Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Breath of Death VII

Post-Launch Review
Breath of Death VII
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Released: July 13 2011

I'm going to abandon my standard review format for this one. There's not much to talk about with Breath of Death VII, but it does what it does very well.

Breath of Death VII is a sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant parody of classic RPGs. In fact, it's right there in the title - there's only one Breath of Death, but the VII is a jab at long-running series Final Fantasy.
Dem is a silent protagonist, though the player and one character can hear his thoughts. He's frequently bewildered, confused, and annoyed by the plucky characters around him and the inexplicable things they do. Dem builds a party only because, as a skeleton, he can't physically say no to all the people who decide to tag along on his adventure.

There are jokes about the top-down viewpoint - for example, you (the player) can see a chest in the adjacent room, but there's a locked door in the way. If you try the door, Dem is frustrated that he can't get to the chest, which he inexplicably knows is there even though he can't actually see it.
I also quite enjoyed Erik, the French zombie. He's a suave ladykiller-type guy who occasionally bursts out "LE BRAINS" in the middle of speech.

Breath of Death features some good tweaks to RPG mechanics that can often get really annoying. The one that I liked the most is random monster encounters. Yes, they're there, but the pleasant twist is that there are a limited number of encounters in each area - after a certain point, either you've killed all the monsters, or they're avoiding you because you've killed so many monsters. This avoids the potential random-encounter pitfall where you can encounter infinite monsters in a single patch of grass.
Also, at each level-up, you're given a choice between two fairly similar abilities or stat boosts. For example, Dem could choose between a three-fireball attack that builds your combo, or a five-fireball one that doesn't add to your combo. Or you could choose between a powerful buff ability that uses your mana and a weaker passive version that works all the time. It keeps things simple so you're never overwhelmed with choice, but still allows you to build each character to your liking over time.

The story isn't much to talk about - explore ruins, find crystals, etc - but that's a deliberate approach to give Dem more stuff to think about and parody.
Breath of Death's length - about 4 hours - actually contributes to the experience. There's enough time for you to go through several environments, meet a respectable cast of characters, and level up a lot, but the game isn't really long enough to start feeling too repetitive or boring.

The only thing that might keep you from playing Breath of Death is that its visuals, audio, and core gameplay are very late 80's. It's an 8-bit game through and through. However, the game's short length will help you get through it even if you have a hard time tolerating such an old-school style. Breath of Death is only a couple of bucks on Steam, and I'd say it's worth it.

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