[FE8] Fire Emblem: Drums of War <v. 0.66 - Act 2 released! 14/21 chapters!>

Drums of War Current Patch (v. 0.66)

Concept

FE: Drums of War is a campaign hack of FE8, with an original setting, 20 chapters and a cast of up to 42 playable characters, bolstered by what I think of as the signature mechanic: almost every chapter, one of the bosses will be subdued, with the player having the choice to either hand them in for a bounty, or press-gang them and allow them a chance at redemption. Conscripts have just one support instead of 2-3 and often come with poorer growths, but are generally very useful in the short-term. And who knows? It may even be the right thing to do.

This is nominally a revival of a hack from the early 2010s. In practice it shares basically only thematic similarities, along with, well, me. You all remember that shitty BUILD AN ARMY, TRUST NOBODY ad for FE7 that had no actual connection to the series, right? (If you can figure out what the guy in it is saying the drums of war are actually doing, you have better hearing than I do.) In the hands of a lesser writer - Myself, Aged 17 - DoW was built around the concept of, ‘what if that ad was accurate to the series?’ Older, wiser, DoW is instead a story of trust. Why it triumphs. Why we hope. It stays true to FE’s heart and doesn’t deviate too far from its tone. I already have a dark fantasy novel to be my dark fantasy novel. This is my love letter.

Credits

MISC
Parrhesia

MUGS
Aeorys, Amelia, Luminescent Blade
Andrea, Baros, Chasimir, Connacht, Donagh, Estrelle, Gerhard, Jaro, Kalevi, Karolas, Kestut, Pavel, Rioghain, Rowland, Roxelana, Tiimo, Saszkia

Alusq
Lasker

Flasuban
Wildbrand

Garytop
Hoscutt

HyperGammaSpace
Carmilla

Jordan
Thill

Meat of Justice
Littbarsky

PlantAcademy
Merarch

L95
Deadeye, the Great Dragon, Ochulo, Vasja

Laurent Lacroix
Jurechka, Mad Kolar, Tethra

LaurentLacroix, Valak
Gisela

Levin64
Auclair, Metaxa

RandomWizard
Etienne

Valak
Ancamna, Debreszen

Wave
Gianluce

XVI
Jenson

Zarg
Auberdin

Class Sprites
Assassin, Sagittary (Mapsprites)
ArcherBias

Archer
Der, Flasuban

Captain / Warlord (FE15 Myrmidon)
Nuramon

Ironclad
SALVAGED

Dreadnought
TBA, Der the Vaporeon, Nuramon, The Big Dedester

Soldier
FireEmblemier, Flasuban

Fighter
MK404, Glenwing

Cavalier
SALVAGED, Flasuban, Pikmin

Paladin
SALVAGED, Leo_link, Flasuban

Mercenary
SALVAGED

Champion (Hero)
Nuramon

Sentinel
TheBlindArcher

Sagittary
Nuramon

Music
7743 (The Long Patrol, Your Sacrifice I’ll Make, The Big Push, Take the Shilling)
AlexArtsHere (To The Last Man, Judge, Jury and…)
Alusq (all other track improvements, general behind-the-scenes wizardry)

Major Patches
7743, Aera, Agro, Alusq, Brendor, Circles, Contro, Gryz, Venno, Vesly, Zane

Special Playtesting Thanks
Alusq, Epicer, Harudoku, Integrity, Xilirite

If your work appears in the game and I’ve failed to credit you, please let me know! The last thing I want to do is deny anyone credit, as this game could never have been made without the repository.

DoW 1-0.emulator-43DoW 1-0.emulator-87
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A familiar sun set over foreign soil. The Aulestri pulled back, leaving swathes of their own behind, their fierce legions left broken against the rag-tag militias of the Federal Guard.
It wasn’t enough. It would never be enough. Tomorrow, the legions would resume the attack; rested, reinforced, against starving, demoralised and desperate conscripts. Tomorrow, the Guard would break.

“Hey.”
Kirsten glanced up at the sound of a voice. “Ah, Radu…” It took everything she had left to force a smile. She’d never seen Radu with one, but she was the type who felt she ought to compensate. “How’re you holding up?”
Radu only snorted, pressing his weight against the wall, trying to smooth his hair over the vicious, jagged cut running blood into his eye.
“Ought to get that looked at,” Kirsten added.
“Kadri’s busy. I’ve not seen hide nor hair of Chasimir.” Radu shrugged. “I’ll live. Shouldn’t waste your time worrying about me. You’ve been staring at your hands the past ten minutes?”
“Have I… ?” Kirsten’s smile eroded. “It’s just… it was a close thing today, right?”
“Close as I’ve been in. Damn miracle none of us–”
They jolted as muffled, duelling shouts echoed down the hall.
“The captain?” Radu asked.
“Yeah.” Kirsten ran her shaking hand through her hair, prising sweat-drenched strands apart. “She wanted to… she told me she wanted to discuss the promised reinforcements. With the senator.”
Radu clicked his tongue. “Bet she did.”
“They are coming, right? They have to come for us. They have to. Even if we aren’t citizens, they still… ?”
She looked back up at him, and he down at her, legs pulled tight against each other as she huddled against the wall with her unstrung longbow stave lying by her side. She had not hesitated when the time had come. None of them had. But now that the red mist had subsided, and they were left with their thoughts…
“Sure,” he lied. “They’ll show.”

The shouting did not subside, though the jangle of jewellery cut through it from the other side. Both bowmen turned to see the dancer Calista, who had never picked up a blade, yet always been in the heart of the fighting, though nobody could quite place what exactly it was she did.
“The captain?” she asked.
Radu jabbed a thumb down the hall. “Might be best to give her some space, eh?”
“Perhaps.” Calista kept on walking, not breaking stride until a sudden stop as a memory flodded back, raising a long, elegant finger as the specifics came to her. “Oh, Renate was asking after you both. She said she saw some dark figures snooping around the outskirts. That they might–”
Radu grunted. “Got it.” Even Kirsten sighed, though she did her best to suppress it as she got to her feet.
Calista watched them go. “Too young,” she murmured. “All too young.”
She would not be left with her thoughts for long, as the door burst open down the hall, the sturdy figure of Captain Roxelana Kallaste stomping out, chased by the senator’s caterwauling. “-- not presume to doubt the wisdom of your betters, auxiliary! We will hold out. To the last man, if necessary!”
The captain turned, and for a moment Calista feared she’d reach for the blade at her hip… but she snapped off an impeccable salute. “Understood, sir,” she hissed, through gritted teeth. “With your permission, I’ll–”
“You’re lucky I haven’t had you horse-whipped.”
The question was writ clear on Roxelana’s expression. By whom, sir? “I’ll see to the defences, Sir. Of course the Guard will hold.”
“Just so. And now you are dismissed.”
The door slammed in the captain’s face. She let her salute die away, by inches.
Calista took a few hesitant steps forward. “Captain…”
“No surrender,” Roxelana murmured. She shook her head, her ringlets skittering along her armour. “No retreat. No time-frame. Reinforcements will come.”
The dancer wasn’t sure what to say. She fell back on her pretext. “The magistrate’s been asking after you.”
“I’m sure he has.”
“… But I only came as an excuse.” She worked an arm around Roxelana’s shoulders. “To see how you’re doing.”
The captain shrugged, but did not reject the contact. “I’ll be fine. It’s my people I’m worried about. How are they holding up?”
Calista smiled tightly. “Well… nobody’s yet run.”
“Mm. Great. So they’re still taking their chances this side of the walls.” Roxelana sucked her teeth. “Damn it all, this isn’t how it–”
“I know.”
“I told them I’d bring them home safe! I told their families!”
“I know.” Calista turned, rested her other hand on Roxelana’s shoulder, and pressed her forehead against the captain’s scalp. She could feel the captain’s sweat seeping onto her, mixed with the blood of a cut reopened by stress and exertion. “But I believe in you still. Even now. And I think they do, as well.”
They stood there for a time. Draughts whistled through the cracks of the delapidated, ill-used keep. It would be a colder night here than under the stars.
At last, Roxelana pulled away. “Tell the magistrate I’ll meet him in my quarters.”
Calista chuckled, mirthless. “I can imagine his reaction to being ordered around by a mere officer. You aren’t interested in keeping friends, captain?”
Roxelana grunted, as she stalked down the hall. “Got other things on my mind, right now. I’ll live.”

