Monday, 9 November 2015

Elona Plus / Elona+ Review

What happens when you mix crazy Japanese memes with a rougelike RPG? Elona happens, or more specifically Elona Plus (Elona+) happens.

Elona Plus is a very heavily modified roguelike, probably based on the roguelike ADOM, featuring an expansive overland map, day/night weather cycles and stacks of Japanese otaku cliches.

Originally created by Japanese developer Noa, the newest fork of the game, Elona Plus, has been continued by developer Ano. Because of Elona's Japanese origin the English translation is dicey, especially in newly released areas.

Warning: Elona Plus contains some very mature content. On the surface, Elona may seem like a light-fun, roguelike variant, but it doesn't take long for its true nature to be revealed. Elona does come with a proper mature content warning for a reason. As an example of these mature themes, a friendly NPC tries to trick the starving player into eating a human corpse in the tutorial as a joke - in the tutorial for god's sake, as a joke.

Elona Overworld
Dark humor aside, Elona has tried breaking the mold of the traditional roguelike. Instead of conquering the traditional randomized single dungeon, players can freely choose how to progress throughout the game. Game progression isn't based on dungeon level or even player level, but with rare tiered equipment and overall character stat development. Spending real life days and virtual months in one of Elona's cities grinding skills is not unheard of and grinding can become a hefty part of the game; technically, heavy RPG grinding is just another Japanese trope.

Elona does have a main story with associated "main" dungeons. The story is separated into dungeon stratas, but most players will end up bashing the first main quest related dungeon after a few days of heavy skill grind. Notable dungeons include the Puppy Cave - a randomized noob dungeon - and the dungeon of Lesimas which features the original Elona's main quest.

Random dungeons, hard-coded areas and cities are spread across the map. Player characters (PCs) can enter any area at any level, so there really is no clear restrictions on content difficulty. Having no restrictions offers a great amount of freedom and potential for exploitation by the player.

Warning: entering high level dungeon when you're low level is asking to be slaughtered by a tyrannosaurs or alien queen or something much, much worse.

Elona Cyber House
Dying mechanics work differently in Elona too. Many roguelikes feature permanent death, but in Elona you can choose to come back to life. Players are resurrected in their home albeit with a skill and attribute penalty. An ironman option exists that restricts saving and resurrection; resurrection and death penalties suffered on ironman are far greater than the standard game mode.

Elona breaks away from traditional roguelikes because of its permanence features: the lack of death means players can focus on and build a single character; the ability to build interactive houses, museums, ranches and shops; the ability to have large groups of companion "pets" that never permanently die; a weather and date system that shouldn't be ignored due to its mutagenic effects; and many more features too long to list. These lasting game elements means the player becomes a part of the world instead of a transient hero with a one way ticket usually ending in their short lives with permanent death.

Elona Character Attributes
Lack of a permanent death system means the gameplay tends to be much looser and swifter. Gameplay can be run step by step too, but players will usually end up running all over the map.

Elona Plus features a whole new post game continent for veteran Elona players to explore and, because Elona has a gene seeding system, starting a fresh game isn't even a total loss of time.

Weeaboos (Japan-o-philes), Otaku, anime and manga fans should feel right a home with the Japanese style references; truly it seems like Elona has been built specifically for these types of people. Other gamers may find the Japanese centric humor fly right over their heads, but enjoy the roguelike gameplay nonetheless.

Over the years I've played a lot of Japanese videogames and I've watched a large amount of anime too, and I hazard to guess that at least a quarter of Elona's references fly straight over my head. Elona is almost a Where's Waldo/Wally of Japaneseyness.

Elona Plus is free-to-play and comes with a stock English translation thanks to having a dedicated English speaking fan-base. The English fan-base maintains a number of tutorials and wikis regarding in depth facets of Elona's gameplay.

If you love Japanese RPGs, heavily modified roguelikes, and don't mind the 1001 Japanese memes you should be right at home. An average gamer could be looking at 100s of hours of play time fully exploring Elona.

You can download the latest Elona Plus here, click on Elona Plus Download and then follow the links to the dropbox or Axfc upload. The English wiki is here for Elona and here for Elona Plus they contain more information and links.

8/10 - 'Gene engineer a horse and a girl. Nothing wrong about that.'

*Beware Adult Themes and Japaneseyness.

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