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Game Info:

Arelite Core
Developed by: Dragon Slumber
Published by: Dragon Slumber
Released: February 8, 2017
Available on: Windows
Genre: JRPG
Number of players: 1
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you, Dragon Slumber, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

There have been many tales of adventurers who risk life, limb and sanity to save the world from ancient monsters, evil sorcerers, or world-shattering events. But there usually isn't much to say about those humble characters who supply those brave adventurers with the tools they need to be victorious. Arelite Core, the debut game from Dragon Slumber, attempts to change this by presenting the story of a blacksmith who leaves his village to learn from other smiths around the world.

I say “attempt to,” because this plot seems to take a sideline to a different story, in which the blacksmith teams up with other characters to try and stop an ancient evil from destroying the world. He can still learn from other smiths that he comes across, but that seems to become more of a sidequest. Actually smithing weapons and armor also becomes sidelined, as materials tend to be difficult to find, and impossible to purchase.

The storyline is interesting, at least. You can name the blacksmith (as well as any of the characters in his party), but the default name is Karden. His village is located near an ancient mine with the only known source of a rare metal called arelite. When it is rediscovered, Karden and his friend are sent to investigate, only to learn that this mysterious metal now displays signs of sentience. He sets out to learn more about smithing and how to use arelite, and along the way, learns of an ancient evil called Talameq, who seeks to destroy the world.

Arelite Core
Highlights:

Strong Points: Interesting story; nice graphics; intriguing game world
Weak Points: Combat can become bland and repetitive; railroad plot; less emphasis on crafting than you would expect with a game starring a blacksmith
Moral Warnings: RPG violence; little bit of blood; some language; some enemies appear to be nude women; one NPC comes “out of the closet.”

Although the plot is interesting, it is a bit of a railroad. You aren't given too much freedom to explore the world, as the events keep pulling you various directions without much opportunity to really plumb the depths of each locale. In a couple places, you aren't even permitted to hang around long enough to learn the results of lifting curses from the land. The world is an interesting one, inhabited by humans and anthropomorphic creatures, but you aren't given much opportunity to learn more about these communities.

The gameplay is similar to many other Japanese-inspired roleplaying games. Combat consists of the player characters lined up on the right side of the screen, with the enemies on the left. Based on the characters' speed, they take turns attacking each other or casting spells. Characters can be stunned, which forces them to lose their turn. The player characters also can get energy to inflict various attacks or spells. Characters earn experience, which allows them to gain levels. As they gain levels, they can gather skill points in order to enhance their attacks, parries and assorted abilities. While some of the battles can be tricky, clever and thoughtful use of these skills can turn many fights, including those against bosses, into little more than a cakewalk. In fact, there were some times when I actively tried to avoid fights simply to try and continue with solving some of the mazes, or to move on with the story. With a strategy that works, combat becomes little more than a tedious slog, even against the bosses. Although sometimes things change slightly when the party roster changes, this happens seldomly, and it doesn't take long to adapt. Then combat becomes a grind again.

The game does have other flaws as well. Arelite Core is riddled with typos and grammatical errors. And even though you can name the characters whatever you want, there were a few times when the main character was referred to as “Karden” instead of “Sstavix” (the name I chose, of course). The character portraits are static, and fail to display other emotions while in conversation. I also was a little irritated that, even though some of the characters have healing spells, the only time these can be cast is when in combat. Really, is it too much to ask for the opportunity to rest and heal up after a fight? The game also includes some DLC in the form of “horse armor.” However, these items only provide a minor stat boost, and place a goofy-looking horse head on the characters' portraits. I seldom used these, preferring other items that did not change the portraits. At times, when using the keyboard, the characters would stop moving across the map and I would have to hold down the arrow key again. This issue didn't happen when I was using a game controller, but overall I found it easier to use the keyboard and mouse instead of a controller when playing Arelite Core.

Arelite Core
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 64%
Gameplay - 10/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 57%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 6/10
Sexual Content - 2/10
Occult/Supernatural - 6.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - -8/10

Although relatively clean, there are a few elements of the game that bear a mention in terms of morality. There is a little bit of blood with a few attacks, but it's minor and vanishes quickly. Enemies collapse to the ground when defeated, and quickly disappear. A few of the enemies appear in a nude (or nearly nude) feminine form, but no “naughty bits” are shown. One of the characters does swear a few times – usually “d**n,” but “b*****d” is used a few times as well. That same character is driven primarily by hatred and a desire for revenge. Some of the non-player characters imply that they may be in same-sex relationships, but there are no detailed conversations to expand on this further. Finally, there is a conversation between two characters where one comes out of the closet as a gay man. Although the conversation is presented as comedic, it comes off more as creepy and a bit sad.

The game includes a handful of Steam achievements, some of which are difficult to obtain. Although one of the achievements is awarded if the game is completed in less than 10 hours, the initial playthrough will take much longer than that. At 20 hours, I found myself at about the halfway point, by my estimation. Steam trading cards also are available, for those who may be interested in those.

Although an interesting premise, Arelite Core isn't too different from a lot of other JRPGs out there. The game apparently uses its own engine, but is so similar to the glut of RPG Maker games that it's hard to tell. If the game had more open world elements and a heightened emphasis – and opportunity – on crafting and smithing, it could stand out from others in the pack. Sadly, the end result is a somewhat generic feeling that we've played this before, and it won't really stand out in our memories.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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