They’d found a bottle of wine in the quarters they’d reserved for her, when she’d arrived. The senator and magistrate had only sniffed at it, though she suspected had it been to their liking it would have ended up shared between them. As it was, it smelled too strong and sour, but it was hers.
There was no glass. She pulled out the cork with a knife and drank like it was water, before opening the desk drawer. She pulled out a piece of paper, a long vow tailed by names, signatures and X-marks, and she read and re-read the names of the people who were counting on her.

The Contract

I the Undersigned pledge my life to the Confederation. I shall devote myself to the Great Cause, for the betterment of a suffering world. I have found a cause worthy of dying for.

Through unity, we survive. Through survival, we triumph. In triumph, we prosper. In prosperity, we grow united.

Signed,
Calista Berenguer, 29, courtesan
Pavel Iscander, 18, vagrant
Felice Gartner, 16, miller’s daughter
Radu Prijef, 27, daytaler
Petras Ugarkoff, 32, farmer
Renate Scharner, 33, farmer
Hesterine Dimitrijef, 19, squire
Vivica Harnik, 24, student
Gerhard Smycer, 30, barman
Jaro Degenek, 29, conscript
Kadri Jaerviste, 21, curate
Goran Harkoff, 20, squire
Kirsten Lillekuela, 22, hunter
Alessander fitzCabriol, 22, vagrant
Helje Kreida, 29, conscript
Alarik Ostler, 25, sailor
Etienne Marchand, 37, conscript

All here, so far from home, to die for the Confederation. Giving everything in the hope that lowly backwater Rijesca could, someday, earn citizenship in the greatest power in the land.
It had seemed so worthy a cause, only a day ago, back when they thought, they genuinely thought, they’d be saved. That the Confederation’s regulars would win the day, if only the Guard could hold the line. That was before she realised how stacked the deck was, that it didn’t matter how many auxiliaries had to die for the front to creep forward one inch someplace else. How could that be a cause worth dying for, so far from home?
Three knocks at the door, spaced eerily evenly. “Captain?”
“One moment,” she murmured reflexively, as she pressed out the paper on the desk. Methodically, she worked at pressing it flat, before taking the two halves - the pledge, and the signatures - and slowly, painstakingly, tearing them apart.
The knock repeated, more insistent, as Roxelana admired her handiwork. “Yeah,” she muttered. “That looks right.” A flick of her wrist sent the oath skidding under her bed.
“Captain!” came the plea from the other side of the door. “I really must insist that–”
“Come in,” said the captain, slipping her dagger from its sheath.
She told her company she’d bring them home.
She would not be made a liar.

20 Likes

I read the title and expected Dorcas. Then read a whole lot of not Dorcas and was disappointed. Then read the part that said this was inspired by Dorcas and was excited again.

Dorcas. No man can be trusted.

12 Likes

And with the release of the FEE3 video, I can proudly announce that Drums of War Act 1 is ready for release! Download the patch here! In addition, there’s a Discord server here.

Version 0.3 contains:

  • Act 1; Chapters P-4, and one non-combat End of Act 1 chapter
  • A resting place where you can leave your save file and pick it up seamlessly next patch
  • Every possible C support. Most B and A supports for the first group of characters
  • Gameplay that has survived initial playtests

Short-term Roadmap

  • Slight updates to my older mugs
  • Further tweaking dialogue for better flow
  • Completing graphical overhauls (menus, etc)
  • Accounting for more edge-cases
  • Complete supports
  • Improving plot events
  • Any necessary gameplay tweaks flagged in playtesting
  • Second look at further tweaking weapon stats
  • Improving the inserted music (almost all of which was just, straight in from other GBA ROMs)
  • Polishing maps
  • v. 0.6, containing Act 2 (all chapters in a playable state, C5-C8 with complete start and end cutscenes)
13 Likes

Great progress being made today, as patch 0.31 is now released after I made the thrilling discovery that every single unit in the game had Sure Shot. That’s been fixed, now.

In the event someone has played the initial release, then any existing save should work fine with the current patch.

3 Likes

Oh so now only player units have it, okay phew much better

In all seriousness I’m looking forward to seeing your more recent writing works!

5 Likes

On rare form today! Third patch of the night, 0.32, fixing an issue stemming from an attempt to prune the weird spaghetti code of the Prologue - and of my attempts to work with the Prologue - somehow made the chapter not progress.

I still don’t know how it made it not progress, but I don’t need to! It works now! Apologies for the inconvenience, and thanks to Epicer for flagging it.

6 Likes

Always nice to see a vet’s return. Will definitely check this out.

1 Like

Was a blast from the past to see some of the spritework from ALS and Lumi, you can tell their work immediately. I think they grew out of forums(?) The brigand looks v much like a young Gareth.

Echoing user above, will be following.

2 Likes

It’s been an entire week (!) since the last patch, and I’m happy to report that this isn’t because of a bug, just some general QoL improvements across the board. Link in the OP, I finally figured out how to just update the same bloody Dropbox link instead of having to change it all the time.

This patch is fully compatible with any existing save-file, and the balance changes made are fairly minor, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t restart!

0.35 details

Music

The point has been made, and I agree, that the music sounds suspiciously like it was cobbled together from a number of different GBA TBS that didn’t actually share a composer or a soundboard. Four of the tracks currently in the game (three in this patch, including two player phase themes) have now been replaced by improved versions by 7743, so many thanks.

New Patches
  • FE4-style start-of-turn Autosave is now available from the Settings menu. Enabling this will stop the suspension from refreshing every action, effectively giving a fallback point and hopefully reducing frustration in a hack with fairly long maps. Credit to aera.

  • Danger Zone patches: circleseverywhere’s excellent Danger Zone will now paint the map when you press Select. Furthermore, Venno’s No Move display means you no longer have to read my mind to discern whether or not an AI is set to move.

