Yuri Hyuga. Yuri Lowell. Velvet Crowe. And Zero from Drakengard 3. These are some RPG protagonists that have challenged the norm of traditional heroism by blurring the boundary between good and evil and proving to us that saving the world doesn’t require relentless altruism. Whereas their heroic counterparts sublimate our fears and concerns by means of scapegoating, antiheroes allow us to face ourselves by mirroring our own flaws and moral ambivalence. The moral complexity and honest depiction of humanity present in these types of narratives absolutely intrigues the intuitive introvert in me.
That’s why it’s disappointing that there aren’t many RPGs like this. I can only name a handful of characters aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned that utilize this tantalizing twist. So when a developer does choose to present their protagonist in such a way, I welcome it with fulsome adulation and bursting anticipation.
Which brings me to Eredia: The Diary of Heroes, Potatobrain Games’s developmental debut.
Eredia limns the story of the mysterious, eponymous relic that’s said to bestow tremendous power to whomever wields it. Seemingly sentient in nature, it chooses who bears it and only awakens during times of catastrophic upheaval. As the war between the Aegean and Cardithian empires intensifies, it reemerges once again to induct a hero in the new era. At the epicenter of it all is Kenrad, a simple-minded and self-centered individual with only one goal in mind: to be the quintessential hero everyone reveres. His quest for self-gratification slowly sinks into the murky depths of demons, dark magic, and demigods and Kenrad soon discovers the real cost of being a hero.
I didn’t expect that writing the synopsis for this game would prove to be so difficult. Its surprisingly long runtime serves as the stage for a narrative so convoluted, its numerous twists and turns rival the very shape of our DNA. Fortunately, Eredia doesn’t take itself too seriously regarding most matters. Contributing to this expository mayhem is Eredia’s poor plot design. Eredia’s story severely suffers from everything-but-the-kitchen-sink syndrome. Numerous story events are haphazardly placed with several having little to no relation to the events that transpired previously. So lost was I in Eredia’s labyrinthine tale that I actually attempted to create an extensive flowchart to connect all the diverging plot points together. But to little avail. As my 65-hour adventure came to an end, I was left feeling exhausted and incredibly perplexed.
What’s perhaps even more perplexing is how I don’t seem to mind this much — and this is coming from a reviewer who values a good story above all else. This is because Eredia makes a remarkable effort in creating a rich, dynamic world brimming with life and personality. Like Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes series, NPCs are more than simple space fillers. From the livid lamias who want to revolt against their current queen to the doting mother who is hopeful about her son’s return, many of the minor characters have their own attributes, ambitions, and aspirations and play some role in shaping Eredia’s social landscape.
Adding to Eredia’s impressive world-building are the optional side quests, the real capstones of the game. In a time when the diminution of side quests is becoming all the more prevalent in RPGs, it was reassuring to see a developer put intensive care into designing them. These side quests begged to be completed not only for the very generous experience points, but for the captivating b-plots that positively showcased Eredia’s fascinating world. Arguably, the most memorable is the one involving a trio of pyromaniacal goblins who are desperately trying to save their homeland. I would have never surmised that a red goblin’s plea would move me as much as it did, but boy did it get me good. Almost as good as the existential Shy Guy from Paper Mario: Color Splash. Almost. It’s nuances like these that encapsulate the game’s writing chops and it’s a shame that the same care wasn’t given to the main story.
Unfortunately, this experience is dampened by visual aesthetics that stay within the RPG Maker pale. All of the towns look identical with little variation in terms of appearance and structure: buildings are crammed with NPCs constantly blocking walkways while dungeons are poorly designed (the dungeon designer is undeniably cave-happy) and unnecessarily lengthy. The list goes on. The game also suffered from frequent frame rate drops during high animation sequences to the point where it was running at 3 FPS at times.
It isn’t all bad, however. It’s quite a feat to make an entire game that uses unique sprites for each NPC, save the soldiers. Very impressive, Potatobrain Games. The soundtrack also elevates this otherwise bland environment by contributing atmospheric tracks to each location — A nautical tune for the bustling port town and a heavy orchestral arrangement for the fortified kingdom. Sure, they’re a bit cliché but it works.
Combat sticks to the typical turn-based loop: random encounter, choose a command, implement, defeat, and repeat. Veteran turn-based fans will feel right at home with it, but those wanting something more engaging should look elsewhere. Very little strategy is required in most normal battles beyond casting a powerful spell or two to kill enemies. Boss battles are not all that difficult either. There are those one or two that are slightly gimmicky, but once you find your rhythm the battle becomes a total cakewalk. And by rhythm, I mean inflicting that first status ailment. Yes, Eredia is one of a small handful of RPGs that doesn’t grant status immunity to its boss monsters. So paralyze away, I say. This, however, makes battles feel extremely unfulfilling. It doesn’t help that the encounter rates are ridiculously high — I’m talking Skies of Arcadia high — and this wasn’t even in the mode with the highest encounter rate setting.
Despite my numerous complaints, there is but one real blemish that ruins this entire experience — and that is the protagonist. There’s a fine line between being an antihero and a schmuck and Kenrad skews to the latter by a long shot. His homophobic and racial slurs and constant objectification of women are pervasive to the point where I considered dropping the game entirely several hours in. But, I pushed through in the hopes that there would be some deep character development along the way. To my chagrin, there isn’t. Not a sliver of vindication or reform in sight. And to make matters worse, none of the other characters ever call him out on it. Aside from a few snide retorts, they simply shrug it off as being part of his personality à la “boys will be boys” fashion.
Needless to say, Eredia wasn’t my cup of tea in the end. The few bright spots it has are completely overshadowed by its tasteless protagonist and its subpar execution. This is supposedly the first of three installments. While I can’t say what the future holds for the series, I can say that where it stands right now, I can’t recommend it to anyone.