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   Skyborn - Staff Review  

On an Upward Trajectory
by Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
PC
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
2
STORY
4
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Adjustable
COMPLETION TIME
Less than 20 Hours
OVERALL
3.5/5
+ Intriguing story
+ Interesting locations
+ Atmospheric soundtrack
+ Involving crafting mechanic
- Ends too quickly
- Combat is nothing special
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Dancing Dragon knew exactly what it wanted to do with Skyborn, and the resulting game shows how RPGMaker titles can accomplish quite a bit using basic technical assets. The story it tells is interesting enough to spur the player on at all times, and the other aspects weren't given short shrift. Skyborn may not be a knockout instant classic that must be experienced by all immediately, but it certainly delivers an entertaining time.

   Skyborn begins by introducing Claret Spencer, a woman with an affinity for metalwork who is fortunately employed as a blacksmith. Her brother springs an unpleasant surprise after a routine shopping trip — the establishment he owns that employs her is being sold to a rich gentleman named Sullivan, who also plans to take Claret as his bride. Receiving this news poorly, she attempts to steal Sullivan's newly repaired airship, only to find its owner aboard at the time. An effort to come to a mutually beneficial agreement is terminated when Sullivan gets Claret arrested by the authorities, but her tale will not be hamstrung by such a trivial matter.

   Skyborn's title stems from a race of winged humanoids with magical powers that conquer humans and relegate them to second class status. The game handles this subject rather well, and makes the vehement dislike the conquerors have for what they term half-breeds a major element. The characters aren't particularly deep, but their writing is strong and the world they inhabit is an interesting one. Dancing Dragon did a fine job bringing this material to life.

Unexpectedly well-spoken for someone who Unexpectedly well-spoken for someone who's lived her entire life in a cave, eh?

   Combat may not be the most important part of the game, but taking part in it is not a painful experience. Enemies are visible in the dungeons prior to engaging them in battle, and they don't reappear after defeat until the entire location is exited. The player can also set the difficulty of the game at any time, thus determining exactly how troublesome the opponents will be.

   When battles do occur a somewhat typical turn-based interface appears. A turn order counter in the upper right ensures that getting blindsided by events will not happen. Some skills have a charge time before activation, and magic uses a percentage of the character's mana instead of a set number of MP. Otherwise actions progress in a typical manner for such a combat system, with no notable bells and whistles. An oddity is the inability to see the gauge displaying an enemy's remaining HP until it is hit again, but this usually has no impact upon the proceedings. Fights may not be anything special, but they move fast enough to effectively stave off boredom.

   The standard method of purchasing equipment in shops is available, but Skyborn has a couple of twists to the usual formula. Being a blacksmith, Claret is able to forge equipment on her own at several smithy stations, which is a nice money-saving feature that makes use of the many minerals found while investigating dungeon walls. Other materials make use of the Augment feature, which significantly boosts the usefulness of equipment already in the party's possession. Both features are quick and easy to use, ensuring that equipping the party is fairly flexible and interesting.

Pretty low light levels for such a dense forest. Pretty low light levels for such a dense forest.

   Skyborn may be made from standard RPGMaker parts, but the visuals do everything in their power to impress. Character artwork is large and well-drawn with multiple expressions, although nowhere close to all the personalities that play a role in the story have portraits. Little details in the environments like fog, moving insects, and solar effects give the visuals quite a bit of personality. Not everything is given such crafting, and the bulk of NPCs blend together into a mass, but the game looks quite good considering its construction materials.

   Phil Hamilton's music for Skyborn takes what could have been generic themes in other hands and gives them a compelling flourish. The production is strong, meaning that everything sounds crystal clear. Its tunes are atmospheric and well-suited to each environment, and the actual compositions are catchy. While the victory fanfare after battle is a little too short, otherwise the score does its job superbly.

   Skyborn's conclusion leaves plenty of room for a followup, and considering how quickly the game goes by that would be ideal. A game that leaves the player eager for more is preferable to one that doesn't know when to quit, and at least Skyborn errs on the right side of that mark. The game may not be a paragon of excellence in all respects that needs to be played by all, but it does a superb job of being entertaining while it lasts.

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