[FE8] [Complete] The Dark Amulet v1.4 (04/09/2024)

Hi @Vorgus, really enjoying the hack so far. Just a minor AI bug (?) that might be worth fixing. In chapter 13 the thief that spawns in the bottom right ignored the free chests and instead immediately charged my promoted Griss (who he couldn’t hurt and had a weapon disadvantage against) and then was one-shot in return. Not sure why he didn’t go after the chests, as I was lagging a bit on those.

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Those thiefs target your unit over chests. If there is no unit in his range then he will go for chest. This is good btw because it makes hunt for chest a bit easier. You can just bait them.

Oh, it’s definitely good, I just didn’t think it’d be deliberate. Oh well, if that’s the creator’s intent then it’s no biggie.

Hi there! This hack caught my attention after I noticed others talking about its story, so I decided to give it a shot. It was a very unique experience overall, with some pretty distinct highs and lows.

Because I played on Normal, I don’t have too much of significance to say about the intended gameplay experience. On the other hand, though, I have a lot to say about the hack’s story. There’s a lot to appreciate from what’s there, but I feel there’s also still room for refining it if you are still interested in updating the hack.

Obviously, I played on 1.2 so it’s possible some of the things I have written down here have already been remedied. Also, these folders are ripe with spoilers so uhhh yeah.

