Laxius Force


Review by · October 1, 2008

Somewhere in the world, a nobleman and a wisecracking skeleton raid a pyramid in search of a mystic artifact. Elsewhere in the world, two retired heroes leave their secluded cabin to see how the world has changed since they last saved it seven months ago. In a hidden lair somewhere else in the world, a sadistic evil overlord subjects his female slaves to torturous experiments in his quest to turn everyone in the world into subservient demons and become their ultimate ruler. In the various other parts of the world, people are undertaking personal quests of their own as well. How these pieces of a puzzle all fall into place is the setup for Laxius Force, an independently developed RPG from Indinera Falls and Aldorlea Games. This ambitious title sports a lengthy quest, a possible 17 playable characters, original music and artwork, and detailed environments. Laxius Force is clearly inspired by 16-bit classics such as Square Enix’s SaGa series and by other indie RPG titles such as the Aveyond games. Although the game features many characters whose stories would all be amazing to follow, the main protagonists players will see the world as are Random Pendragon and his elven girlfriend Sarah Brandolino- the two aforementioned heroes of yore who have come out of retirement to see the world again.

Prior to Laxius Force, the Laxius world was created via a trio of games under the moniker Laxius Power. These games are available from the official website as freeware, but Laxius Force works alright as a standalone RPG. The instruction manual included with the game mentions that Laxius Force itself is part 1 of a series of games and that Laxius Force 2 and 3 are in the works. There is even mention of a Laxius Force 4, and it is said that saves from prior games can be carried over to the sequels. I personally had not played the Laxius Power games prior to Laxius Force and I still enjoyed it just fine. However, folks who have played the Laxius Power games will enjoy the references to past games and some returning characters, such as the sharp-tongued slave girl Wendala Diroslav. The cast in Laxius Force is mostly new, though, because the world has changed in the seven months Random has been in retirement. Laxius Force contains plenty of dialogue and exposition to flesh out the characters and world. For someone like me who hadn’t played the Laxius Power games, the exposition was great to bring me up to speed and worked within the context of the game since Random and Sarah would often reminisce about past adventures and traveling companions. It should be noted that the pacing of the game is fairly languid given the expository and character driven nature of the game. The plot is a journey of insightful discovery as much as, if not more than, a plot to save the world from an evil overlord. I liked the more patient nature of the game’s storyline, but gamers looking for a fast-paced RPG may want to look elsewhere.

The sheer volume of dialogue does, however, highlight a noticeable flaw. Because the writers’ native language is French rather than English, the phrasing of the dialogue can often be awkward because French grammar is quite different from English. Despite this, I still enjoyed the story and was able to follow it without difficulty. The story is a mostly serious-minded one but has plenty of comic relief as well.

One thing to note is that unlike the 16-bit classics of yore, Laxius Force does not have sanitized dialogue. People are not above cursing on occasion, some talk about sexual flings they’ve had, and some openly prejudiced folks do not sugar coat their views and opinions. There is also some fanservice in that pectorally endowed female characters wear skimpy armor and there’s even a Playboy bunny-esque character class called bunnygirl. As silly as that may sound, I say if SaGa Frontier can have superheroes, robots, monsters, castles, and shopping malls in the same world, why can’t Laxius Force have bunnygirls in its world? Personally, I found the fanservice satirically fun and the salty dialogue added some bite to the world’s inhabitants. I’m not a child any more and appreciate more adult dialogue in my video games, but gamers who are sensitive to that may want to pass.

The game features the semi-linear quest based gameplay as the Aveyond games. There are main quests to follow in order to advance the storyline, but there are also plenty of sidequests as well and even some fun mini-games. Oftentimes townspeople will have optional quests for you to complete and even party members may offer sidequests as well. Fortunately, keeping track of quests is easy with the in-game quest log. These quests are good ways to gain both money and experience, and some may even yield new traveling companions. Completion of quests gives massive experience boosts to active party members and so engaging in the sidequests is not only a great way to gain levels and skills without it ever feeling like grinding, but also a great opportunity to explore the surroundings and learn about the world and its inhabitants.

The battles are traditional turn-based ones that RPG fans should know and love by now, and enemies can be seen on the field before engaging them, save for a few areas where encounters are random. The areas with random encounters make sense, such as during a fortress raid mission where the enemies are concealed by the snow. I personally have always preferred good ol’ fashioned turn-based battling in my RPGs, but as with the Aveyond games, there is no escape option in battles. However, this is circumvented by the grace of the goddess Yveen. If the entire party falls in battle, the goddess Yveen will resurrect the party to the nearest town or sometimes the dungeon entrance in exchange for 10% of the party’s gold. And don’t worry, any experience gained before the fall is retained. Each character has his or her own independent class and subsequent skill set in battle so it’s important to strategically choose one’s party since every character has advantages and disadvantages. Characters can easily be switched in and out of the active party outside of battle, and since only active party members gain experience in battles and during quests, players will switch characters out a fair amount.

The game is adequately challenging both in and out of battle. Bosses do not go down easy and require strategy to defeat. Also challenging is finding the major goals and doing what needs to be done in order to reach them. After all, Random and company have been away from civilization for a long time, a mysterious evil is afoot, and there are no all-knowing NPCs who explicitly tell you what to do, where to go, and how to get there. Gamers will have to work for that information themselves. Sidequests often require some brainpower, good observational skills, and a willingness to explore every inch of the environment. Oh, and before I forget, the game allows players to save anywhere and any time they wish outside of battle.

The game was created using the RPG Maker XP software, so the sprite and tile-based graphics resemble the kinds of 16-bit graphics reminiscent of the 16-bit Final Fantasy games. The vividly colored environments are intricately designed and chock full of detail, and I often spent time just walking around admiring them. Weather effects are done well and there are cool details such as the screen flashing followed by the rumbling sound of thunder to give that more urgent feel of a thunderstorm.

Battles are seen from a first-person perspective as in the Phantasy Star games and feature large hand-drawn enemies and environments. The artwork for the hero characters is hand-drawn and looks like paintings of anime characters. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual glossy look that anime style RPG characters tend to have. The character designs are nice, though Random looks too much like Star Ocean: The Second Story’s Claude Kenni for comfort and the wise werewolf Brussian is an all too obvious nod to Final Fantasy VII’s Red XIII. Generally, though, the non-human characters look more unique than the human ones, my personal favorite being the skeleton warrior, Kratin.

The MIDI music is reminiscent of the classic RPG melodies I get the nostalgic warm fuzzies over. My favorite piece of music is easily the title theme, entitled “The Other Side of the Lake.” Music is often only played in towns and during battles with atmospheric sound effects punctuating dungeon exploration. Given how well-done the aural atmospherics are done in the dungeons using RPG Maker XP, I can only imagine how great they could be if done on more advanced development software. I like that although the music is not played in every part the game, it never feels sparse.

Laxius Force is a great RPG at a great price and what more could you want? It’s tough to say no to a 35+ hour RPG with as much, if not more, text/dialogue than some RPGs from major developers that only costs $15. Definitely take a moment to browse the game’s official site and check out Laxius Force, the Laxius Power games, and the other content the developers have produced, such as their print novels and non-Laxius RPG Blades of Heaven. I hope that the ambitions of Aldorlea Games are fully realized and that Laxius becomes an underground epic series that could potentially rival Square Enix’s SaGa series.

Overall Score 84
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Neal Chandran

Neal Chandran

Neal is the PR manager at RPGFan but also finds time to write occasional game or music reviews and do other assorted tasks for the site. When he isn't networking with industry folks on behalf of RPGFan or booking/scheduling appointments for press events, Neal is an educator, musician, cyclist, gym rat, and bookworm who has also dabbled in voiceover work and motivational speaking.