Gameplay
  • I’ve discovered the XP Formula change inherent to FE8’s pre-route split chapters - which turns out to give overlevelled units roughly twice the XP they’re meant to. Oh, dear. It’s now been turned off, but after testing, differences between runs on the old and the current patch are relatively minimal; it’s a difference of about 10-20 levels, almost entirely over the course of C3 and C4, and by its very nature it will self-correct over time. That is to say, don’t worry about your existing file having been compromised, or on future chapters in the hack relying on the stronger file I was using before.

(I’ll miss you, insanely speed-blessed Roxelana. I won’t miss you, Radu who didn’t gain speed until 20/2.)

  • Goran has received a significant buff (-1 Lvl, -1 Skl, +2 Def). I’ve run through the game in full three times and the one time I’ve tried to use him I found him pretty tepid. This should help a lot, as well as differentiating him further from Hesterine.

  • Kadri has received a couple of indirect buffs. Staves now give more XP and have more uses, and she starts with both Heal and Mend. Between this and the earlier XP change, Kadri doesn’t have trouble keeping up anymore, if you wish to use her; bolstered by a few uses of Torch and the usual ‘heal 1 HP if there’s nothing better to do’, she kept up with the combat units of the main run.

  • The Chapter 3 recruit has had a buff of +2 strength.

  • No nerfs. Pavel might be in line for one in future.

  • The reinforcements in Chapter 3 have been recalibrated slightly. The ‘hurry-up’ event in Chapter 4 activates sooner, but the last boss will no longer rush the player along with their strongest units.

  • A couple of fixes and extra clarifications have been added, thanks to Epicer for pointing them out.

2 Likes

As soon as i put two and two together and figured that DoW stood for Drums of War, i remembered that name and knew i had to play this. It was a lot of fun! Here’s a review.

shame FEU doesn't let me upload txt files

PROLOGUE

Congratulations on successfully breathing new life into the tired institution of the world map intro by turning it into a fevered propaganda speech. It goes on for just maybe a little too long?

The first swath of enemies is too much for just two fighters. I figured it would be fine to go full aggro on them on my first attempt, but i settled on camping out in the woods to fight them after getting Calista killed. My winning strategy was to use the forests first, then wall in Calista against the river with my two other units to prevent anyone from touching her while still being able to dance.

I love how the map music keeps playing during battle animations. It plays right into my preference for animation option 1, which i like better than option 2 because the units popping out from the map like a diarama instead of whisking the player into the generic-looking battle background makes the map and the battles feel more integrated with each other.

If you’re not going to use the Guide, consider making all of the entries be locked so it never appears in the map menu in the first place. It’s annoying having to page through all the vanilla FE8 tutorials to get it to stop glowing green in the menu, and it would be better not to have it there at all so there isn’t that extra button press required to get from Status to Options.

I haven’t even been able to take care of the first group of bad guys yet when another group appears from the northwest village. I soon found that i had nothing to fear because they were set to attack in range rather than pursue, but it does feel like the game’s expecting me to be much faster. I do appreciate the FE9-style movement which is letting me hoof it across the huge map much faster than i had anticipated. Having a dancer from the get-go is something i also didn’t know i needed; units can actually catch up if they fall behind!

Text skip: “Against these ruffians, I can more than hold my own!” Felice recruitment convo

Radu’s recruitment doesn’t seem to work unless you visit the village with Roxelana. Intentional? (edit: okay, it’s intentional)

It’s excellent how the tutorial introductions to mages, archers, etc are aligned with the villages where you recruit the mage, archer, etc. Good job making them fit in.

Look into changing the music priority for the recruitment theme from map music to scene music. As it is, the songs use the same area in memory and the map music has to restart after each village visited rather than fading back in seamlessly. Or maybe it’s the events that make the music restart?

Get rid of the rests at the beginning of the enemy phase music so it starts immediately instead of taking a second to start. I’m not going to comment on music much going forward because i can tell you’re using the “import music from other game” button and i presume you don’t have a whole lot of control over fine details and/or are okay with what you have being good enough. I will say: do be careful using music with square waves, because GBA FE by default uses square waves for gui sounds rather than music, so some square waves will get cut off by dialogue blips, experience points increasing, etc. For example, the Yggdra Union music that plays during the player phase has a square wave in the background that gets cut off by the sound of the cursor moving on the map, but it’s not that noticeable since it’s just background/accent notes.

You should stagger the reinforcements that appear from the starting castle so they don’t form a weird line, or at least vary their classes so you don’t get a weird single-file parade of identical quintuplet mercenaries oozing down the road.

You should reconsider your use of the animations-off special effects such as the slash/explosion visual effects and numbers floating up from units when they take damage. They’re a cool idea, but the visual effects look bad without any sort of blending and they get layered over the “no damage!” icon as well as the information window with the HP bars and stats, which looks strange. I know you didn’t create the system, but i expected it to get more refining before being used in people’s games.

Speaking of the animations-off information window, the stats (HIT/DMG/CRT/AS) have a strangely faded palette. I suggest you change the colours to be the same as the HP numbers/bars.

I appreciate the bonuses from supports being simplified a bit. I never bothered to memorise the original game’s support effects for every affinity, only that units get gooder when you put them near each other. Now that i have two armoured knights, the blob of mercenaries makes sense.

I don’t see the point in giving description text to ordinary weapons (e.g. iron sword). Description text for weapons is usually used for gameplay purposes in GBA FE, so it’s strange that the iron sword (“a lightweight weapon”) gets text that’s flavour only (not important) whereas something like an armourslayer (“effective against armour”) gets text that’s gameplay-relevant (important). It’s not a real problem, but it’s in the same vein as my suggesting people keep character/class description text two lines long: it’s too much text for no reason.

There are a lot of enemy factions at play. We’ve got Bandits, Insurgents, and now Deserters. Could the Insurgents and Deserters be lumped into one? Yes, the distinction is (i assume) rabble versus rank and file, but they’re alike enough in that they’re rebelling against the government as opposed to the bandits who are just in it for the loot.

The ending scene with three portraits all loaded on the right side while Roxelana is on the left looks strange. I would load only Vivica and Renate on the right and left sides without Radu in the middle, and clear Renate and replace her with Radu when it’s his turn to quip to Vivica. Maybe you did this already and it felt weird without all three of them already on-screen.

Music doesn’t loop in the scene where you decide whether to recruit Jaro.

There’s a character in the ending scene whom i didn’t recruit. Is she from the village that gets destroyed by the deserters? I’m not going to restart to make it to recruiting her because i doubt i would get there in time. I know i missed someone because there’s an empty deployment space on the map in ch1. I don’t expect you to make a version of each scene with conditions to exclude dead/missed characters because FE players (especially those playing fan games) are perfectionists who don’t let any units die in the first place. However, it would be pretty easy to add a check in this case so that one easy-to-miss character doesn’t pop in to say something if you didn’t recruit her.

I played the chapter again, and lmao oops it turns out the units i missed were in the village where the first boss was. I swear, my mind automatically airbrushed a castle over that village because a boss had been standing on top of it, so i forgot to visit it on my first run. You might want to make the units come out and the village scene play automatically after Tiimo (Nintenlord reference?) is defeated.

The chapter held up well for my replay. It’s very satisfying how the few units you start with still pack a punch and can one-round or even one-hit many of the enemies. I originally thought i was in for the FE7 Classic Supreme of starting the player off with too few units in a too-huge map, and ended up having a great time being proven wrong. Good job.

C1

I don’t like Renair’s Diary-style scenes where it’s a long journal entry by a character on the parchment/tablet text box. I understand the appeal of showing us a page of the main character’s diary rather than making her nonsensically talk to herself, but the presentation could be better. The world map text box comes to mind because its letter-printing sfx sound more like writing, and you could show something interesting (or just the world map) in the middle space, but it occurs to me that the world map text box only has two lines by default so that’s not ideal. Consider making the background more interesting, then, such as a map where the player can see all their units chilling in the village/military camp/etc before the diary text box opens. If you don’t want to do that out of concern that that would result in too many chapter table entries being used by scene-only maps, see if you can at least get a scrolling background (like what you see in the sound room/options menu) to work there. My default suggestion for these diary chapter intros is to completely nix them and tell the creator “show, don’t tell”, but you clearly have something going here writing from Roxelana’s point of view (i remember “the main characters aren’t the centre of the universe” being a selling point for the original Drums of War concept). You just have to find a way to make it more interesting than the FE8 tutorial text box on a regular background. Failing that, make the text more brief, like Roxelana only has a single page to write on.

The background fading from the sepia version to a black screen to the colour version is strange. See if you can make it fade straight from the sepia palette to the colour palette. I don’t actually remember how straightforward it is to do this.

Text skip: “And here was me, thinking you would be content just to stay out of danger…” in intro scene. On a grammar note, “And here I was” might sound more natural.

Clever, putting units on top of the armourer/shop so i can’t view them from the prep screen map… Thank you for giving me the prep screen as early as chapter 1, tho.

The text in the status screen (“Subdue the rebel leader”) is cut off and needs a line break.

“Sounds like someone’s kicked the hornet’s nest…” Before this scene starts, the cursor flash lacks a camera pan beforehand.

Slim weapons being objectively superior to iron ones is fascinating. I’m curious to see how it shakes out after buying several slim swords and lances from the armourer.

Central house: “The Confederation protects its own: that means citizens, not lowly confederates like us.” I’m confused. Are confederates not people of the Confederation? Does this guy mean that the Confederation commanders don’t care for those below them, or each state/other political unit of the Confederation cares only for its own citizens and not those of other states? Maybe i just haven’t been paying enough attention, but “the Confederation doesn’t protect confederates” sounds strange.

Five or so pegasus knights advanced, but Sander killed all of them just fine on enemy phase. I suppose it makes sense that they wouldn’t expect Sander to exist as a counter to them since Sander was on their side until i recruited him, but they feel like pushovers anyway.

I don’t get what Zoltan being present on the map brings to the gameplay. There were several turns where i had to lug him around and do rescue/drop stuff, but he stopped being a factor once i took care of the enemies outside the walls (nitpick: the horizontal walls are using the wrong tiles, by the way; they should be Fence and not Wall because Wall is understood to be the inside of a castle with a ceiling so flying units can’t fly over it) and got him into a safe spot. I’m sure you made him not move at all because the AI would do things that ruin the player’s strategy. Consider adding an event at some point where he thanks you and runs to shelter (you probably want a screen fade and a DISA for this so the game can’t be crashed by his path being blocked) so you don’t have this green unit hanging around on the map doing nothing for half the chapter.

Roxelana calling out characters by name to do various things (e.g. man the towers) makes me wonder what the game would do if those characters were dead. I guess you have Lyn Mode logic for unit deaths, but i think it’s better not to call attention to characters by name for no reason in the first place.

Helje smiling when she’s begging for her life is strange.

“We’re looking for a Captain Kallaste.” I vaguely recall that this is Roxelana’s surname, but it might be good to have Roxelana answer with her full name to remind the player that surnames exist in this mod of a game series that typically doesn’t bother itself with them.

I decided to recruit Helje, but i notice her name wasn’t added to the contract at the end of the chapter. It would be a nice touch to add a condition to check whether or not the player recruited her and show a different dialogue box with the extra name if they did (same for Jaro in ch0).

C2

I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better song to play during Roxalana’s diary than Indignation.

Roxelana questions the war, but i as the player have more or less forgotten about the bigger picture. I know we originally mustered fighters to ship off to Aulestra to fight on behalf of an overlord, but everything else is foggy. Maybe that’s the point.

I’m going back to read the prologue world map intro again to see if i can clarify things for myself by actually thinking about and describing the situation:
Rijesca was conquered by the Commonwealth and now exists as a dissatisfied backwater with a puppet government (led by the man with brown hair and green shoulder pads) set up in the capital, Haszek, by the conquerors. The puppet government is made up of Rijescans who vainly believe (or simply preach without believing themselves) that the Commonwealth will uplift Rijesca to glory and civilization again.
The propaganda speaker narrating the intro is outraged that Rijescans are expected to be in the same army as people from Rhiannon (such as the main with black hair and green eyes), their ancestral enemies.
The people of Barossia are given special privileges by the Commonwealth, including representation in the senate, which the propaganda speaker views as a corrupt and useless institution (i am inclined to believe him because Barossia is represented by a man who has the same evil facial afflication as Riev from FE8).
Aulestra (led by the woman with blond hair and red clothing) is now the only nation which opposes the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth basically embodies the principles of pre-modern inter-state anarchy, i.e. if a neighbouring state can be subjugated, it must be subjugated so to empower your own state and reduce the threat of the neighbouring state allying with a more powerful one later. The narrator takes issue with the fact that Rijescan lives are being sacrificed to accomplish the goals of its own conqueror. The narrator is nationalistic and skeptical of political institutions such as the Commonwealth senate.
The Commonwealth is more fragile than it seems, or at least the narrator insists. I believe them, since we’ve established that the Commonwealth is made up of a bunch of different conquered states (which retain their armies, hence the need for puppet governments) that used to be rivals. It makes sense for the conquered states to retain their already-existing local nobility and military structures in a world with medieval supply logistics. Maybe there’s a token Commonwealth peace-keeper here and there to look flashy, but when push comes to shove these countries will only be subjugated by the co-operation of the people already in place there.
The Commonwealth says that freedom lies in political representation, but the narrator has a different view. The only way the narrator would call Rijesca “free” would be if it were to break free and become its own country for the Rijescan people that answers to no one. Even if it were to become a despotic monarchy, the narrator would still feel freer because at least they’re being ruled by proper Rijescans now.
Here i’d forgotten that the narrator is literally a pretender to the Rijescan throne. I assume the Covenant he wishes to drive the puppets back to is the Commonwealth capital. I also assume that this world map intro is the actual writing of Wulfram himself and that the political situation, altho it was dressed up in propaganda speech, was portrayed accurately. We’ll see how well these assumptions age.

Going back to ch2 and re-reading Roxelana’s diary entry, i feel confident in saying that “Rijesca” and “the Confederation” are synonymous. In this light, i’m still unsure how to interpret the words of the man in the house in ch1. My best guess for now is: Rijesca is a confederation of noble polities. Rijescan citizenship is somewhat like Roman citizenship in that not everyone is a citizen so easily, and if you do not hold Rijescan citizenship then your social status as a person can differ from polity to polity. A confederate might be either someone from another polity or a non-citizen person. Perhaps the “lowly confederates like us” mentioned by the man in the house are specifically people from polities that are poorer or whose people are generally treated badly in most other polities because of old grudges.
Unless the Confederation is the Commonwealth, in which case disregard the entire previous paragraph.

