Title: Machina Of The Planet Tree ~Planet Ruler~
Publisher: Sekai Project
Developer: Denneko Yuugi
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for purpose of review.
Machina of the Planet Tree represents publisher Sekai Project’s first foray into JRPG territory. While they are best known as a publisher and translator of visual novels, it is interesting to see Sekai Project attempt to bring small titles from other genres to the West. Unfortunately, Machina is not a great first effort and represents the worst elements of the JRPG genre without doing enough to differentiate itself from similar, and better produced, games. Take a closer look at a game that does a few things right, and so many things very wrong.
Machina Of The Planet Tree ~Planet Ruler~ is made on the RPGmaker game design engine. This lends to it a distinct visual style that often pops up in games created with RPGmaker’s design tools — by distinct, I mean it is very, very generic. Each of the game’s many dungeons consists entirely of backdrops that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a JRPG released 20 years ago, populated by monsters that lack any substantive animation, that simply jump at your party in an experience not all that different from being assaulted by low-grade fantasy clip art.
The only bright spots in Machina‘s parade of mediocre visuals are the sprite animations used for both player characters and the occasional humanoid boss enemy. These characters are well animated, expressive and are actually something of a joy to watch as they fill the screen with special attacks, combos, and various other attacks meant to feel their foes at every turn. This can make boss battles interesting to watch but, as I will discuss in a bit, battles with the endless droves of monsters get boring after the 50th or so instance, so much so that you’ll wish that you could simply avoid the fights altogether.
Except you can’t. The effects that come with each special technique are neat to look at, but also represents the same stock animations that come bundled with RPGmaker out of the box. They serve to add a bit of flair to each encounter but, like the monsters in each dungeon and the battles themselves, soon become tiresome.
Machina‘s plot and characters are just as dull as its visuals and offers nothing new or compelling to a genre saturated with stories about teenagers saving the world. You begin the game as the young hero and treasure hunter Cram who explores ruins with hopes of excavating valuable relics related to a mysterious lost civilization. From there Cram is joined by the cat-eared thief Retla and the elf-like priestess Esty on an adventure to restore life to the world tree and uncover the truth behind an ancient civilization and a war that nearly destroyed the world thousands of years in the past. If this sounds generic to you, it’s because it is.
Nothing about Machina‘s plot is compelling or interesting, and the same can be said of its characters as well. Each party member, NPC, and enemy in the game is built from a pile of tropes so unmemorable that you will likely not even remember their names by the end of the game. The art that represents these characters is nice enough in an anime sort of way, but it is nothing to really write home about and actually manages to be a bit disappointing in that the art used for promotional shots and character portraits is waaaay better than the graphics found in-game. Leading to a rather jarring disparity that may lead some who haven’t seen screen shots of actual gameplay to be rather sad when they actual boot up the game for the first time.
If there is anything good to be found in this train wreck, it is the battle system that holds Machina Tree together. Unlike in traditional turn-based RPGs, Machina uses a point system for characters’ skills — they can keep attacking as long as points remain. This is joined with a combo system that grants damage bonuses for using a combination of techniques and attacking quickly, though it also inflicts penalties for repetitive attack strategies. This works against you when it comes to random enemy encounters, which occur far to often for my taste, spamming area of effect attacks until all of your foes are dead.
But in boss battles, exploiting the combo system is really the only way to win. This is both due to bosses being far stronger than fodder enemies, but also because most of them from the middle of the game and on actually regenerate tens of thousands of hit points every turn, so if you don’t make the most of your combos, the boss will simply regain more HP than you can dish out, eventually making a battle unwinnable.
In the end, Machina of the Planet Tree has a few good things going for it, such as its unique battle system and excellent sprite work, but is otherwise a hopelessly generic and frustrating game not worth the $11.00 or so it will cost you to download it from Steam.
For these reasons, I give Machina of the Planet Tree ~World Ruler~ a 5.5/10.
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