As a reviewer I am, at heart, a consumer advocate. My raison d’etre has always been to steer gamers towards the best purchases in video games while deterring them from purchases that waste their money and time. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I tend to work up a cost-benefit analysis while playing a game. So where does Sylia fall on this scale? Read on to fi… no, I’m just going to say it: this game is not worth the money.
Sylia starts out in medias res, or perhaps more accurately in terminus res, with the heroes of the kingdom ready to take on the head of the alien cube fleet that landed and terrorized the land. After blasting through the denizens of the lead alien cube, you face off with the head of the alien fleet (who is a witch for some reason) and beat her, only to have her revive and turn all humans on the planet to stone.
It is at that point that the plot shifts to the pets of the heroes and their quest to unpetrify the populace. Frankly, I found this to be an extremely creative and unexpected plot twist, and I thought developer Ensorcelled should be lauded for its creativity in this aspect. But after that twist, things stop being good. Character dialogue is obviously poorly translated from whatever language the developers speak, riddled with poor grammar, spelling, and idiomatic expressions that we just don’t use. Attempts at humor fall flat due to the poor writing, and the characters are two-dimensional archetypes (egotistical cat, foolish dog, crazy chicken, etc.). The bad guys are bad for the sake of being bad, and the witch is your typical vain, big-chested villain lady. In other words, the characters stink.
Creative plot twist: $5.00
Awful Dialogue: -$3.50
Boring Characters: -$1.00
Story Total Value: $0.50
Sylia seems to go out of its way to do absolutely nothing new with the traditional RPG genre. Your party goes from town to town, fighting enemies in an incredibly boring and unbalanced turn-based battle system, traipsing through dungeons, doing quests, and fighting bosses. Enemies either do ridiculous damage or are one-hit wonders; recovery items take the form of scores of different foods, many of which have almost identical effects (though most are character-dependent); and level grinding is a chore, especially since the initial enemies give you 0 experience points and 0 gold. Even Shining Force will give you 1 exp for fighting a scrub. Playing the game felt like a chore more than anything else, and I get paid for chores.
Boring Battle System: -$1.50
Unbalanced Enemies: -$2.00
Unnecessary and Redundant Items: -$1.00
Gameplay Total Value: -$5.50
The graphics in Sylia are bland and often fractured. The developers went crazy with tilesets and there are either vast expanses of sameness or a mishmash of ridiculously disparate elements. Something along the lines of an M.C. Escher painting, but boring. The animations are even worse. Perfect example: in battle, when your characters attack, they simply go from right to left, disappear, and appear back on the right. Even Final Fantasy had the characters swing a sword or move their arms somehow. And what is the point of letting you change the color of the animals’ fur if it just changes back to the default when you attack?
Poor Use of Tilesets: -$1.00
Graphics Total Value: -$2.50
As the one redeeming point of this game, the music is actually pretty good. Atmospheric when necessary, epic at times, and overall above average, the compositions are good. Sound effects are piss-poor, though, so that will hurt a bit.
Good Music: $2.00
Bad Sound Effects: -$0.50
Sound/Music Total Value: $1.50
The controls function as they should, and while not completely intuitive, aren’t bad for the game. Menu navigation gave me no trouble. But being praised for having functional controls is like being praised for breathing; it’s important to do it, a real downer when you don’t, but it’s really just expected.
Total Control Value: $1.00
Let’s add it up, shall we?
Total Value: -$5.00
Based on my calculations, Ensorcelled owes me $5 for playing their game. And how much are they charging? Twenty bucks, plus $7 for their strategy guide (which, if worth its salt, would simply read in big letters “ASK FOR A REFUND”). As a freeware title, Sylia may be worth playing if you’re bored and are in the later stages of Mercury poisoning, but buying Sylia at $20 is, well, silly.