action elicited a response from one of the characters (I found it to be especially amusing when I was rummaging through people’s houses). This also balanced out the narrative which, at times, felt lacking.
Combat is about as retro as you can get when it comes to turn-based fighting, with both setup and battle flow mimicking the original Final Fantasy very closely. Unfortunately, looks are a bit deceiving in this case. While combat may seem like something straight out of one of the RPG classics, A Timely Intervention ended up being a little less polished than I would have liked it to be. Status effects was probably the biggest offender. A game like this should not have 10+ unique status ailments, especially not on top of basic buffs and debuffs. As I got further into the game, I found my parties constantly pelted with constantly-changing ailments at such a rate that I eventually stopped trying to remember what they did. I get that a game like this needs to have diversity in order to thrive, but this was too much.
I also found that enemies were never quite on the same level as I was – literally, in this case. A Timely Intervention was smart enough to make sure that you couldn’t win every battle by merely mashing the attack button, but the skills that it gives you tip the scales in a different way. Even without grinding, battles all seemed to easy. This was especially true if you made sure to level up skills and find Secret Rooms. And, before anyone says anything, I’m very much aware that this game has four different difficulty levels, but boosting the stats of enemies still doesn’t make up for questionable AI. Part of the fun of RPGs is the supposed need to strategize – a need that I never really felt in this game.
Due to what I’m assuming was how it was made, A Timely Intervention‘s artwork turned out to be a bit limited – but I can’t fault it too much for that. Character sprites and portraits were all handmade and varied from one another nicely enough, while the scenery felt reminiscent of the games that it was trying to emulate. The monster artwork did seem to be a bit off, mostly because it was drawn in a different style from the party members, but I’ll chalk that up to tribute as well. Plenty of old-school RPGs featured enemy artwork that differed from that of the playable characters, and I assume that A Timely Intervention was going for that.
The audio on the other hand was, well, pretty plain. Between the stock sound-effects and the incredibly generic music, I wasn’t taken in at all. In fairness, there was some variation – every new area came with its own track – but a lot of hum-drum songs still only adds up to a single boring OST.
A Timely Intervention ended up being a bit boring overall, but it wasn’t bad by any means. The developers worked with what they had, and the end result was a love letter to RPG classics that, despite its imperfections, was filled with a genuine desire to entertain and bring people back to “the good old days”. Since traditional turn-based RPGs have kind of been abandoned by big-time developers, someone has to pick up the mantle – Aldorlea Games is trying its hardest to do just that.
FINAL VERDICT: 3/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Aldorlea Games ; Developer: Aldorlea Games ; Players: 1 ; Released: March 24, 2017 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: $9.99
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a copy of A Timely Intervention given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher.