Back in January, I previewed a Kickstarter for an RPG Maker game called The Dekker Records: Thunder Stone Blues. Although my impression was positive, it failed to meet its Kickstarter goal.
Without funding, All-Father Studios continued work on the game anyway, but had to split its release into three parts. Act 1 of The Dekker Records is now available, and I had a chance to play it.
As I explained in my preview, The Dekker Records is a noir mystery set in a world reminiscent of classic JRPGs, though with some twists.
In this world, villains have unions, heroes can sign up for a certain type of arch-nemesis, and adventurers team up to go on various fantasy quests. (Imagine if real life was an MMORPG with every character in on it.) All of this is made safe through use of Thunder Stones, which revive adventurers who die on their quests.
When Thunder Stones stop working, the police ask for your help.
You play Dekker, a private investigator who could have stepped straight out of film noir. What begins as a murder investigations turns into a mission to uncover the truth behind the failing Thunder Stones.
Since this is only the first act of The Dekker Records, it ends on a cliffhanger after about 5 hours, though the act’s central story is resolved. The story itself isn’t a great focus, though it pays homage to its noir inspirations often enough. The strength of the game’s writing is its self-aware humor through many video game references.
The Dekker Records largely plays a like a classic turn-based RPG. A few things stand out as different. First, there is a fast-travel system. Stables allow you to fast-travel between different areas of the city, and once you progress in the game, you can use teleport points to move between larger regions.
There are also a few unique combat features. As a character takes damage, their Satisfaction meter fills up. This allows them to use a special, powerful attack (similar to a Limit Break). Using Satisfaction attacks also grants you Investigation Points.
Investigation Points can be used in a variety of ways. In certain areas, you can spend them to search for clues, which both grant you experience and put you closer to solving the mystery. Occasionally, an Investigation Point can be used to interrogate NPCs. Finally, you’ll eventually find a vendor to whom you can sell Investigation Points.
While The Dekker Records does not have a class system, as such, characters can equip special crystals that alter their class. For example, I acquired a crystal for the cleric that allowed him to learn two offense spells, at the expense of two support spells he couldn’t use with it equipped.
Enemies appear on the game world map, so there are no random encounters (other than a couple surprise attacks). Nevertheless, this is a high-encounter game, with a fair amount of old-school RPG difficulty. While I never seriously sat down to level grind, I never reached a point where I was completely relaxed during battles, either.
Early on, I encountered some problematic bugs, but they have been fixed. I look forward to seeing where the game goes from here, and how the multiple acts will work together (such as whether I’ll get to keep the items and gear I obtained). Since the game prompted me to continue exploring the city, I hope they tie together.
If you’re interested in a turn-based RPG with an old-school feel and a unique premise, take a look at The Dekker Records.
A review copy of this game was provided by the developer.
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