A seemingly interesting game with unique mechanics that don’t deliver.
Genre: JRPG, Stealth
Developer: Graphic Line Games
Publisher: Graphic Line Games
Release date: 24 Oct, 2020
Clouds of Rain doesn’t strike me as an RPG Maker game at the start. It has customized assets and a modified menu – there’s barely any trace of RPG Maker left in the game. The premise that lets you experience the story from ~4 different parties also gives a fresh take to the game made in the same engine. However, what I thought was a seemingly good game doesn’t seem to be as bright as I expected. More on the review.
The game sure has a unique-looking background with its hand-drawn style. I was captivated by its look at first, especially with its soft touch with the mix of light colors. Some portraits look like a redrawn version of the default RPG Maker portrait although it still fits well with the graphics’ style. The map layouts are carefully designed, both indoors and outdoors, to reflect the environment. Each location feels different despite them using the same asset. However, the swamp area doesn’t feel like an actual swamp with its forest-like elements.
Despite the game focusing on four different points of view, there’s little to know about the story. The game keeps on cutting off the story from one to another without having a conclusion, leaving me confused as to what is the actual story or how everything is connected. All dialogues are mostly there for the sake of progression without any sort of character development or interest. There might be a slight story branching at some point of the story, but it feels pointless as there’s nothing to gain from the story either.
Although the game sparked my interest at one point, it happens right before the game cuts off at a cliffhanger with a “to be continued” message in it. I’m not sure whether I would continue playing a game that I had little understanding of when it’s available in the future.
The game doesn’t allow you to sprint – there is no dash toggle in the menu nor “hold shift to dash” mechanic despite the vast map. The super slow walking speed also doesn’t help since I felt like I spent one-third of my playtime just to walk.
Plants, items, and chests are abundant and can be found almost everywhere in the game. Some are well-hidden, some are not. Plants and items can help you to restore HP and MP while chests might give you useful gears that you can use in battle. However, the interface to consume plants might be confusing at first because the game requires you to select which party members to consume the plant and which plants to consume at the same time.
The game has a unique combat system where you can move your party members between 3 rows: front line, middle line, and backline. Each row has its advantages and disadvantages which also apply to the enemy. Weapons and armors take a great part to deal more damage as you have to change them to react to different types of enemies.
The unique combat mechanic looks interesting at first until your party keeps on dying in battle. Enemies deal roughly the same damage as you, making it hard to last without a proper strategy. You’ll have to utilize your spells and/or skills to gain an advantage in each battle.
The thing is, spells use a lot of MP and there’s no way to recover MP without using items as skills that can do the trick are either costly or limited. Although I said that plants and items are abundant, they are not enough to recover yourself after every battle if you are overusing your spells, and the same can be said if you don’t use spells at all. The solution? Grinding money to buy consumables.
You can buy items, both consumables, and gears, from NPCs. Battles will net you some money to buy the essential consumables and possibly some plants for you to recover. However, the game never mentioned any plant names, even in the interface where you can use them, and it took me a while to figure out which plant I got after every battle.
There is a bit of stealth mechanic when you control a certain party. However, this mechanic becomes annoying later on as people are stationed very close to the place that you’re supposed to pass through. The very slow walking speed also contributes greatly since it turns the mechanic into trial and error to make sure that you move from a certain spot at the right timing.
Just like the stealth mechanic, a certain party will let you pilot an airship. Piloting an airship might be annoying at first because of the winds and spins, but it becomes the best mechanics in the game later on due to the problematic mechanics of the other two. You need to watch out for the winds and control your ship based on the wind direction, whether to move backwards to slow the airship speed or continue onward to pass through the course quickly, dodging rocks along the way.
Difficulty and Length
The game offers 3 difficulties: tactical, story, and relax. Despite the description saying that “story” is an easy mode and “relax” is a very easy mode, it is meant for normal and easy mode respectively. I initially played in story mode because I wanted to feel how the game works without breezing through the interesting mechanic, but I soon became overwhelmed with the difficulty in the first 2 hours of playing. I ended up restarting the game in relax difficulty and I didn’t regret it; the game turns out to be tougher in some part of the game after where I left. I even had to restart the game several times to finish some fights in that difficulty. The game might have stated that I finished the game in ~7 hours, but the actual time might be longer than that.
Strangely, the game difficulty varies for each party. There is a party that has a lot of battles with overwhelming numbers (5+) and another party that has easy-to-beat enemies and full HP and MP restore after each fight. Each member in the latter party also has a skill that can recover both HP and MP, which is an issue in most parties, without any cost.
Although it might seem obvious, all parties don’t share the same inventory slots, meaning that your items will be reset after the party switches. The game also seems to reset your inventory after you switched back to one particular party, including your hard-earned money. While this might work to control the game’s difficulty to some extent, it renders exploration to be useless.
Intel Core i5-9300H 2.40GHz, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
Despite the interesting battle mechanic, the slow walking speed, difficult battles, and bland story turn me off from enjoying the game to its fullest. Exploration doesn’t seem to be rewarding and there’s nothing memorable from the game. The airship driving mechanic might entertain me at some point, but it’s mediocre at best. You’d better spend your money elsewhere.
We think most of it is fair criticism but we’d like to comment on some points.
- As for the usage of the plants in the menu, we went through many iterations of the system and this seemed to work best. Since using plant happens frequently, selecting one for each use gets tiring very soon.
- About the grinding, it is meant as a last resort and should happen rarely. If the reviewer found it necessary to be able to continue, he might have not understood the combat system well enough. We made many testers play the game (without any guidance by us I might add) and this problem came up only sometimes in tactical mode (which is meant to be an hard-core difficulty). Spells are only a part of the tactic, a lot of the combat system revolves around preparing the party before each battle with the right equipment and positions.
- About the name of the plants, no tester seemed to have issues with that but we’ll add it in the next patch.
- The two mandatory stealth sessions are very short so we wanted them to be challenging, but we put a lot of checkpoints to make it manageable.
- The varying difficulty between parties is wanted and serves the purpose to change the pace of the game. The chapters with the children are meant to be easier and a bit different, being that you don’t have to manage resources and the party heals himself after every fight. In the chapters with the Queen some fights are hard, but most of the tougher ones aren’t mandatory and are meant as side quests.
- Lastly, the inventory resets only for the Aris story-line, which is only 1 out of 3. Since they get to swap equipment at their base between chapters it seemed to make sense for that particular party. We agree that it might seem a cheap solution for balancing issues, so we have nothing against that criticism in particular, but it’s unfair to say that it applies to the game as a whole while it happens only for that storyline. The other parties get to start with the inventory they had at the end of their previous chapter. Maybe this misconception turned the reviewer off about the exploration, since he might have thought that any progress would be lost.