Bugs
  • Garosh has no generic battle quote, and neither does Alos.
  • A few enemy boss units (Edgar, and I think Othello among others) have no boss music, which give away that they’ll be recruitable later
  • Dorian’s generic battle quote does not trigger when he is the one initiating the fight.
  • Is Edgar not having death blow purposeful? I don’t know if this is intentional or not when Miley gets it on promotion.
  • The Fenix talks in chapter 22 use the same flag and are therefore mutually exclusive.
  • If Harlan has a lockpick in 22x, he will try to unlock the doors as a green unit and waste lockpick uses. This isn’t that big of a deal as there’s a lot of lockpicks in the game, but it’s still funny. Maybe dumping his inventory into the convoy at the start of the chapter would work to remedy this
  • Royce has no battle or death quote in chapter 23. Chapter 23’s end cutscene also seems to assume Royce is still alive.
  • Opening the support room breaks the game for me. Might just be a weird emulator thing
Mechanical suggestions
  • I wasn’t a fan of the reinforcements that kept popping up in the lower left corner of chapter 9. It slowed down the pace of the chapter, which kinda shot down the intended mood of “fast-paced, tense escape”.
  • Chapter 10 could’ve done with a lot more interactions between player and enemy characters. Maybe through battle quotes, maybe just a “if X unit approaches the zone that Y stationary boss is near, trigger a conversation” type of interactions. It’s a chapter which I really like narratively, but I think it needs a bit more oomph to really hit as hard as it could. I wrote down a bunch of battle quote ideas for this but they could easily come to light in a lot of forms besides that.
  • In particular, I’m shocked that there’s no interaction between Harlan and Julia. I parked her directly in front of him and let him attack her expecting a secret or something and got nothing lmao
  • It would be convenient if the waves that are triggered by certain requirements in ch15 had their turns grayed out when they first appear. I can see it being frustrating to get through the first two parts of the chapter only to be jumpscared by the third group and have to reset and redo everything.
  • In Ch18, it feels incredibly weird for enemy AI to target Eleanora on turn 1 when no commotion has occurred yet. In-universe this just comes off as the spear guy shanking her in front of the wedding guests for… no reason? I also wish there were preps available for this chapter—leave deployment slots at 1 (just Eleanora) but something to let me prepare the inventory of the infiltrators would have been helpful. I understand removing preps in a lot of the cases in this game, but here it makes no sense as the crew should definitely have had time to rearrange their things before going in.
  • Edric fighting a scripted battle in the end of ch18 was kinda awkward when I had equipped him with a killer bow. I’m 90% sure there’s a way to set what weapon is being used in cutscene fights?
  • I am shocked that a weapon called “Shadowbane” isn’t monster-effective.
  • Royce not moving and having 1 range in 24 made it embarrassingly easy to deal with him.
  • In general, it felt like Prfs had far too few uses. I think part of this is because the enemy density in this game is so huge—30 uses could easily get burned through really quickly given the amount of enemies. I’d advocate for an increase in Prf uses all around personally.
  • As much as I think this hack’s main gimmick of having units join and leave the party adds to the story, I can also understand the possible frustration of being softlocked if you didn’t read the dev’s mind and train the right units. In this way it almost feels like this hack would be a bit more accessible were it a traditional RPG and not an SRPG. That said, there’s definitely things that could be done to mitigate frustration and prevent softlocks, I think. Autoleveling if an underused essential character is below a certain level, or manually setting their stats to some minimum threshold if they fall below (ideally just enough to barely beat the chapter at base) if they fall below them, are possible options here.
Story polish-related suggestions
  • I dumped all of the typos that I spotted into this document here. I tried to keep them in a vaguely chronological order, but worst comes to worst you have FEBuilder’s search function I guess.
  • Elyse should have better bases and a higher level than 1, there’s no way she’s got absolutely zero combat experience if she’s experienced enough to be a commander. I’m also kinda feeling slight Galen buffs in a similar vein just to make him feel more competent to match his intro.
  • Kinda surprised that the axe cavaliers in chapter 6 are cutthroats and not soldiers.
  • I have “vanilla music, the end of ch8” written in my notes for some reason. I can’t remember why I wrote this down unfortunately… I was kind of bothered by the vanilla FE8 map themes though but idr what that has to do with ch8.
  • I kind of wish Earthshaker was labeled as a Braggo prf too, just for the flavor of it.
  • The double fade to black + death sounds combo in ch14 kinda made me roll my eyes. It was fine the first time, but twice in such a short succession feels like too much. Kinda wish the first time with the king was a cutscene battle or something.
  • A few sparse characters (Hadima, Galen come to mind) could use some better context regarding their joining. Galen isn’t as bad as it’s easy to intuit that he’s a mercenary under the Pheonix Blades’ banner but Hadima comes out of nowhere with zero buildup and feels very tacked on.
  • Hadrian seems rather underwhelmed by the Edric royalty reveal at the end of 14… like this is a big deal right
  • Dorian being green in 16x is weird considering how he’s the same faction as Zeddard
  • I’m very torn on the Harlan-Julia knighting thing. I adore the moment in a vacuum, especially with how it works with Harlan’s ch5 and ch10 writing, but Julia immediately being prepared to get her knighting ceremony shtick on in the middle of the prison felt a bit jarring to me. I kinda wish she’d pause and think about it for a moment after he says “I want to become one”, instead of instantly knighting him as if she knew that was what he was going to say the moment he showed up in the prison. Shorn also knowing about the impromptu knighting ceremony despite not being there feels weird too
  • Galen/Julia conversation feels a bit off to me, just specifically where he completely no sells Harlan helping her. I think I would’ve liked this a bit better if he had a bit more of a reaction to it
  • Velaina not leaving at the start of 25’s cutscene sticks out when she says she leaves in the dialogue
Suggestions for new additions
  • Maybe this is a lot to ask, but I’m kind of finding myself wishing that Grommace was a secret recruit. He clearly realized he was being fodderized by Braggo, so maybe the requirement could be killing him with Dwalt or something? I dunno
  • For chapter 15, it should be possible to change the displayed objective in the corner when the time is right. This would be a nice bit of polish, though I suppose it wouldn’t be entirely necessary
  • It would be neat to see more talks between the units in 16x–I was envisioning talks that are only enabled after you start defending Tordred. The 16x units getting pre-set supports would also be cool.
  • I ended up feeling a bit underwhelmed by the two bosses in chapter 10 flanking Zeddard. (Also, in hindsight, one of their descriptions gives away that Alos is a villain early). It felt weird to tease them when they don’t… really do anything of significance later on and may as well be one-offs. I don’t think I would remove them outright, though. I know it’s a hard ask considering how the story is atm, so it’s totally valid if there isn’t really much room to expand on this, but I’m finding myself wishing that they had more to do in the plot.
  • Another suggestion for ch18: it would be neat to have people in the ceremony comment that there’s commotion going on when the player reaches specific points of progression in the map
  • It feels like Edgar should have a reaction to the river shutting off
  • I think chapter 21 could use a few bosses with faces guarding the castles. I was mainly thinking of officers anointed by Fenix, to showcase the type of people he would put in positions of power as the new duke. This could also open up cool interactions between them and Galen/Harlan.
  • One thing I found kind of lame about ch21 is that you need a flier or someone who can cross water and carry allies if you want to test out battle quotes between Fenix and everyone else in your army. Would it be possible to lower bridges over the rivers after conquering both castles?
  • It feels like Fenix should have a reaction to the defeat of Elyse in 21, though I can’t say for certain whether that would mesh perfectly with the next chapter
  • I’m surprised that there’s no Galen/Elyse or Harlan/Elyse talks in chapter 22
  • I found the Ch22 reinforcements to be a bit rough, in part because I’d sent Julia into the corner on her own and she was making her way back to rejoin my main squad when they first appeared. It didn’t feel like there was any indication that I should’ve had her guarded or anything…
  • One thing that would be cool for ch24 is to have Zeddard start poisoned and at lower HP than max.
Battle quote suggestions

