When I was asked to review Lotia for The Goblin Gazette, I was very excited! I’ve not had the opportunity to reviewed a lengthy RPG yet. After logging about a dozen hours of gameplay of Crayon Ponyfish’s Lotia, I can say that this was an enjoyable RPG to review. Designed with the help of RPG Maker, Lotia is a JRPG styled, turn based RPG set in the oceans of Lotia.
In Lotia, players follow the story of Reef O’Meara, a smuggler determined to free their society from the Dominion’s enslavement. Reef is a “dreamer,” an individual convinced Lotia is not their home. But rather some sort of mirage that is no less real to its inhabitants. Simple smuggling leads to a pursuit in hopes of overthrowing the oppressive “Dominion”. Along the way, Reef meets characters who join his crew in hopes of defeating the Dominion alongside of him.
Lotia is a game which, apart from the story, felt like a combination of Pokémon and Paper Mario. This is a good thing though as those are two great franchises. The turn-based combat clearly draws influence from Pokémon or, perhaps, other RPGs which implement this same combat method. The player selects an action (attack, use arts, use items, block, etc.) for each character, and each action, along with the actions of the opposing characters, plays out in a turn based fashion.
The part that sets it apart from Pokémon and feels more like Paper Mario is that the player does not capture animals to fight for them but rather assembles a team of characters met throughout the story, each with unique abilities and strengths. Each time the player defeats enemies in combat, each character who contributed to the victory will gain XP points. These XP points ultimately lead to the leveling up of each player and the improvement of their respective statistics.
The player can supplement their combat through the use of a number of items. Each character’s equipment can be changed to improve stats. And consumable items like Tonins and Nullifiers act to increase health, resurrect dead characters, or remove negative character states, like confusion. The world of Lotia is very beautiful and is designed similarly to many RPG Maker games. Lotia’s map is laid out like a grid and Reef occupies one of the grid’s squares at any moment. This is not something unique to Lotia and is actually seen in a large number of these pixelated RPGs.
What I Liked
I really enjoyed the hybrid of turn-based combat and character-based team development and felt that it provided a combat experience unique to most RPGs. The plot of the game was also very captivating and the character dialogue was often witty, dramatic, fun, and ultimately very engaging. The game’s artwork was consistent with many RPG Maker games with some good additional artwork added in during combat, dialogue, etc.
However, one of the most enjoyable facets of this game was the very well produced soundtrack. Each area seemed to have its own unique music; songs were rarely recycled. On top of this, each song sounded very professionally done and fit the mood of whatever scene the player was experiencing at the moment. The soundtrack includes 23 tracks produced by Ryan McQuinn. I think many players will find that the music plays a big part in creating Lotia’s overall feel. All in all, I felt that there was a lot to like about Lotia.
What Can Be Improved
As far as what can be improved in the game, largest opportunity is the map. Specifically the setup and how Reef moves about it. Earlier, I mentioned the grid that the player walks about with Reef occupying one square at a time. At times, it felt like the grid did not match up with the way the map itself was laid out. I found that there were parts of the map that looked like they should have been able to be reached by Reef, but were restricted because their square was not a part of this playable grid. This is something that I noticed come up in a couple of Steam reviews and, while at times a nuisance, I don’t feel that this is something that significantly diminishes the enjoyment of this game.
One other thing that was originally off-putting was how frequently enemies randomly spawn when traversing the wilderness. These encounters are frequent and more or less automatic; the player can essentially tell each of his characters to attack until the fairly weak enemy is defeated (combat requires more care and attention when encountering more considerable opponents). This is not something that is inconsistent with similar RPGs. I think we all remember how annoying encountering low-level opponents in the grasses of Pokémon games was. However, like Pokémon, there are items in the game which lower the frequency of these encounters. But these encounters are ultimately important to leveling up at a timely pace to defeat the stronger and more significant enemies. This was ultimately a non-issue with me, but I do think it’s something that some players will initially find off-putting.
Lotia is a beautiful example of RPG Maker’s potential. The great story line coupled with good combat topped off with a great soundtrack made for a very enjoyable experience. The issues I had with the game were few and far between. And they did not have a material impact on how much I enjoyed the game. With an average of about 15+ hours of gameplay and currently selling pretty cheap, Lotia is a game that any RPG fan would enjoy. Crayon Ponyfish did a great job with this one, and I’m excited to see what improvements are made to Lotia and what other games may be offered to us in the future.