Time Stalkers - Review

By: Anna Marie "Paws" Whitehead

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Gameplay 8
   Music 9
   Originality 9
   Plot 8
   Replay Value 10
   Sound 6
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy to Hard
   Time to Complete

20-100 hours


Time Stalkers
Taking Reading to a Whole New Level  

   You have trekked into some ruins, chasing a man whom you have clashed swords with. You have looked and looked, having a bad feeling creep up on you since you have ventured farther in. Finally, you come to a room; this room holds naught but bookshelves, and near then, a desk to sit and read them. You see a book has been left lying there, and you open it. A bright light emerges, blinding you with it's brilliance. When you can once again blink to clear your vision, you find yourself in a new world-but yet, not a new world. A piece of your world, attatched to other pieces of other worlds, to create one hodgepodge landscape. This is the land of Time Stalkers.

   The battle system in this world of worlds is easy to learn and very logical in it's order. At the beginning of each dungeon, you are at level 1. You may have up to 2 companion monsters with you. When battle occurs (which depends on how a monster feels about you), the screen doesn't change, but the format does. Each 'section' of the adjacent squares to the battlefield are broken up into 4 smaller sqares, where allies or enemies may stand. You choose at the beginning of the round from a list of various choices (and many choices depend on what equipment and skills you have equipped and active), and then when everyone is done selecting, everything is triggered. Order is determined by both levels and speed. Depending on your position and the enemies', it may not be possible to hit them with certain characters/monsters.

   Gameplay moves as fast as the one with the controller deems it moves. There is little time when the player has to sit back and merely watch (in fact, the count is close to a small incidence rate of 3 or 4). One may stop to smell the roses, see the NPCs and unplayed PCs develop, or one may simply rush through each and every event to smash through the next dungeon and be done with the whole affair. The highly customizability to the speed the game has is a large boon and it would be nice if more games applied this principle.

Races from all worlds
Races from all worlds  

   The music enraptures. Each character has it's own background music used in the overworld, and the dungeons have pleasant, mood-making music which is easy on the ears but not so intense or unique it steals away from the forerunning action. This is a game you don't wanna mute just for the enjoyment of the sound. The only complaint about the music is that it doesn't fit one or two of the characters very well.

   Originality abounds in the game. The method of transportion into the world is through mere books planted in certain dungeons which additional 'heroes' have travelled in it seems coincidentally to come to this piecemeal world. The dungeons are generated randomly and add a new twist each time you enter-nothing gets boring because it is merely being done over and over again. The NPC are unique and provide colorful interaction. They mature and move along as the game does, so what they say and do also never becomes boring.

Plot-wise, the game is constantly surprising the player. Behind each face there lies a bit of deceit, and a bit of truth. The player must advance the story to decide who hides more of what. At the end, the player must make a crushing decision, at a fork in the plot. I took one end, and, with tears in my eyes, but a happy feeling in my heart, I ended the game and watched the credits crawl across the screen. luckily, you can still continue the game after the credits, providing you have enough patience to wait the half an hour for them to finish. :P

   The replay value of this game is incredibly high. Dungeons are randomly generated, so they are new and uniquely shaped each time. Sometimes they are easy, with few monsters and many heal points; however, sometimes they are extremely challenging where enemies can gang up 3 groups at a time and there are few healing points. There are many different types of monsters to catch, and each bring varied and unique skills to the battlefield. Only through trial and error experience can one form a solid team, and even then there is always room for change and improvement. To level each hero up to their max level alone would take at leas 50 game hours. There are also fun quests where you must go into previously defeated dungeons to gain an object, kill a certain monster (or number of monsters), or defeat a specific boss which will garner the player the money they need to make home improvements and buy rare yet useless collectable items.

Where did they go?!
Where did they go?!  

Sound, when compared to music, is a complete flop. Detailed in some places (your feet crunch on ground and tap on tile), the lack of a good variety and the overall boring quality of the ones included sometimes make the game annoying to listen to, even when the beatiful dungeon and character musics are playing. Appealing at first, one will quickly tire of the same clank and clap over and over again.

Visuals also have something left to be desired. Often during a walk through the dungeon and disgustingly often during certain dungeons' battles, the scenery will block off your view of where you are aiming at. This can create havoc to one's strategy and should be avoided at all cost. Unfortunately, you cannot control the camera angles during a battle, which will leave most whom fall into this unfortunately circumstance feeling very frustrated. Other than that, most of the scenery was done very well. Mostly soft pastellish colors, those areas that have been dark are done well...except for the fact that the green they use to color the walls is the same as the map, making it difficult to see for those whom have full color vision and impossible to those who are even partially colorbling. It is extremely difficult to go through a dungeon in a game which expects you to use the map to navigate when you cannot use it.

Difficulty varied each time one entered a dungeon; it also varies from whom you're fighting with and what dungeon, as the later ones are, naturally, progressively harder than the ones that came beforehand. If you are using monsters too weak for a later dungeon, they will die quickly and you will be left to fight on your own. Also, because the dungeons are randomly created, some will be make *incredibly* hard. There has been a time where a dungeon had over 4 groups in each room for 4 floors in a row with no healing room, which made progress nearly impossible. Generally, the difficulty was average in comparison to other games. The variance made the game more appealing in some ways, as the extremely difficult times were usually balanced out eventually by an easier time.

Open Sesame!
"Open Sesame!"  

The time it would take to complete this game would depend totally on the choices of the player. If one decides to simply whip through all 7 dungeons, it would take very little time (most dungeons take 30-100 minutes to complete, depending on both monster placement and difficulty of the dungeon), but to explore each dungeon thoroughly as well as collect every monster, let alone every item, would take a massive amount of time. Quests are also nicely infinite although many come up more than once. You can upgrade your monster house 3 times and your real house 5 times, each being successively more expensive. You can also buy/randomly find special rare items to put on display. Though these items to absolutely nothing but sit and collect dust, it is fun to collect them. Try to find a complete "* no evil" collection sometime ;)

Though Time Stalkers most certainly has it's faults, it's also a very enjoyeable game to play as well as a very addictive one. It is a game that you would want to talk over, just to try another strategy, and maybe even another ending. Though the game concentrates a lot on dungeon crawling, the time spent between these dungeons are chock full of incredibly detailed story and evolving characters. The time you spend outside of those dungeons learning about the people of the worlds is sometimes invaluable to the dungeons within. You'll have to pardon me now for cutting this short, but I still have 2 monsters I need to track down and capture....

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