I adore battle quotes. I find them really fun both to write and to get in-game, and they’re incredibly useful as a tool to give both the playable and antagonist cast some extra love, so I always make it a point to drop a few suggestions for them.

I was unfortunately a bit sloppy with my notes and didn’t write down all of my ideas beyond the names, so I don’t fully remember why I jotted down some of the earlier ones. So feel free to pick and choose which ones you like most (if any). Personally I’d love to see all of these in the game, but as usual I’m kinda throwing everything I have at the wall here in hopes that something will stick.

  • Fraza/all the ch2 recruits, he’s assaulting their home after all

  • Grommace/honestly everyone except Miley could have one considering how they’d fought already

  • Freya/Griss, Edric

  • Rivkah/Dwalt in ch5

  • Grommace/Edric, Shorn, Miley for the same reason as before

  • Grommace/Harlan – he was tailing him after all. Did he notice?

  • Grommace/Dwalt in ch6 – could tie into proposed Grommace recruitment.

  • Grommace/Freya – both play similar roles as bosses, having been sent to stall

  • Braggo/Griss, Catrine, Hilda – he was terrorizing their village for a while and their dialogue implies they’re familiar with his band

  • Braggo/Rivkah, Dwalt – defectors are always good for boss quotes

  • Zeddard/Nadya, Freya – does he recognize them as Ormer’s reinforcements?

  • Zeddard/Fenix – the map definitely feels very Fenix tuned so I’m surprised this one isn’t here

  • Zeddard/Edric, Julia – duh

  • 10!Galen/Griss, Hilda – could probably challenge each other’s knightly virtues

  • 10!Galen/Gareth – local man gets sent out and immediately betrays the mercs

  • 10!Harlan/Shorn – was there ever any distrust between them?

  • 10!Harlan/Dwalt – maybe something about their intro chapter could be covered. Idr if it was Harlan who made Dwalt give up banditry or not

  • 10!Harlan/Sheila – local looter vs actual killer

  • 10!Harlan/Julia – I’m actually genuinely very shocked that there isn’t anything here. I parked Julia in front of Harlan specifically to see if anything happened but no dice. Would’ve been neat for it to grant a secret later on or something.

  • 10!Elyse/Edric – duh

  • 10!Elyse/Shorn – similar to the Harlan suggestion

  • Gareth/generic enemies on Chapter 10 after he joins the party – I think this stands out because Gareth is one of the very few recruitable enemies in the game, so maybe some acknowledgement of that when he attacks his former fellow soldiers would be fitting

  • Velaina/Dwalt – does she know Braggo?

  • Velaina/Eleonora – can she tell she touched the amulet?

  • Velaina/Catrine – how does the seers’ magic interact with the cult’s?

  • Velaina/Tancred – this one surprises me more in hindsight, because apparently they knew each other in the past according to chapter 24??

  • Velaina/Sheila – would Sheila be familiar with any of her magic, given her history of searching for artifacts and what not?

  • Velaina/Alexias – I think I got the implication that they knew each other at one point, not sure where

  • Griss/Hilda/Catrine/Alexias after first combat with any enemy in Chapter 14 – would be cool to explore their reactions to the town being sieged

  • Garosh/Dwalt – I’m not sure why I wrote this one down. maybe because I thought Dwalt might be thinking that this is what Braggo wanted to turn into??

  • Alos/Freya – I think it was the country ties that motivated this one. Would they know each other?

