Dawn's Light
Platform: PC
Publisher: John Wizard Games
Developer: John Wizard Games
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Download
Released: US 09/15/09
Official Site: English Site

Graphics: 84%
Sound: 90%
Gameplay: 90%
Control: 90%
Story: 87%
Overall: 88%
Reviews Grading Scale
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Slime-hunting is one of the many side activities to do in Dawn’s Light.
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This was my favorite town in the game.
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All in-game achievements are easy to keep track of.
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Get away from my save point you wannabe Sephiroth clone!!!
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Neal Chandran
Dawn's Light
Neal Chandran

Dawn's Light is the debut title from John Wizard Games, and this RPG Maker VX title takes a lot of inspiration from Eternal Eden (in all the right ways), while still maintaining its own vibe. It is not an RPG that will have players contemplating the meaning of life, but it is certainly a fun, and often funny, Japanese-style RPG romp.

Dawn's Light is proof that good storytelling can enhance a boilerplate JRPG story. This time, the story is about a young man named Harvey seeking revenge against the villainous Mordecai, who took away everything he held dear. A key ingredient to my enjoyment of the game was the dialogue, which is hands down the best I have seen in a commercial RPG Maker release to date. Not only is the dialogue relatively free of technical errors, but it flows very well and has oodles of personality. The best dialogue is reserved for character interactions, many of which are quite funny, especially those involving sensible folks trying to talk some sense into the lunkheaded jock of a protagonist. Humor is very present in this game; not just in the dialogue but in occasional physical humor as well. The mine cart sequence reminiscent of a Scooby Doo chase scene comes to mind.

The story is not all laughs, though, as Mordecai's influence has affected people all over the world. Harvey and his friends learn about these various tragic incidents as they seek out and destroy the various demon portals that Mordecai has scattered all over the world. Destruction of a portal yields snippets of Mordecai's traumatic childhood as a boy named Marcus. These scenes provide genuine pathos in the game and flesh out the villain quite nicely. The Marcus scenes, the stories of the people in which Harvey gets involved, and the various subplots in the sidequests are like pieces of a puzzle in creating the overall plot.

Speaking of puzzles, if you like your RPG dungeons filled with a plethora of puzzles, you will be right at home here. The puzzles are fun and never frustrating, meaning there are no Landstalker or Alundra-esque puzzles that will make gamers want to throw their gamepads or smash their keyboards. There's plenty of switch-throwing, block pushing, timing-based, etc. brain teasers to delight but never aggravate players.

There are also battles in the dungeons, and the battle engine is a classic turn-based engine that borrows the "threat" statistic from Deadly Sin to add a strategic element. The threat statistic means that the more a character pounds on an enemy, the greater the chance that enemy will attack that character, threatening his or her life. Enemy encounters can be seen beforehand and, like in Eternal Eden, do not respawn after defeat. I loved this aspect in Eternal Eden and I love it here. Defeat every enemy in the dungeon, and you're all set to take on the boss without any need to grind, and you can revisit old dungeons to explore without having to worry about needless battles.

The game also offers plenty of opportunities to venture off the beaten path. There are tons of sidequests, a battle arena, fun mini-games, and all kinds of other activities to do. The game's handy dandy notebook allows you to keep track of your progress in everything. Another thing the game offers plenty of is save points. I've played a lot of RPGs in my day, and Dawn's Light has more save points than any other RPG I've encountered. As an obsessive-compulsive saver, I like it.

I found the pacing of the game to be extremely smooth and the progression very even. Not once did the game drag. Some veterans may think the difficulty of the dungeons, puzzles, and battles is skewed to the easy side, but I thought it was just fine, especially since I do not find severe butt-kickings all that much fun. Admittedly, some of the mini-games were what gave me the most difficulty. The bottom line is that I found this game a lot of fun to play, and I did not want to stop till the end credits rolled.

Enhancing the progression of Harvey's journey is a fantastic soundtrack. The use of typically American genres, such as country/western-inspired rock, in some pieces was very cool. I also heard examples of many other genres such as electronica, ambient, and classic JRPG inspired material in the soundtrack. I may have heard more complex, intricate compositions in other commercial RPGM games that were possibly created using more advanced music software for all I know, but the music in Dawn's Light just smacked me upside the head and demanded that I take notice. The overall experience was not merely enhanced by the music, but greatly elevated. I absolutely loved every piece of music in the game. The only complaint I have is that as good as the battle theme was, I would have liked there to be different themes for the boss battles.

Dawn's Light looks like a nicely crafted RPGM VX game. There isn't any discernible custom work in the environments, but everything looks clean and nicely laid out. There is, unfortunately, some minor slowdown in a couple of places. Battle backgrounds are RPGM XP backgrounds, and though these may look more appealing than the typical VX "vortex" backgrounds, they were designed for first-person battles, so the side view battles sometimes look out of perspective. The portraits for NPCs use the stock VX art with some unique pieces for player characters. The character designs are clean, and each piece of art for player and non-player characters is well selected to match the character's personality. The sprites are SD (super deformed) sprites whose massive heads are as big as their squat bodies. This lends a classic "old-school" look to the game and makes the humorous scenes more amusing. Adding to the cute factor is the fact that Dawn's Light has various funky outfits that players can find for their characters so that they're not always wearing the same clothes on the field or in battle. These outfits are completely independent of equippable armor, so there are no stat penalties for playing dress-up. And come on, who wouldn't want to see a lunkheaded jock traipsing around in a cow suit?

Dawn's Light was a very nice surprise for me. I have played a lot of commercial RPG Maker games over the last few years, so I actually went into this one with modest expectations, but left impressed by the well-written dialogue, appealing music, smooth progression/pacing, and overall fun factor. I was hooked for the 22 hours or so it took me to complete this game and appreciated how the ending playfully broke some JRPG conventions. John Wizard has conjured up a terrific debut, and I look forward to what they summon up next.


© 2009 John Wizard Games. All rights reserved.

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