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    Ikenfell

    Game » consists of 1 releases. Released Oct 08, 2020

    Ikenfell is a Retro-style RPG about a girl who has to go save her sister who went missing while she was attending a school for learning magic. The game was started on Kickstarter.

    vrkobold's Ikenfell (PC) review

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    • vrkobold wrote this review on .
    • 4 out of 4 Giant Bomb users found it helpful.
    • vrkobold has written a total of 2 reviews. The last one was for Ikenfell
    • This review received 1 comments

    A solid, well-rounded RPG with a diverse cast, hampered by clunky, though interesting, combat.

    Ikenfell is a tactical role-playing game with a strong emphasis on character interaction, mystery, and environmental storytelling. While the pacing of some elements are slow or inconsistent, the quality of the constituent parts shines through to provide a remarkable, notable game.

    The story moves at a brisk pace, driven forward by a trio of intriguing mysteries: What happened to your sister? Why is Ikenfell in lockdown and disarray? What is the nature of this world's changing magic? These core concerns are bolstered by further minor mysteries, as we learn about the natures and histories of the characters you meet along the way. These mysteries kept me engaged throughout the length of the game.

    I will note, however, that players may get the feeling that they are on a wild goose chase for much of the story. The reasons for this are twofold; one sensible, and one less so. The sensible reason is that, well, you are on a wild goose chase, and rightly so -- your crew is scrambling to figure out what the hell is going on. The less sensible reason is that there are very few "town" areas. While this is understandable given the events occurring at Ikenfell, "towns" serve an important role in games. They give the player a chance to breathe, to rest, to take in the world. Ikenfell suffers from their absence.

    The music and environmental artwork adds depth and texture to pretty much every scene. Whether active or ambient, the music is used effectively to impart environments, scenarios, and conflicts with energy, tension, and emotion. The environmental art builds on that by giving individual areas distinct feelings and appearances; the library stacks feel old and musty, the abandoned jail feels creepy, the ruins feel ethereal. Care was taken to give each area of the world its own personality and significance.

    In other reviews, I have seen it noted that the vocal tracks in some encounters, provided by SAMMUS, Adriana Figueroa, and Rekcahdam, feel out of place in a soundtrack that is often sparse or quiet. I was caught off-guard at first, and I do think the occasional references to real-world people are undoubtedly jarring missteps, but I think these tracks otherwise work to provide a more energized flavor to scenes which call for it.

    Enemy, character, and attack animations are detailed and flavorful, and impart combat with a sense of life and energy that many sprite-based RPGs lack. I know that people tire of spritework, and it certainly can be misused by some games, but I think a great deal of expertise and care is demonstrated here. The art and animation really do breathe life into the combat and the overall setting of Ikenfell.

    The characters are lifelike, even if their character arcs are sometimes stunted or incomplete. Each of your party members has personality, and while they do sometimes feel primarily defined by one or two traits, they are each given enough depth and characterization that they don't feel flat.

    I do think that some of their character development feels incomplete or absent. In some cases, it feels like we weren't shown the full pathway a character makes from where they start to where they end up. It's hard to tell if this is the authors expecting the player to fill in the blanks, or if scenes got cut, or if they were just disregarded. Broadly speaking, the character development is logical and sensible, but some of the work simply was not shown.

    The combat is interesting and has mechanisms to keep you engaged, but those same mechanisms can turn slow or repetitive. Battles take place on a 3x11 (or 12?) featureless grid, and every attack, spell, and item has a particular range and shape, so it's important to figure out how to position your characters to attack and support each other effectively. Furthermore, all attacks and spells have a timing minigame (a la Paper Mario) that increases or decreases their efficacy; the function of this is to keep you paying attention in combat at all times.

    However, these also end up slowing the pace of encounters. I have mixed feelings on this; I like the idea that a dungeon might consist of four to eight medium-length encounters, instead of twelve to twenty small encounters that you just button mash through. Unfortunately, I think these just serve to make encounters way too slow. Movement in combat is clunky, attempting to remember the positioning requirements for dozens of spells is a large ask, and the timing minigames quickly get repetitive -- even if you use the setting to auto-succeed at them, they still make attacks take several seconds to resolve.

    This problem is partially remedied by the option to enable auto-win for encounters. I think that is a totally sound option to have in games which can get difficult. However, it results in too much of a pull to the other side. I didn't want to use it because I couldn't figure out how to win, I wanted to use it because the encounters just play out too slowly. And in doing so, the tension of important battles evaporated, not because I couldn't lose but because I didn't have a fun method of engaging with those battles long enough for the gravity of the situations to sink in. I think streamlining the combat or including an auto-battle feature would have remedied this, at least somewhat.

    Many, if not all, of the characters fall under the LGBTQIA banner. While this high density may seem like forced representation to some, it's really not; I know people with friend groups that are pretty much like that. At several points in my life, me and all of my friends were/are, for lack of a better word, queer.

    I don't think a developer should be faulted for wanting to represent us as the overwhelming majority in a game, and I will award some bonus points for having a character with neopronouns; as someone who uses it/its pronouns, it feels affirming to be acknowledged in a natural, thoughtful way.

    As an aside, I would like to note that, yes, gay people absolutely can and will say "I'm so gay". It's actually pretty common in some circles. It's somewhere between self-affirmation and memetic humor. This is a criticism I have seen in many reviews and comments, and while I get that people don't always have the context for it... it's absolutely a thing.

    At first, I was put off by how unnaturally level-headed most characters were in responding to interpersonal conflict, or addressing trauma. To be frank, it is currently unrealistic, and I think anyone with experience with those processes will agree. Depending on your own personal experiences, this may be off-putting, or it may be reassuring to picture a world in which these troubles can be resolved.

    However, I think this is not necessarily a bad thing. By presenting an idealized manner of how characters resolve conflicts and react to trauma, Ikenfell serves as a manual for how to think about and treat others. It demonstrates anguish, conflict, and trauma, and offers You, The Player ways of thinking about those that I think can be of use in real-world circumstances.

    Ikenfell is a well-rounded game that provides several compelling mysteries to propel you through an environment that -- though it may seem derivative of Hogwarts -- uses excellent art and music to establish its own personality and enable that to shine through. And while the combat proceeds at a slow pace that I found tough to sit through, it is cerebral and interactive.

    Furthermore, Ikenfell presents queerness center-stage in an unapologetically positive light; I think many players will find this appealing and comforting. I think that even people who aren't LGBTQIA can find this a refreshing change of pace that provides an opportunity to envision a different world. Plus, I think Ikenfell provides some useful insight and guidance to people who experience trauma and conflict, or know someone who has, and I think that is an admirable goal for a game to undertake.

    Other reviews for Ikenfell (PC)

      Super Cute and Super Gay 0

      The art style is very charming! The music is wonderful! The characters are diverse! The story is very sweet and super duper gay!As who is bad at playing games, I greatly appreciated the lengths the team went to make the whole experience accessible. If you want a challenge, it's there, but if you, like me, struggle, there are options.As someone who is LGBT, I greatly appreciated the lengths the team went to remind us of gay characters! We don't see enough LGBT characters, and certainly not enoug...

      1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

      Padded quest design, Bad Combat and bland presentation. Nothing shines in Ikenfell 0

      On paper, Ikenfell sounds amazing. It’s a 16-bit RPG with gameplay inspired by the Paper Mario series and a setting reminiscent of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books. I wanted to find something to like in this game, but there are numerous elements to the game that didn’t work for me. The story is a wild goose chase. The gameplay is punishingly difficult. The presentation is bland. There are some really odd-ball soundtracks that I found unfitting, grating and annoying. And the queer m...

      1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

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