After a week of playing (and eating turkey) I finally figured out that the game hides most of its adventures in NPC text. You need to pay attention or you might miss some important bit that is absolutely needed in order to go further. For example, I can't remember whether or not this one particular NPC asked me to bring rubies to him from his sister, or to find his sister and give the rubies to her, once I found them for him.
This confusion lasted for most of the week. Sure, I found lots of other players -- but they didn't speak a word to me. When I finally found a female player character who was willing to answer my questions, I was so thrilled that I think I overwhelmed her a bit. Still, I like the challenge the game presents. There's something familiar about it, but something mature as well. NES adventure games. You remember those -- the ones with the goofy 8-bit music and flower enemies (they always had flower enemies). They would take weeks to complete, and players would obsess over them. As a teenager, I would laugh at my best friend as he chopped his way through these types of games. I much preferred the action of games like Contra.
Now, though, I love when games look like this. There's some kind of solidity to the character models and an instant charm to the environments. Tales Weaver even has a nice nighttime personal lamp feature that creates a warm glow around you as you walk. Other player's lights are visible to you, as well. It's a nice touch. If you're familiar with older RPGs from the time of blocky controllers, you'll smile at Tales Weaver.
The first several minutes of gameplay are spent within a cutscene that lays out your character's story and inspiration. I don't remember half of what was said, but it was cool to be slowly invited into a game world instead of being immediately shoved into murdering rats as is the standard for many games. It took me quite a long time to figure it out, but the game is supposed to be pushed forward through these NPC interactions. Even your choices are a sort of games in themselves. Basically, when you talk to an NPC, several responses might pop up. A brand-new choice might suddenly appear, as though the NPC changed his mind or added something else to the conversation. Sometimes a choice will change right in front of your eyes; it really gave the NPC conversations a depth that I haven't seen in many more recent and graphically "superior" games.
Combat is still a bit foggy to me. I have a feeling some random NPC is going to explain it all to me in depth, but the gist of combat centers around arranging combos. Tales Weaver is essentially skill-based, or sandbox-ish, allowing you to choose your characters abilities from a large base of choices. You can arrange those choices into combos and use those combos to kill things in spectacular fashion. Again a very basic design decision gave the game more depth (even though I do not fully understand it) than many games that are yet to even be released! Isn't it amazing that we are still hearing promises of blockbuster "AAA" titles that use the same class-based leveling, while "ancient" games like Tales Weaver already give more choice? It's always a wonder to me.
Try this one out. Poke around in it, but pay attention to what the NPCs say. It might be really confusing at first (and even later on), but there are some cool systems at play here that could teach modern designers a thing or two. If you enjoyed old-school RPGs, you'll like this. It's a lot like playing one of those older afternoon-wasters, but with hundreds of other people!
Next week, we will be looking at MilMo, a fully 3-D (and amazing-looking) game that runs right in a browser window, no download needed. My name in game is Beauhindman. Now, go log in!
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. We meet each Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. PDT); the column will run on the following Sunday. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email, or follow me on Twitter or Raptr!