  • Alos/Leandra – surely she would have some choice words for a man of the cloth who deceived them

  • Fortinbras/Galen, Gareth, Nadya – duty-bound knights

  • Fortinbras/Hilda – once-rookie recruit takes on an actual knight commander. Could be used to theoretically show off how far Hilda has come since the beginning

  • Fortinbras/Edric – I don’t remember why I wrote this one down

  • Haestenn/Tancred – I think I envisioned Tancred asking Haestenn if he’d noticed anything wrong about Zeddard, or anything suspicious about his magic etc, in an attempt to dissuade him

  • Haestenn/Griss, Rowan – I was really expecting something after the conversation they had about him

  • Haestenn/Sophia – there’s no way he doesn’t recognize her as Zeddard’s wife right

  • Haestenn/Freya, Nadya – aren’t they basically doing the same thing of trying to ride coattails for the sake of their house

  • Edgar/Shorn – I thiiiink it was Shorn who was initially distrustful of going to meet Edric’s family?

  • Edgar/anyone who can talk to him tbh

  • Edgar/Alexias – surprised this one wasn’t there already given their support

  • Dorian/Alexias – surely he must recognize him if Edgar knows him

  • Dorian/Tancred – could follow a similar beat to the Haestenn one where Tancred is like “you must’ve noticed how wrong this magic is”

  • Dorian/Shorn – similar beats to Edgar/Shorn, plus I’m sure he’d have some choice words for anyone who wronged his partner in crime

  • 21!Elyse/Harlan, Shorn, Galen, Miley – duh. I’m most interested in the Galen one though

  • 21!Fenix/Galen, Miley, Shorn, Harlan, Julia – I am genuinely shocked there is no Harlan one.

  • Galen/Miley/Shorn/Harlan after first combat with any enemy in Chapter 22 – feels fitting for some final thoughts on Fenix here, I think

  • 22!Fenix/Julia – I kept checking for Julia bait secrets… I just never learned huh

  • 22!Fenix/Alexias – Alexias is going to grow up to be a leader someday. Surely he must’ve noticed the weariness on Fenix, right

  • Harlan/Assassins – idk having harlan react to fighting an assassin feels cute

  • 23!Royce/Gareth – surprised this one wasn’t already in

  • 24!Velaina/Edric, Leandra, Tancred – similar reasons as the other Velaina ones, but I’m especially surprised to see no Tancred quote considering how their connection is deliberately noted around this point in the story

  • 24!Royce/Shorn – I envisioned him calling them kindred souls for some reason, to which Shorn shuts him up

  • 24!Royce/Galen, Griss, Morgana – room to talk knightly stuff

  • 24!Royce/Hilda – she wanted to be a hero and nows her chance

  • 24!Royce/Fenix – guy who wanted more and lost it all vs. guy who was fine frolicking in the muck and never became truly great. who ended up better off?

  • 24!Royce/Harlan – finally, two actual killers… but harlan isn’t about that life anymore

  • 24!Royce/Edric??? – there’s room for payoff from the earlier chase here for sure

  • Xelaina/Tancred – capping off their relationship

  • Zeddard/Othello, Sophia – I didn’t check if this one is already in the game but if not, there’s def fun stuff to explore here especially considering Sophia’s stunt in 24

  • Zeddard/Fenix – them not having any payoff was a bit disappointing I think

  • Zeddard/Sheila – if you wrote that endgame deploy quote, there’s always room to go beyond and embrace the meme even further. …sheila was actually essential for my kill thanks to dazzle though

If you can get the “change death quote depending who the killer is” patch to work, there’s surely some fun things you could do with that too.

Misc stuff
  • One thing that I was surprised by (which I don’t usually see in hacks I’ve played) was a distinct uniformity in the identities of enemy and ally generic units. Aside from bandit/soldier/monster there wasn’t really much to distinguish enemies from each other, compared to other games/hacks which often connote allegiances through country names and what not. Not to mention all green units being “allied soldier”. Personally I think I like seeing faction names a bit more, but props for sticking to it and remaining consistent almost entirely through the hack.
  • I’m kind of finding myself wishing that Forness was initially a bit kinder to Zeddard in the start of 16x. I think I can see the general trajectory that you may have been going for, where he seems to try to be more open-minded towards Zeddard only for it to take his wife away from him, which leads to him doubling down harder on his prior worldview. I kind of wish this was brought out a bit more vividly in the early dialogues on the map though.
  • Out of all the major villains, I’m finding myself least satisfied with Royce. It kinda felt like after he chases Edric out of their territory in the fog his relevance kind of… drops off until he guts Ormer. I do think the detail about how he could’ve turned out differently had he had a better mentor have potential, but as is now it feels like he doesn’t do that much proportional to how important he seems to be. At the very least it would be cool to get some glimpse what he’s up to throughout the midgame.
  • One thing I appreciated a lot about the story was how it felt like the essential characters were getting involved with the plot in a more meaningful way. This is something that’s hard to do without putting a bunch of restrictions on the cast (as you did) but I do appreciate its effects on the final product.
  • I think the story has a lot of individual moments and lines that are really strong. Edric’s deal with the Sleeping God is a highlight of the story, and the overall writing style is enjoyable.
  • Fenix is a character who I generally enjoyed a lot, but I did a bit of a double take when he started talking about producing an heir with Julia. I get that he’s sort of just trying to play by the nobles’ rules but I wish that came out a bit stronger when he does discuss it, like if he treated it as just business instead of making jokes about beds and whatnot. It left me a bit confused in the moment, as it clashed a bit with all of the earlygame’s legwork towards making him sympathetic.
  • In general I’d say Harlan was one of my favorite characters, alongside Fenix, Sophia, and maybe Shorn.
  • Hello sequelbait??? It feels like the ending was specifically written with the intent to account for a sequel for whatever reason. Can’t say I’m entirely on board with that when it kinda feels like the story shouldn’t have ended where it did.

