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Game Info:

Vastar
Developed by: Exodus Studios
Published by: Exodus Studios
Release Date: April 2010
Available on: PC
ESRB Rating; N/R
Genre:RPG
Single Player

Minimum System Requirements
Hard Drive: 100MB
Operating System (OS): Windows 98 or higher
Processor: 300 MHz or higher
Memory: 256 MB RAM or higher
Video: DirectX 8.0 or higher

Thank you Exodus Studios for sending us this game to review!

Exodus Studios has made several role playing games using the RPG Maker engine. Many of the games they make are faith based. Even though Vastar doesn\'t fall under that category, it’s still a relatively clean game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Don\'t judge Vastar too quickly, just because it has dated graphics. The character artwork is original, the musical score is beautiful, and the character development is outstanding.

The game begins by letting you choose which sibling you’d like to play. They each have their own journey and the final chapter unites them to defeat a common enemy. It’s surprising how different each sibling turned out given their upbringing. Julian, the eldest, takes after his mother and is in a magic school to become a powerful wizard. Xathia is a strong warrior yet she’s daddy’s little girl. Then there\'s Danton, the youngest, a rogue who is often underestimated, but could use a lesson or two in manners.

Whichever character you choose, you’ll start off in a friendly town where you can talk to people and familiarize yourself with the various shops and happenings in the world. Chances are, you’ll run into someone to trigger the quest for that character’s chapter. Xathia’s chapter quest is to deliver some merchandise to a trading town, while Danton’s told to do some chores and stay out of trouble (he fails). Meanwhile, Julian\'s chapter takes place at his school, where a student gets picked on, retaliates, and ends up freeing an evil power that must be stopped.

The dialogue changes depending on which character you’re playing as or who is your party’s leader. For example, the scribe at Ebonshire will only speak to Julian, and a mysterious rogue will only communicate via thief hand signs with Danton. Nobody else understands the hand gestures. If you’re exploring around in town, make sure to have Danton as your leader. Danton can acquire items that no one else can see if he examines dressers and tables.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent story, music, and character development

Weak Points: Some minor bugs, limited armor inventory, dated graphics, no widescreen support

Moral Warnings: Violence; references to many gods and goddesses

Although many town folk will tell you to stay on the main roads, the only way to level up is to stray off of the beaten path and fight some monsters. The monsters are clearly visible, so there are no surprise battles. With that said, sometimes they chase you or block your path to make avoiding them impossible.

The battle sequences are identical to the early role-playing games. You can tell your party to flee, defend, attack, or use an ability. If the enemy you\'re attacking is gone, they will automatically select another monster to attack. When a battle is won, experience, gold, and sometimes a treasure chest is left behind. When enough experience points are accumulated, a character levels up. The attributes and new abilities are automatically adjusted so there is no customization there. The only way you can impact your stats directly is by consuming essences to boost stats like health and agility.

There\'s a wide selection of enemies, which includes everything from little creatures like bees, to monsters like ogres, orcs and skeletons. If you lose a battle, it\'s game over, so make sure you save early and often. The game does do some autosaving for you, but don’t rely on that alone. While the mini-bosses are tough, the final boss is quite a challenge. Even at level forty, I was getting wiped out.

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

Game Score - 78%
Game Play: 16/20
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 10/10
Stability:3/5
Controls/Interface: 4/5

Morality Score - 91%
Violence: 6/10
Language: 10/10
Sexual Content: 10/10
Occult/Supernatural: 6.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10
+3 shows the consequences of evil and/or messing with the occult.

Money can be acquired by defeating enemies, collecting and redeeming souvenir items from particular monsters. If you’re the exploring type, you’re sure to come across stashes of cash along your travels. You can spend your money on buying spells, better shields, boots, and enchanted jewelry. I was disappointed at the number of items that you can equip. For a hefty price, you can upgrade your weapons and armor at a blacksmith; it’s definitely worth it though. Julian can\'t have his armor upgraded like his siblings. However, their mom can enchant his robes free of charge.

Magic is used quite a bit in this game and it’s unavoidable. On a positive note, necromancy is not tolerated and mages caught using it pay for it with their life. Violence is another given, but there is no blood or gore to be seen. On your journey, you’ll run into fairies and druids who worship various goddesses. Without giving too much of the story away, there is a nice tale of redemption being told here.

While the graphics won’t blow you away, they do add character to the game and get the job done. The graphics are in 2D, giving you a top-down view of the world, towns, and caves you\'re exploring. The worlds are huge and the caves are complex enough to easily get lost in. You can find maps in the game, which can help with navigating the caves and finding treasure chests. In battle, each spell has a different animated visual effect. I like the various facial expressions in the character dialogue boxes, especially when the siblings are fighting. The characters and artwork are based off of a manga written by the developer Rebecca Long.

The sound effects are okay and add some personality to the game as well. The musical score takes this game to a whole new level. Each area and town has its own theme music. It’s exceptionally fitting and often got stuck in my head. There’s a soundtrack available, if you want to give it a listen or buy it.

I did run into a few glitches while playing Vastar. The most annoying bug was in Julian’s chapter where he walked excruciatingly slow. After activating his quest, the problem went away. The developer has released a few patches for the game and even offers a helpful patch that gives you max gold. Yes, I installed it.

Vastar really is a game that you can\'t judge by its cover. Yes, the graphics are dated, but it excels in every other area. I spent roughly sixteen hours playing it and enjoyed it immensely. The price is a reasonable $11.99 and the strategy guide is $3.99 and I highly recommend getting it. If you like classic RPGs, this game is a no brainer.

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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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