EDIT: while proofreading this review, it occurs to me that half the stuff i said of Rijesca in the former paragraph was actually what i meant to say of the Commonwealth. Does the Commonwealth have an actual name aside from just “the Commonwealth”? I tried to make sense of the politics and still managed to get myself lost in a mire of nouns.

I wonder if Roxelana’s diary is going to be found and used as evidence to brand her a traitor later?

The square wave in the music when the enemy ships pull up gets cut off by the sound of dialogue using the same square wave voice. I know i said i wasn’t going to say anything else about music, but it’s really distracting.

The first few turns of gameplay are a bit of a slog. I fight the units at the southern end of the starting ship and then have to slowly file everyone into a blob crossing the planks. Consider shifting the starting ship to the south so the planks can be put down more in the middle of the ship and you can have more units doing more things sooner (e.g. one party goes to the south to attack the enemies already there, the other starts down the planks immediately). Granted, i recruited Helje so i had her deal with the northern group of pegasus knights and my main party didn’t have to fight them.

I perched Helje on the front non-walkable part of Etienne’s ship to cheekily draw away one or two units and the cutscene soldier frantically exclaims “we’re being pushed back!”. It’s not actually a problem; i just thought it was funny. I assume i just switched the bad guys onboard to pursuit AI a few turns early, which is neat.

Sander is really good. Mine has hit 20 speed at level 14, and all other stats except resistance are in the 10s. It’s been fun having such a powerful unit, but you may want to take a look at myrmidon bases since they’re very high in the original game if memory serves. Maybe he peters out as a swordmaster.

I’m not sure why Sappers need to be differentiated from Legionaries. I get Eubans’s Mercenaries vibes from the Ecorcheurs.

Since he didn’t have the boss icon on his sprite, I baited Etienne into a setup where i could test each of my units to see if i could recruit him. If he’s recruitable this way, i didn’t bring the right person.

Text skip “Ugh! Truly, well fought…” Etienne death quote

“Huuurk… !” You have a recurring issue in your dialogue where you have characters move while leaving their speech bubble hanging in the air. Use a [CloseSpeechSlow] or [CloseSpeechFast] (i don’t remember what are the conditions whether to use one or the other) before moving the character to properly clear the speech bubble first.

“Hard to imagine we came up against Aulestri regulars and won.” This dialogue of Roxelana’s doesn’t feel that well-deserved; the Aulestri didn’t feel any more special than the insurgents we were fighting last chapter. I would recommend going for more quality over quantity in the enemies and deleting some of them in exchange for giving others higher character base stats, but the Ecorcheurs are right there as the guys we’re supposed to fear. Why not get rid of a handful of the Aulestri, beef up the Ecorcheurs, and add a few more for good measure? It would be interesting to have them more dispersed among the enemy too so you’d have the tangibly powerful units amid the cannon fodder.

Perhaps the enemies already are powerful and i just glazed over it because all my good units were concentrated in one place rather than having to spread out in different directions. I like the basic concept of the chapter, but it feels a few map edits away from being truly interesting gameplay-wise.

The cricket chirping ambience plays for a second between the victory scene and the “decide what to do with captured enemy boss” scene.

“Hey, these those Rijescans we’re expecting?” Post-chapter blue soldier talking to man with green scarf scene, minor grammatical error. I try not to proofread too obsessively, but this seems like a word you forgot to delete. (edit: it’s actually fine; i realise now the guy’s just talking like a burly man)

It’s Senator Riev! I’m rubbed a little wrong that he’s so unsubtle right out of the gate with his evil appearance and speech; i immediately feel that the propaganda writer from the prologue was actually absolutely correct. I get that i’m supposed to hate him, and i expect there will be story payoff that i’m hating him immediately rather than in a few chapters, but i think his “sickly bad guy” appearance is a little much, even coming from Fire Emblem where “ugly” is short-hand for “evil”. I’m supposed to hate this guy because he sees Roxelana and co as sub-human, not because he’s got a puffy face.

C3

I would separate Roxelana’s “pissant” remark into a different speech bubble from her “I’m coming, Senator” one. As is, it looks like she’s calling him a pissant in the same breath rather than in an aside. I expect the diary to be found even more since it’s been acknowledged in-universe.

“And surely, you must trust even an unknown over a creature like Micah.” Is Micah the senator? I don’t think his name has been mentioned yet.

“Not all who wander are lost” feels like an out-of-place reference. This man is telling Roxelana this to re-assure her that her comrades might return alive? Or is he calling Roxelana a wanderer?

Starting the scene where Hesterine and other player characters are shown coming back from the front, i feel like i’ve missed out on an interesting chapter in which you have to fight under Bennett (incompetent green units, oh boy!) without Roxelana (game over if all your units die, or perhaps the chapter simply ends since they seem to retreat instead of dying in-universe). It could’ve been a short chapter with a limited amount of units in which you have to move along a road with a few groups of enemies waylaying you while Bennett and requisite green soldiers are left for dead on the opposite end of the map. The triumphant player phase theme that’s been playing all game so far would abruptly change to something panicked one or two turns in. Such a frantic retreat chapter would really help the player to feel the exhaustion that the characters are currently feeling.

“What are we even doing here?” makes me feel even more confident in my belief that we needed an extra chapter here. Actually experiencing a futile battle being led by an incompetent commander would be a much better way to get the player in the mood (“the war machine is grinding us up and no one cares!”) than merely reading Roxelana complaining about the senator.

“I must retire to my quarters.” Baros moving from Left to FarFarRight doesn’t really work here. It looks goofy and feels more like he’s leaping/tackling across the screen than abruptly shuffling away. I’d just clear his portrait instead.

Perhaps Baros should be the required unit (if still alive) in the ch3-that-wasn’t? I would’ve liked to see the noble paladin getting his orders overridden over and over again by ratty incompetents.

“(CRASH)” Use a sound effect instead of a silly speech bubble from off-screen. Perhaps the sound effect of on-map walls/snags getting knocked down, since the player already associates that sound effect with things being knocked down? Might be worth your while to briefly trigger the earthquake noise for extra “oomph”, even if the visual effect doesn’t show in backgrounds.

Calista saying Roxelana is “so close to the epiphany” feels like an unnecessary tease. What does Calista expect Roxelana to do? Disavow loyalty to Rijesca, then Calista reveals the personal history she’s so closely guarded to have Roxelana join her on some other mission? I wonder if Calista herself is going to be the one to find and give away the diary to force us to betray Rijesca.

“Either us, or the Magistrate, can command them.” Since you’re going all in on clarity and telling the player in no uncertain terms who can recruit the units, mention Baros by name instead of just his title.

The deployments in the prep screen place some units on top of braces (impassable walls). I’m sure you’re already aware of this.

The description of the Luna item (“A subtle spell that cuts through wards”) is an example of the flavour text on items making things worse by fixing what isn’t broken. We went from a straightforward gameplay-relevant description (“ignore target’s resistance” if memory serves) to something about wards. I suppose calling Luna “subtle” is funny.

