Review: Breath of Death VII/Cthulhu Saves the World

It seems fitting that two micro RPG’s get a micro review. Zeboyd Games recently dropped their two-pack  onto Steam. I snatched them up at release and got them on sale, but even at full price it won’t break the wallet.

Originally debuting on Xbox Live Indie Games, Breath of Death VII was released for the PC market with Cthulhu Saves the World. Don’t look for BoD I-VI.  They don’t exist, and that is part of the charm of these games. They aren’t trying to be something they shouldn’t. They are derivative and they know it. They know you have played this game before. They are meant more as an homage/spoof of old school RPG’s such as the Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire series.

If you have ever played any Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire… well, basically any JRPG from NES up to PS2 you already know how these games play. They don’t break new ground in the RPG multiverse, but they do add some nice tweaks. You wander around a large world map fighting monsters and pursuing the Ultimate Bad Guy (UBG). This is about all I will say about it. As I said, we’ve played this game before.

Every location has random battles, but there is a limit, and this is the best tweak to the old system they made. Once you fight all the battles for an area there will be no more random battles. You can however force a battle by choosing Fight from the menu. This lead to me entering an area and choosing to fight over and over again until the encounter counter (heh) reached 0. Then I could just explore without worry of getting interrupted. In some of the longer dungeons this may have been what kept me from giving up in disgust. Some of the dungeons are long, labyrinthine affairs that would have had me totally lost if I had to stop focusing on finding my way to fight some monsters every 20 steps.

What made these games so appealing to me were the length and the story. Each game can be played all the way through in less than ten hours. I think I did them in about eight hours each. You can save anywhere, which made them perfect for picking up and playing in 15 minute chunks if I wanted to. Completing the story will open up a harder mode, and there are a couple of other game modes you can try it out if you haven’t had enough by the end of the story.

The games will never win awards for great storytelling, instead relying on tongue in cheek humor and standard RPG tropes to get you from one point to the next. BoD VII is the standard tale of a party of adventurers seeking an ultimate reward at the end of an epic quest (or as epic as you can get in nine hours). Cthulhu puts you in the role of a powerless demon trying to get his powers back… by becoming a true hero . I thought the concept of Cthulhu trying to get his evil powers back by becoming a true good guy so he could be evil again was a cute nod to the obvious twists you see in some of the older RPG’s. Liberally sprinkled with humor, both stories will have you laughing out loud in several places as you recognize the game reference they are taking a shot at.

Is pretending to be the good guy the same as being a good guy?

The games don’t build off of each other, so it doesn’t matter which one you play first, but I’m glad I played them in release order and went for BoD VII first. It’s the weaker of the two. You only have 4 characters, each weapon/armor choice is better than the one you have, and the story was more traditional. Cthulhu introduced more characters than you can have in your party at one time, and the weapon and armor choices weren’t always so clear.

One caveat I need to mention is gamepad play. You can play with the keyboard, but to use a gamepad you either need an Xbox 360 controller or a program that allows you to remap key strokes to your gamepad. Both of these games were written using XNA, and using a non-360 controller in XNA is much too difficult to bother with in games this size and price point.

Don’t expect brilliant writing and game play from these titles. But do expect a solid enjoyable experience. Factor in that the 2 pack will only cost you $3 and you have a winner any way you look at it.

(Okay, maybe this wasn’t so micro a review after all)

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