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Laxius Force II
Platform: PC
Publisher: Aldorlea Games
Developer: Aldorlea Games
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Download
Released: US 08/19/09
Official Site: English Site



Scorecard
Graphics: 84%
Sound: 79%
Gameplay: 85%
Control: 86%
Story: 90%
Overall: 85%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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A face only a mother could love.
 
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Sure why not? I do that in every other Japanese/Japanese-style RPG anyway.
 
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Luciana takes a starring role this time around.
 
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The secret garden is quite lovely.
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Neal Chandran
Laxius Force
09/19/09
Neal Chandran

NOTE: Laxius Force II is a direct sequel to Laxius Force with a carryover save feature, so this review may include some spoilers.

Aldorlea's Laxius series has to be one of the more involved RPG series I have encountered in recent years. It started out as a pair of novels that spawned a gaiden novel about one of the side characters. The storyline was then adapted into the Laxius Power trio of freeware RPG Maker games. Due to some changes, these lengthy games were akin to movie versions of the novels. From there came Laxius Force, a sequel to the Laxius Power trilogy and Aldorlea's first commercial release. That game introduced a whole slew of new characters to the mythos and was quite broad in scope. After Laxius Force came 3 Stars of Destiny, a fun RPG prequel set prior to the Laxius Power trilogy. Now, Aldorlea has brought us Laxius Force II, which continues right where its predecessor left off.

A common thread to all of the Laxius games is main protagonist Random Pendragon - a brash teenager who matured into a great hero, took a break from hero-ing with his girlfriend Sarah, and was drawn back into hero-ing by the most harrowing quest of his young life against the tyrannical Grand Commendanter and his powerful syndicate called The Order. I liked Random, but I really wanted a Laxius game where I could play from a different protagonist's point of view, and Laxius Force II answers that wish. This game is mostly played from the perspective of Luciana, a demi-goddess and one of Random's closest friends from childhood, but Random definitely retains a starring role and the story does have a fair amount of party-splitting to add breadth. Speaking of old friends, some of Random's closest friends from prior Laxius games who were absent in Laxius Force make a return here. Those who started out with Laxius Force may recall Random and Sarah talking about old friends and can now meet these colorful characters, such as the drunken brute Coryool or the talking chameleon Guanidia.

The first Laxius Force ended with Random, Sarah, and company returning to the city of Adretana from a perilous mission against one of The Order's splinter cells, only to be greeted by their old friend Luciana and her entourage - her trusty cat Herasia, the fairy Rosa (who some fans may remember from Laxius Power 3), and the fire spirit Tarabulla, a new friend who Luci made while living an idyllic existence on the isolated island of Sandronista. Laxius Force II begins with how Luciana and her entourage make the exodus from Sandronista to the mainland, thus jumping back into the fire to join Random's fight against The Order. The plot expands from there and features standard RPG trappings like deaths, unions, revelations, an ever-expanding roster of influential characters, and a world facing the ravages of a bloodthirsty overlord and his ever-growing legion.

Speaking of plot, Laxius Force II makes improvements over its predecessor. The narrative is more tightly focused than before, but the game still allows players to meander off the beaten path, make new discoveries, and engage in a whole slew of quests that develop the game's world. Some departed characters from Laxius Force may be missed, but the return of some old friends and the emergence of new friends more than makes up for it. There's a large cast of characters in the heroes' revolving door party, and not every character is extensively fleshed out, but they do have distinct personalities and players will find favorites. If I had to lob any criticisms, they would be that there are a few instances of choppy event progression and that the dialogue is stilted in places and has occasional technical errors.

To be honest, the information regarding the story is the most important part of this review. Laxius Force was akin to chapters 1-4 of a book, Laxius Force II is chapters 5-8, and the upcoming Laxius Force III will be chapters 9-13. Because of this, technical elements such as the gameplay, music, and graphical style of Laxius Force II remain relatively unchanged from before. Therefore, elements of the game may seem slightly dated compared to more recent commercial RPG Maker titles, but Laxius Force II is a game I played merely to find out what happens next in the story, and in that regard I was satisfied, especially during the intense moments of chapter 7.

Visually, the game looks like a nicely-crafted RPG Maker game. Aldorlea's skill at mapping environments is present here, making towns and hostile areas fun to explore. Enemies are represented by both stock RPGM art and some original art, the majority of original art being saved for the bosses. Sprites for key player and enemy characters are also unique, in contrast to the stock sprites used for generic townspeople. Character portraits during battle have a painted anime look, and speaking of paintings, snippets of old Laxius Power artwork can be seen as paintings in one of the game's key locations. There are also a couple of hand-drawn cutscenes that use the same painted anime art style. It is no secret that, like many RPG developers, Aldorlea enjoys using fanservicey designs for some of the female characters, and (forgive the putrid pun) Tarabulla is hot. Pity I didn't find more use for her in the game. Maybe next time.

The music also follows the same pattern as previous entries in the series. Many environments do not have music, instead opting to let sound effects dictate the atmosphere. Most of the music that is present consists of RPG Maker stock tunes, although there are a few original tunes here and there. The music fits its intended environments and situations well, but at this point I've heard a lot of these stock RPGM pieces many times before, including the battle theme, which is unchanged from the first game. Laxius Force was never a music-intensive series to begin with, but after hearing lush original music in other Aldorlea offerings such as 3 Stars of Destiny, I was expecting a little bit more from their flagship series. If the in-game music being mostly unchanged was a programming requirement to make the carryover save feature work properly, I can excuse it, but my favorite tracks were still the new title and end credit themes.

The gameplay is similar to other Aldorlea offerings, with quest-based progression, turn-based battles, and multiple difficulty levels to choose from. However, mouse support and an escape option in some battles are a welcome addition to the developer's normal features. A post-credits save from Laxius Force carries over into Laxius Force II, and everything players would want to carry over does. Party stats, items, gold, the quest log, even the game clock and step count carry over. Another nice gameplay element that carries over is that should the party die in battle, the goddess Yveen will resurrect the party to the nearest town or dungeon entrance in exchange for the 10% of the party's gold with no loss of earned EXP. Game progression feels more linear than the first game, but there are still insane amounts of sidequests and cool new discoveries for those players who like to explore every inch of every area and leave no stone unturned. The only gameplay aspect I did not particularly enjoy was that some dungeons utilized both random and see-the-enemies-beforehand encounters. Although random encounters made sense in some instances where enemies were meant to be camouflaged, having both random and non-random encounters in the same area sometimes felt like overkill.

The bottom line regarding Laxius Force II is that if you were not a fan of Laxius Force or the Laxius mythos in general before now, this game will not change your mind. The series is a bit of an acquired taste. A lot of technical elements remain largely unchanged from before, but for most players, that won't really matter, because the epic story from the first game is continued. The exciting latter half of Laxius Force II really left me wanting Laxius Force III even more. The game is also decently long, offering at least 30 hours of play for straightforward players and many more hours for more thorough players. The Laxius Force series may not possess the level of technical intricacy or refinement of some other commercial RPG Maker games, but they have a certain charm to them that wins me over every time, and Laxius Force II certainly did that.



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© 2009 Aldorlea Games. All rights reserved.


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