Earlier this week the music-themed RPG adventure game Viola by Jelle van Doome launched into Steam’s Early Access. This initial build of the game provides the first stages of the game, providing us a sense of the story, overall gameplay style, and let us meet a few of our first companions that will join us on this journey. As we make our way to the black hole that brought us to this strange land we are challenged to face off against multiple enemies and the beginning of a difficult road back home.
Initially, the game is focused on a platform style journey. There are different levels to take, both high and low, that are layered with a variety of enemies. These enemies have to be ran into in order to initiate combat, so if you wanted to avoid fighting specific foes its as easy as jumping over them or taking a slightly different route. Sometimes it will rely on timing if they are in the path you have to take in order to continue, but they always have a small patrol style movement that can be timed to avoid.
Combat itself plays out like any other turn-based JRPG. The difference in this game is that they don’t rely on RNG that makes it possible for the player or enemy to miss. Instead, the attack is pretty much guaranteed to land, but the amount of damage you deal will be based on how accurately you play the notes that show up. Melee attacks have these quick-time notes randomized, but magic skills use the same pattern every time you use it.
Another aspect to keep in mind is elemental resistance and weakness. One of the first characters to join your team focuses on water-based magic for his attack. This comes in handy in just a few steps into the adventure as fire-based enemies begin to appear. The fire enemies are actually quite strong, but thanks to our water-based spells, they are able to be made easy work of.
Leveling up characters is based on who was there during the fight. I managed to get through every fight without a fallen comrade, so I am not sure if they would have gotten experience even if they were knocked out at the end of the battle, but typically everybody gets a cut of the experience. When any of the characters level up it shows you a screen of what stats are increased and it is higher than games in a similar genre. Instead of just gaining two-to-three points for health and mana while gaining just one-to-two for aspects like strength and defense, each character gained roughly seven-to-ten health and mana points while gaining two-to-four for the other aspects. This makes me think that future enemies are going to prove to be quite difficult without managing to level up some as you continue to progress.
The last thing worth considering is the power up gems. While most games would only offer gems that have strictly positive attributes, some gems come at a cost. It becomes a matter of deciding if the lost to one aspect is worth the gain to another. An example of this was a gem I put on my mage which lowered his defense by four points, but boosted his mana gauge by two and his intelligence by four; safe to say that is worth it!
I hope to see the platforming aspect of the game utilized as much as the combat is going to be. While fighting foes will surely be the focus of the game and making sure we are powerful enough to handle the big bosses in the later stages of the game will be important, I would also like to see challenging platform sections. The possibility of platforming challenges that could seem impossible or are just a straight puzzle to progress would be a welcomed sight on a game like this.
Being able to manage who is on your team is an easy way to put together the force that you would like to go into battle with for every section, so I hope to see a variety of character options that all have their own benefits and negative qualities. These characters don’t necessarily have to affect the overall story, but that would also be a nice touch.
Viola is on a track to become an amazing JRPG! I have high hopes for the future of this little indie title and thoroughly enjoy the music-themed atmosphere that the game provides. It is interesting to see instruments used in both puzzles and battle with equal importance. This is a theme focus that will need to be held up and continued to be pressed in order to stay true, but this doesn’t seem to be even a slight problem for this game to up hold based on the first stages of the Early Access.