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Game Info:

Skylight Freerange 2: Gachduine
Developed By: Dragoon Entertainment
Published By: Dragoon Entertainment
Released: August 31, 2015
Available On: Windows PC
Genre: Open World RPG
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+, Violence, Blood, Sexual Themes, Nudity, Drug Reference, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
Number of Players: Single player with multiplayer elements
MSRP: $15 CAD ($11.52 as of review)

Thank you Dragoon Entertainment for sending a review copy of this game! 

Skylight Freerange 2: Gachduine is a massive open world RPG created by independent developer Dragoon Entertainment. The game takes place in Nova Scotia, Canada where The Cult of the Symbiote is trying to gain power and control in the province. The player is part of a small resistance group call the Gachduine, which is trying to subvert the Cult's influence. The combat is a hybrid of action and turn based; each character can freely move around but can only attack after their attack bar fills up. Outside of combat the player is free to explore the world, leaving and rejoining the main story at will. The map is quite big, especially for an indie game, and there is a TON of content, to the point where it's overwhelming at times.

I have never seen this amount of customization in an indie game before. When starting the game you customize the story by responding to questions about what happened in the previous game. I haven't played the previous game so I just went with the most amusing option for each question. If you have played it, you can even import a save file and forego the questions. After this I was able to create my own character with a shocking amount of options and sliders. I've seen big-budget, AAA RPGs with less than half of the options available in this character creator. The downside is that character models and custom features are all incredibly simplistic, low quality, or both; but more on that later. 

Once the game opens up the player can not only customize the stats and abilities of their custom character but also every character in the Gachduine as well. There are 20 characters total, although you won't see them all based on choices you make in the game. Drilling down, each individual character has 20 different skill trees, except your custom character, which has an astounding 49 skill trees. Graciously there's a reference section that lays out each character's strengths and weaknesses and explains how some of the play styles work. 

Skylight Freerange 2: Gachduine
Highlights:

Strong Points: A large variety of character customization options; big party of characters and  playstyles; tons of content
Weak Points: The graphics and animation are sub-par at best; the writing is childish and messy
Moral Warnings: Tons of language; some sexual situations, including nudity; violence and blood shown; drugs and alcohol used

I enjoyed the character management portion of the game the most. Building out all the different characters and finding synergy within a team was satisfying. There's enough variety in encounters to need a large cast of characters. Sometimes I'd be ambushed by a bunch of enemies and need a couple high-HP tanks. Other times I'd need to stack a certain type of damage. My enjoyment from this in-game management was diminished after I played long enough to discover it's essentially a giant game of rock-paper-scissors. Certain enemies are weak to certain attacks and the encounters are set up in a such a way that you can't just power through if you don't have the right team. I enjoyed that aspect but I can see how it would be frustrating to other players. Not every option for every character is effective and I appreciate the opportunity to fail at upgrading a character.

To prepare you for all this customization there's a tutorial where you control the entire Gachduine group split up into teams of four. The tutorial is very tedious, each section begins with a massive wall of text about the characters you'll be using and the enemies you'll be fighting. After reading that you fight with your four characters against the enemies described, all in a big square room. Then you move on to the next big square room with new characters, new enemies and more walls of text. There's no voice acting and the same music loops as you read paragraph after paragraph of combat information. The game does teach you it's mechanics, but it feels more like doing homework than playing a video game. 

After the tutorial the experience doesn't improve a whole lot. The plot is a mess with at least five other factions besides the Cult of the Symbiote and the Gachduine; each faction has leaders, supporting characters and sometimes sub-factions. Each character in the Gachduine can have relationships with each other as well as relationships with outside characters. This all plays out rather clumsily through dreadfully boring cutscenes. The character's mouths move silently up and down as you read line after line of dialogue. I could forgive this if the story had quality writing and the characters were engaging, but neither of those things are true. The whole script reads like a bad highschool fanfiction.  There is a healthy dose of vulgar language and eye-rolling dialogue. The characters range from boring to obnoxious. My favorite characters were the ones with the least amount of screen time.  While I really appreciate the inclusion of meaningful dialogue trees, most of the time I didn't like any of the options; I often caught myself skimming the text and choosing something quickly just to move things along. 

Skylight Freerange 2: Gachduine
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 36%
Gameplay - 8/20
Graphics - 2/10
Sound - 2/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 2/5

Morality Score - 35%
Violence - 5/10
Language - 1.5/10
Sexual Content - 3/10
Occult/Supernatural - 1/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

Speaking of things that are a mess, the graphics are range from unpleasant to grotesque. I have no problems with the low-poly 3D art style of this game. However the execution is so poor I see why other people hate it. Everything is so bare-bones and the character models are the ugliest I've ever seen. Why have 20 different options for hair if they all look like a brightly colored gel slapped on the head? All of the clothes are just textures on different body parts. There's a "neckbeard" option that's just a 3D rectangle coming out of the middle of the neck; it looks horrible. The world itself doesn't fare much better. I don't mind the huge cubic buildings that make up most of the cities, but they all have very similar layouts and consist of nothing but walls and doors. The worst graphical faux pas though is the animation quality. All of the animations are incredibly stiff with the walking animation being laughably poor. Compounding this issue is the fact that there is a lot of walking in this game. I also need to point at that there is no "run" option in this game. There is a complex system of weather physics, which I love, but there's no "run" button. Trust me, I looked everywhere for the option, it doesn't exist. This really discouraged me from wanting to explore and if there wasn't a fast-travel system in the game I don't think I could have finished it.    

One of my biggest gripes with this game is the writing. It's not only poor, it's crude and vulgar for no reason. There are several unmarried sexual relationships with scenes where they are naked in a bed together. Some NPCs discuss the importance of breast size sliders for their own video game and I couldn't tell if it's satire or not. There's a heavy focus on the occult since the main enemy is the Cult of the Symbiote. A literal cult which is bent on control of eastern Canada and I assume, the rest of the world. The cult focuses on technology instead of magic. While the combat is violent in nature, it's not gruesome in practice in any way. Once an enemy is defeated their body vanishes. 

Overall this isn't the worst game I've ever played (thanks Superman 64) but it's nowhere near good either. I understand that this game is a passion project of a single man, but I can't ignore all the glaring issues, such as the writing, animation quality and formulaic gameplay. It appears to me that the person in charge of Dragoon Entertainment is a talented programmer with a knack for design. I would never want to disparage someone from following their dreams and working hard to achieve them, but dreams, hard work and technical knowledge doesn't automatically mean a quality product. I would only recommend this game to someone who is very familiar with eastern Canadian geography and culture because it's the first time I've played a game that explores that region.

 

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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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