The layout of the map strikes me strangely. The middle part in particular seems to have what i call the “Requiem problem” in reference to a game full of maps where you had to spend several turns moving before getting to do any fighting. Maybe the gameplay will prove me wrong, but it looks like this map could be vertically shrunk by one-third to one-half and not lose anything. The outdoors area north of the castle (it’s a few rows of grass tiles) serves no purpose either.

On a more nitpicky esthetic/in-world note: it’s interesting how there are rooms in this castle that don’t connect to others at all, assuming the castle was not built intentionally to be traversed by cracked wall. In particular, the main large eastern/western rooms don’t have any sort of doors leading to the middle part. Put some staircases somewhere to at least imply there are passages below that connect the parts of the castle?

You may want to thicken the walls of the castle separating the indoors and outdoors parts. It’s a little silly that the enemy longbow archers outside immediately go for the prisoners (let’s be honest, they’re prisoners) inside.

Cool, i have the supply wagon now! I’m not sure why i didn’t from the beginning, but thanks. Maybe i’ve had it since last chapter? I just remember not being able to send items from the shop in ch1 will a full inventory.

Please put the amount of turns that you need to hold out in the Status screen (it just says “Protect the Senator and hold out” right now). I had no idea how many turns i needed to defend until i thought to turn back on the “objective” GUI box (which i always turn off because it’s useless screen clutter most of the time).

The player phase music is such a bop, the enemy phase feels like a letdown. Wasn’t this used as scene music before?

I thought destroying the tents would get rid of the reinforcements in that particular direction, so i tried to push and ended up destroying the western one. I have no idea if it had any effect, but the reinforcements keep coming from that direction so i figure no, it was really just for the red gem.

I now understand the existence of Sappers as a faction; nice payoff there. I still question if it’s strictly necessary to differentiate Sapper from Aulestri, but i get it.

“A war criminal’s poisoned weapon.” Does the concept of a war crime exist in-universe? And more importantly, do i have any means of curing the poison? I suppose the concept is not to let yourself get hit by it in the first place. If i recall correctly, it’s just the one unit that has a poison weapon, so it doesn’t really introduce any new wrinkles to the gameplay in a chapter that already has enough going on.

This chapter has that problem where the camera wildly pans everywhere to load the reinforcements at the different edges of the map. That is a consequence of game mechanics to some extent, but you can and should mitigate it by smartly manipulating the camera and unit blocks (manually pan the camera west, load the western unit blocks, pan the camera south, load the southern unit blocks, etc). There’s still going to be a lot of camera panning, but the current state of affairs is absolutely ridiculous-looking with the camera going east to load some of the eastern units, then south to load southern units, then back east to load more eastern units, etc.

There’s something funny about Nei (the boss who gave me the most trouble, by far) not having a death quote. Did it get turned off by flag 0x1 because i defeated Ramond first?

I was excited to use the Luna tome, but Vivica doesn’t have the weapon rank to use it. This may just be that i haven’t used her much, but i also wonder if using her would’ve been enough to bring her up from D anyway. Consider increasing the amount of wexp granted by Flux; unless you’ve added more tomes, dark magic is pretty straightforward progression lacking lots of options like physical weapons.

I promoted Sander to swordmaster at level 19. He capped skill and speed already, so i’m not missing out on much.

Spending ages watching enemies move across the map is a drag. This map really wants to be smaller, both for ease of movement between the sections (which is expected of the player to do; i don’t think i would’ve survived if i’d kept my parties separate) and to reduce this effect. Especially during the latter turns, cease loading reinforcements from the edges of the map and add more places within the castle for them to load in as sappers so they don’t have to make that boring trek. Stop loading reinforcements at all for at least the penultimate turn because there’s no way they’re going to reach the player anyway.

This chapter was an exercise in murmuring “PLEASE stop STOP killing shit PLEASE”. I felt there was whiplash between the chapter wanting me to hold choke points or fall back to lure the enemy into my units’ formation. I also feel that this could be solved by going for quality over quantity with the enemies. Why not load three strong units each turn rather than ten weak ones? This would make it happen less often that i choke a point only for the point-choker to kill five enemies with counterattacks and then get defeated by the sixth. I also get the feeling i should have retreated all the way back to the throne room rather than the central area where i ended up having my units meet after recruiting the allies and getting the treasure (more on that next bullet point). Have powerful units outdoors so the player is discouraged from going on the offensive and trying to “solve” the map by going where the reinforcements load in in the first place. You should not be hitting the enemy unit cap of 50 this easily.

I get the appeal of putting treasure chests on the map to make it interesting to use the thief or chest keys. However, as it is, the chests are basically fused with the recruitables as points of interest: Laszlo/master seal and Kestut/master seal. I think it would be smarter for Laszlo/Kestut to say “oh by the way, i found this” when recruited and the game gives you the master seal automatically. It would be a nice gesture to streamline things for the player when they don’t necessarily know yet that they’re going to be time-crunched by a flood of reinforcements. If you don’t want to do that, put the chests in a more interesting place that doesn’t amount to sending two units to recruit the allies instead of just one.

Add a condition to check if Auberdin is still alive and make her give the order to retreat at chapter end instead of showing us generic mook portraits. Tho i don’t see why they would retreat just because of nightfall. Usually that stipulates that the battle is going on outside and the enemy has the advantage of hiding in the terrain in darkness, but the Aulestri have already committed to a meat-grinder assault within the castle. I think it would only be the arrival of another army (or fear thereof— “out of an abundance of caution” i guess) that would make them retreat.

Roxelana’s maniacal laughter feels silly with all the text pauses amid her laughs because it causes her mouth to remain mostly closed (i’m using fast text speed). A different portrait for it would really sell the effect too. I’m not saying to commission someone to design FE7 Eliwood-style portraits; a few pixels to make the eyes look sunken in and the mouth more crazy go a long way. Might help to disable blinking for her until she tells Calista she’s alright, too.

“But first, I…” Using a text skip to cut off character dialogue isn’t effective; it just makes it so i have to rewind my emulator to see what was said. Personally, i like to edit the font to change the underscore (_) character to an em dash (—) to represent characters being cut off, but the hypen and ellipsis work just as well too.

With how much importance is placed on Chasimir, i feel that he missed an extra scene giving him characterization before this chapter. I put it together that he was enigmatic and not just another soldier/commander/etc of Rijesca, but there should be a little something extra telegraphing this. “What’s a bishop doing here?” The player will handwave it as being an excuse to give the player a courtesy pre-promote Physic user for the huge chapter map, but in the post-chapter scene it’s revealed that The Church sympathizes with the Rijescan rebels. As it is now, it’s sort of a response that’s missing a call, you know?

C4

You might just want to go with “Reach ship” for the objective text instead of “Reach Bertha”. It’s funny that Bertha is the ship, but it’s not worth the joke when there’s a good chance the player has forgotten it entirely and is wondering who Bertha is.