I’m sure I forgot some things that were previously on my mind, but I think I’ve got most of them on paper now at the very least. Here’s hoping these notes are helpful in some way. But regardless, congratulations on completing the hack, and best of luck with whatever you make next!

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Hey @BobbyAsaka thank you so much for your detailed review and feedback. I think I can action quite a few of your polish suggestions. As for your battle quotes, yes, lots of opportunities to add more, for sure! To be honest, I’m getting close to running up to the limit of available text slots / codes in the game. But I think I have enough to slot some of these in, since there are less supports in The Dark Amulet than in The Sacred Stones.

I suppose I’ll need to make some additions for v1.4, after you took the time to provide all of these suggestions :slight_smile:

I really appreciate how much you considered and grappled with the story, thinking through the motivations and personality of each character, both heroes and villains.

As you noted, the very structure of Fire Emblem as an SRPG makes it difficult at times to have an ensemble of characters who all have a role to play and an arc to follow from start to end. Sometimes the story gets in the way of smooth gameplay, sometimes the reverse happens. I tried my best to tell a cool story with interesting characters AND fun gameplay as well. A tall order. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it’s a bit clunky, I know. I’m glad you enjoyed some of the characters and moments. They were fun to write and it really makes it feel worthwhile that people enjoyed experiencing it as a player.

As for the sequel-baiting… I mean, the game is done, but the story isn’t. I hope people don’t feel ‘baited’ - there’s just more to come :stuck_out_tongue:

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You know you can expand the text entries right

… go on…

just click Data Expansion

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noooooo

I actually love expensive lockpicks as it gives you an added risk reward thing with stealing them from thieves before they escape.

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Hello,

The game need again an access to be download

Hi Cormag - I’m sorry to hear that you’re having difficulty downloading the game. I’ve checked with a few people on the game’s Discord and they say the link is working. Maybe you’re using an old link? Those won’t work anymore.

Please try the download link below and let me know if it still doesn’t work for you:
The Dark Amulet v1.3.ups

It has worked thanks

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Hello everyone,

Just wanted to note here that this is the best romhack I have ever played. The level design, the character arcs, the supports are all incredible.

@Vorgus please keep making games. You are doing an amazing job. Incredible.

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I really enjoyed this and i’m legitimately invested for the sequel

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Here’s my let’s play of the hack, the dark amulet:

Question

Summary

Is there any point to the enemies on 22x? It says there is no secrets the chapter makes that clear but Harlan moving randomly and then the random enemies make me think they there for something lol. Maybe mot a secret but something

Chapter 22x Answer

I just put those enemies there so the music wouldn’t revert to the ‘one enemy left’ happy music. Same thing as Chapter 12x. I realize there’s probably a patch to make that music not play, but having those random berserkers there is kind of funny. I’ll probably leave them.

Harlan trying to open doors is a bug. I think I’ve fixed it in the newest version that will be released soon.

There are absolutely no secrets in that level. In fact, there are really no secrets in any level, with two exceptions:

  • There is a secret in Chapter 16x involving Edric
  • There is a secret in Chapter 24 (the secret shop, using the member card found in the same Chapter)
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Strange, when I promote Edric using Regal Armlet, he lost the ability Supply.

That’s really strange - I’ve never had that happen before. Can you give me the specific circumstances of his promotion? Was it in a chapter or in a prep menu?