Secret of Magia is an indie game developed by Lunatoid using the RPG Maker VX Ace engine. Both the game and the engine are available for purchase on Steam. Reminiscent of the early Zelda and Final Fantasy titles, Secret of Magia will take you on a perilous top-down adventure through lands of varied terrain. By collecting inventory and special abilities, your goal is to return 4 special objects to a big boss and earn 5 glorious Steam achievements. Unfortunately, as of this writing, none of the achievements are actually popping…hopefully this will be fixed soon.
The first order of business when starting a new game is to select one of two characters: male or female. Although you have a spiffy mouse cursor in the shape of a sword, you cannot use it here. With your arrow keys, guide a black orb through the doorway next to the character of choice (I picked male for this review). Soon you will choose one of 6 character-classes (I chose Paladin) and pick up side quests to complement the main story line. As your adventure continues, you’ll come across towns and other places crucial to your goal of collecting the 4 special items for the big boss.
Let’s talk towns. As per RPG standards, these settlements contain three staples of adventuring: markers, buildings and non-player characters (NPCs). Markers can be anything from a rock to trash dumpster…basically, a stationary item of interest. In Secret of Magia, a prominent town marker is the “Save Game” fountain.
Buildings provide a service, whether it be weaponry, food or simply a place to sleep. Lunatoid was thoughtful enough to include a hospital-type building, for quick healing after a hard day of getting yourself hurt.
NPCs are the most interesting of the town staples, as they offer clues to help you advance the story. Sometimes their assistance is direct; at other times cryptic. Either way, they’re always interesting to meet.
The open world is vast, and you’ll often come across creepy locales. Say what you will, but the classic RPG “dungeon” has always been my favorite spot to encounter anything; especially combat. Enemies are easy to spot in this game. They meander aimlessly about…until they get within a few hex spaces of you. Don’t get complacent, though. Rather than using a turn-based system, Secret of Magia offers real-time combat. Enemies can suddenly dart in your direction, hit you for damage and retreat to safety, all in an instant. I found it useful to hide behind nearby objects and then rush the baddies before they could get a jump on me…but those were just sewer rats. Sentient foes are much tougher! In addition to a standard weapon, your character must also juggle a shield, armor and a host of special accessories and spells.
This game puts RPG Maker through its paces, and it’s up to the player to make it all work. The best advice I can give for the novice is: “Take your time!” The game sports training grounds and combat dummies on which adventurers can hone their skills. Personally, I’d spend equal time getting good with the myriad menus and sub-menus; switching items and weapons on demand: ESC/Enter/Space/Q/Shift/X…like a keyboard ninja (which is one of the classes you can choose, by the way)! I found the menu system quite confusing at first, but with some practice I got the hang of it. Of course we’re not splitting atoms here, but I’d kindly suggest that menus be a little more intuitive.
This brings us to our final point: game value. Is Secret of Magia worth it? The answer for me is an overwhelming YES. As of this publication, the game is on sale for $1.79 (US). Soon enough the price will shoot back up to 3 bucks…just so you know.
I’ve always been a fan of RPGs, dungeon-crawls and the like. Now that the RPG Maker VX Ace engine is available to all, expect to see many of these outstanding projects soon. Who knows, perhaps you could be the next great RPG designer! In the meantime, have fun with this one.