One of the things about a free game is that, generally, you don’t expect much from them. This isn’t to say free games are necessarily bad, just that most people tend to expect free games to be the realm of amateur games developers who are making their first few steps into games development rather than, say, professional games developers. As such, a lot of slack is often given to free games because all that is wasted if you don’t like them is your time.
However, with the resources available to make games out there available for relatively low prices (sometimes even less than it costs to buy some triple-A games: if you want to make a visual novel and have the talent to draw and input your own artwork while also writing your own story, you could feasibly start making visual novels for £11, and you could probably do the same for RPGs for £15), it does beg the question of when exactly a line should be drawn between saying that a free game deserves scorn regardless of the cost and experience of the developer or deserves some slack to be given.
That is not a question I will be looking at today (although I might come back to it in the future). However, what I can say for certain is that Lamia Must Die is a game that baffles me for how well regarded it is on Steam. At the time of writing, it has an overall score of 73% (out of 41 reviews, admittedly)…and yet, no matter how hard I think on it, I can’t really place why.
Let me be fair and state this now: I do not think this is a BAD game. It does what it aims to do well enough (which is provide an experience a la the Final Fantasy series) and the worst I can say about it is that it doesn’t realise the potential it has. The problem for me, however, is that it’s the wasted potential which frustrates me, because it had the potential to EASILY be a far more enjoyable game.
The game can basically be summed up as a boss fight with plot (delivered via exposition) in the lead up to it, as the game is literally just a single boss fight again Lamia (who is a large breasted snake woman…yeah, it’s anime influenced, how’d you guess?) in which a party of four adventurers (although you are given a total of six potential characters prior to the game starting) have to attempt to fight and kill Lamia (the title is a bit of a giveaway there, if you hadn’t noticed!). I will admit that the battle system is not one I personally like much (it’s not turn based, but operates on a combat wheel which rotates even when it’s your character’s turn) and I think some degree of a tutorial or lead up to the battle would be a good idea to allow players to learn the ropes of the game BEFORE they fight Lamia (as the difficulty of the game is not kind to those not used to this sort of game), but it is still fairly well implemented. Combine that with some passable voice acting, excellent graphics (for an RPGmaker title, as least) and a plot that, while well trodden ground for most people, is still handled fine and you’d expect me to be saying this is a good game.
Unfortunately, it’s here we return back to the wasted potential, because we never actually get to PLAY as the characters in the lead up to the fight against Lamia, so we never get to explore the land the story is set in and don’t really get to see the characters develop. This really is the sort of game which SHOULD have been expanded out and made into a full RPG, because it feels oddly incomplete as it is. I’m aware that I might be being unfair with this criticism, but the game feels like I’ve just been shown the battle at the Black Gate of Mordor with NO lead up to it and none of Frodo’s scenes interspaced between scenes and told “OK, this is The Lord of the Rings”: even without having seen the rest of the films, I’d feel like there’s a HUGE amount which I’ve not been told which I would love to know, like how the characters came to know each other. That is the case here: the game feels like the climax to a story which it forgot to tell the audience, and the exposition does not fill in enough gaps to fix this problem.
Still, for what it’s worth, that IS the worst criticism I have of the game. I highly doubt the developer of the game is reading this, but, if they are, then I’d suggest they make their next game (assuming they do want to be a proper games developer, obviously) much larger than Lamia Must Die, because this game shows they have the potential to do this type of game very well, they just made a bit of a mistake in choosing to basically release the climax of an epic story as its own game.
Overall, while I wouldn’t recommend this game myself, I do think that it mostly does a good job and shows a developer with potential to do well in the future, so RPG fans might want to at least give this a go. I’m really hoping the developer keeps making RPGs, because, if they do one a la Eternal Senia or Pokemon, I think they could pull it off very well!