Soldier vs Guardsmen among the Rijescan enemies feels like a useless distinction. The Soldiers strike me as being the elites since their descriptions call them citizens, but it feels irreconciliable with my mental assumptions from the original FE8 where the enemies called Soldier were cannon fodder. If you have to make the distinction between foot soldiers and elites, i recommend calling the elites Guardsmen instead, but i think promoted vs unpromoted class already speaks enough without having to have unique names/descriptions for them.

The lake in the middle of this map is made of River tiles. Use proper Lake tiles.

I had enough vision to see a bunch of monsters suddenly load in on turn 2. Why not just start them on the map to begin with?

Saszkia feels too little, too late, but honestly i’m not sure where she would fit in in the first place. I mostly used her to ferry Micah around. If i hadn’t recruited Helje, Saszkia definitely would’ve been a sight for sore eyes tho. Might be i was just afraid to use her in a fog chapter where longbowmen could come running out of the fog.

“Sound the horns, men! Let’s slaughter them!” I thought i had nothing out of the ordinary to fear because Auberdin already attacked me with her long-range tome and said her battle quote, so i figured it was okay to commit to fighting her already, but the game rudely loads a bunch of units when i step into a certain area. I get that i was already told not to pick the fight in-universe, but her units were already attacking mine and here i am feeling out the forbidden rectangular area that i can’t step on lest the game hit the “wrong! you lose!” button. It doesn’t feel good. At least load the units as reinforcements on the following turn so they’re not a Ragefest-style “gotcha” ambush spawn. It also feels a little insulting that Auberdin chides me for picking a fight with her while she attacks me with a 10-range tome. Like no, girl, i’m miles away; it’s you who’s picking the fight.

I actually moved Sander all the way across the no-no zone to ORKO Auberdin no problem. Of course, she calls in the soldiers after dying anyway.

The wights look threatening enough that i don’t want to engage with them at all. I elect to take the path above the woods instead.

Ramond has no death quote.

Pour one out for the Hanger, which finally broke on this chapter. Thanks for giving me a main character who’s fun to use and starts with a great weapon! Roxelana also hit level 20 this chapter.

I hear glopping sounds coming from the southwest, meaning i’m going to have to deal with more undead. Isn’t there an army of them to start with? This chapter doesn’t really let up with the enemies the way i thought it would after last chapter’s Dynasty Warriors-ian affair.

The necromancer and her army are near enough to the enemy Rijescans that it’s strange they aren’t also fighting each other. I don’t know the current state of three-way battle hacks, but it might be worthwhile to investigate applying that effect for this chapter (and temporarily changing the NPC faction to use the red palette instead of the green one). You’d just have to do something about Micah, who’s dead weight and could easily be excluded as a unit anyway.

Speaking of the necromancer, i finally have vision of her and it’s strange that she’s apparently just a wanderer who’s passing through. It follows that a necromancer would hang around warring armies so they could necromance all of the fallen soldiers, but she received absolutely no introduction in the chapter intro scenes. I would expect her to be surrounded by just a few undead and raise more as you engage with her (similar to what was intended for Auberdin and the soldiers) rather than the gigantic host you end up actually fighting. My objective says to lift the fog before getting to the ship, so i assume i have to fight and defeat her.

The master seal’s description in the items menu is cut off.

It was smart to make the undead units give less exp. It really does give me the feeling that i shouldn’t be concerned with fighting all of them and should instead go straight for their leader.

I activate another rectangle of doom when i move too close to the necromancer (well, at least i thought at first, but this one doesn’t seem to instantly load units like Auberdin’s did). It’s funny how Roxelana remarks about fighting the dead now when i’ve been fighting them for several turns. Meanwhile, a Rijescan soldier shouts to summon reinforcements when i’ve already killed them all. I feel i’m not playing the way the chapter expects me to. I took the path immediately west, north of the woods, and only started moving south towards the necromancer when i remembered the full objective and figured i had to kill her.

I promoted Hesterine and Helje this chapter. Seraph Knight’s class name is cut off in the promotion screen.

It’s funny how you can kill Bertha since it’s technically an enemy unit. I mean, it makes sense in-world because the ship was in service of Rijesca and makes sense in-game because you don’t want the enemies attacking the ship (or do you? “that ship is moving in to aid the traitors! destroy it!”), but still funny. I assume i make the chapter unwinnable by killing it, but the game doesn’t acknowledge this at all and happily lets me keep playing (i used emulator states to see what would happen if i killed the ship, because who hasn’t tried killing Fargus in FE7).

I didn’t expect to be able to recruit the necromancer! That is fascinating. I wasn’t going to, but i recruited her because i haven’t been using Vivica and a dark magic user who can use more than Flux might come in handy.

I don’t think you should have the portraits bouncing around in the scene where Roxelana and sword lady fight each other; the screen fades and sfx are enough. Making the portraits bounce around makes it feel rather comedic.

The music after Roxelana is defeated doesn’t loop. I understand you have little control over the music, but even if you intended for it to do that you should have some ambient noise playing after the song proper is done so there isn’t dead silence.

So… what? Roxelana got into a fight with sword lady (her name isn’t sticking because i didn’t fight her in-game) because she was the last one to board the ship, was defeated, thrown into the water, and dragged out of the water onto the ship but sword lady decided to let them go? I’m fine with sword lady letting us go because of honour and/or technicalities, but there should be a better reason for these two to get in a fight than “Roxelana happened to board last”. Perhaps Micah gets cold feet at the last moment, decides not to go (“they won’t kill me; i’m a senator”), Roxelana has to go back with someone else to drag him aboard the ship, then she sends the other person and Micah back to the ship while staying to fight sword lady? It already almost happened this way.

END OF ACT I

It’s interesting that Roxelana has been disarmed by her items being put into the supply cart, but i can still access the supply cart itself. See if there’s a hack you can use to deny supply access by chapter number.

“I have to find…” Text skip. Again, it’s not good for representing characters cutting themselves off; no matter how long the […] afterward, it still feels sudden.

Defiance should say that it nullfies crits in its description. I shouldn’t have to go into the “use items” menu to see what a passive, unuseable item does.

I assume 17-year-old Roxelana getting recruited will get a new portrait eventually, but since they’re silhouettes you pretty easily could’ve made a smaller version of the regular Roxelana portrait with a less spiky silhouette. I suppose the point is that it’s supposed to be recogniseable as Roxelana, but she already introduces herself in full and it might be a better effect to see a small-looking portrait introduce herself (“wow, this is the kid that grows up to be the badass captain”).

“Got an Ardour.” I know it’s a weird thing adding exceptions for articles with item names, but these dream-items really want to be just e.g. “Got Ardour.”. I assume the dream-items aren’t final and might differ in the next version.

Thank you for making! I thoroughly enjoyed your game and it gave me that “man, i gotta get back to it and make something too!” feeling. I look forward to seeing where it goes (i’m curious to eventually meet the propagandist from the prologue intro), but even if this were all there was, the five-chapter demo we have could easily be its own small game. I understand you’re going for a shorter game length in general, but i expect to see lower enemy counts next version. You can reduce the amount of bonus experience given for killing enemies to make the player’s units level a little more slowly so they’re not ramming 20 by chapter 4, but the real x-factor is all those enemies the player ends up plowing through, especially in ch3. It’s fine having a few chapters at the end that feel more puzzle-y because most units are at max level already and the player’s got to work with what they’ve got, but at this rate that’s shaping up to be an entire third of the game, assuming there are three acts. It’s a nice gesture to set up infrastructure to let players continue with their old saves, but i think it’s in your interest to streamline and re-balance things a bit. These are five chapters i wouldn’t mind playing again! (assuming in the next major version ch2 is made a bit more interesting, ch3 is less of a slog, and ch4 gets its layout and pacing improved and otherwise works a little more seamlessly)

I’m interested in helping out with music. I’ve already told you on the Discord server that i have some ideas on unifying all the songs into having the same esthetic while still sounding good, so i’ll let you know if anything immediately comes of that.

1 Like

Thank you so much for the feedback, and I’m glad you liked it! Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of areas of Act 1 to polish; it reached the point some time ago where I had just played and replayed the maps enough times that I stopped noticing details or having new insights, so it’s hugely useful to have such a concrete thing to go off.

Prologue definitely has a lot of edge-cases that I need to go back and clear up. It suffers the most from having an Intended Experience™, and I’m definitely looking to clear those up by the time 0.6 releases (with polished Act 1 and unpolished Act 2).

Regarding weird text breaks after ellipses:
Yeah, that’s a recurring input error on my part. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that having coding at the end of a line made it so that FEBuilder didn’t automatically put an [A] at the end; since realising that, it’s been a matter of slowly eradicating individual instances of it (only discovered how rife most of Sander’s recruitments were with it earlier today…)

Regarding the Guide:
I’m looking at making it into a lore-focused Codex thing - flavoured around being short snippets from Roxelana’s journal about such and such a thing - but also finding it a difficult balance with not wanting to overburden people with text (and it being kind of a weird thing to make time to read in general, since it can’t be read in the prep screen).
What I’m leaning towards is turning off the Read flags so that the Guide / Codex never glows green in the menu, meaning nobody feels that pressure to read it as an extra chore on Turn 1 Player Phase every map. I definitely don’t aim to put essential exposition there. It’s more just going to be if anyone feels strongly about knowing how Roxelana feels about Radu / Kirsten / the Confederation / giant spiders.

I feel you’re right about the need for a Chapter 2x. I’d been wondering about it myself, and it feels like it would just do a lot of work for the pacing - both in story and gameplay, as a breather in the middle of three fairly straightforward slugfests. Would probably help clarify the Confederation / Rijesca situation, too.

(Any mention of ‘Commonwealth’ is also just my muscle memory fucking up, since my novel has a prominent Commonwealth in it. Oops. That’s been another thing I’ve been trying to fix bit by bit…)

Re: Chapter 4:

Summary

Yeah, it would be ideal if the undead could fight it out against the humans. Unfortunately, –

ok so i started writing that and then it turns out that it is possible. I just misread the relevant patch and didn’t realise it worked on a flag that could be turned on / off (mostly because when I first looked at it was largely before I knew how flags worked). That actually opens up a lot of room for improvement; a lot of C4 being the way it is is because, in lieu of that patch, I had to try and make sure the enemies were in blocks that stayed well out of each other’s way. (Micah could become playable for the chapter, which is better anyway; having to pick him up all the time was kind of a chore.)

Re the rectangles of doom™; the forts are meant to be the indicator, but in hindsight they blend in too well. I’ve tried various combinations of AI to make Auberdin chill out a bit, but I might just have to take her Bolting away; as it is, it is definitely kind of a cheap fight, and the player doesn’t have enough room to maneuvre. C4’s got a lot of room to improve.

Particular thanks for highlighting moments where exposition is missing or inadequate. It’s always hard to take myself out of my headspace - where I know things, and the characters generally know things, but I forgot to ever actually explain them to the player.

In broad strokes, I definitely agree that chapters by and large need fewer / stronger enemies, and it’s something I’ll work on going towards another release. I have a recurring tendency to make maps somewhat oppressive at first attempt, play them myself, begin to hate myself and scale down gradually from there. If the first version of C3 had seen daylight I would’ve deserved to be chased out of the community forever.

General progress news, while I’m here: the whole of Act 2 is basically playable and almost all written. It needs another round of playtesting, especially because my initial run of them was on the inflated formula of vanilla FE8 (PC levels were all hovering around 20/10 by chapter 10 - far higher than intended - and then suddenly experience gains dropped off a cliff, which was when I first suspected something was off…). I’m hoping that the next major update will come out in like, January.

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AutoSave(rewind 1 turn) is rewritten by aera, but the original author is Chap from FE8Girls.
SetGameOption Patch allows you to set game options from events, so it is recommended to enable it by default.

Oh yeah, i forgot to mention: thank you for not bloating your game with skill system nonsense. Not only did playing it make me want to make my own thing; it made me want to make something that’s just a good time without needing lots of bells and whistles. It’s almost like i started modding GBA Fire Emblem to make my own GBA Fire Emblems…

This is the most difficult part of writing for me too.

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Well, it’s been a month, and while the World Cup has definitely stalled the project a little I haven’t been completely inactive. So, I figured I’d give a quick update on what’s been going on. No official patch, nor patch-notes… nor screenshots, because I didn’t plan that far ahead.

Act 1
I’m making a few small fixes and changes throughout, as well as accounting for more edge-cases that I either didn’t know how to or just couldn’t be bothered to accommodate before I had a better grasp of flags. By and large, enemies are getting slightly fewer in number (significantly, on C3… well, the old C3) but individually stronger. The judicious use of Group AI (credit to Vesly) is also going to fix the recurring issue where only half of a very obviously discrete squad would aggro.

There’s also a new chapter being added to bridge the gap between C2 (the water map) and C4 (the defence), which should help smooth out the Aulestri arc from a story perspective as well as offering a break between pure slugfests. This is necessitating a fair degree of rewriting - Roxelana is no longer separated from the troop - but I’m confident in story and gameplay it will be a benefit. New C3 currently functions as a chapter but hasn’t yet been properly playtested with an on-level party, and the writing has barely started. Besides that, the old C4 / current C5 is going to take the most work.

That said, End of Act 1 saves on the current patch will still be able to flow straight into Act 2; at worst you’ll be slightly underlevelled.

Act 2
Act 2 has been playable and functional for quite a while. So why isn’t it out? Well, it’s not fully written, but there’s a whole wave of balancing that has to happen first. Rebalancing.

So some time back, I playtested all of Act 2, basically running each map two or three times. With the team that had gone through the game before I fixed the experience formula. As in, 3-4 levels ahead of where they should have been. And it’s a problem that’s exacerbated as the Act goes on; units were about 20/10 by the end of the Act, which is where I got to wondering about the formula (and found that the ‘hey do you want to break the formula for a while as a joke? Y/N’ button was on).

So, characters are all done, writing is like 90% done (supports, as always, lag behind), maps are all done and all function. The one exception is that, like with Act 1, I’m adding another lower-intensity breather chapter somewhere in the middle. But I do think that on the whole Act 2 offers a step up in quality as I get more familiar with the tools.

Things to look forward to:

  • Better or at least different map palettes
  • Clio, the best character
  • Date night
  • Six thieves who are all individually coded to say “Argh!” when they die to trigger flags
  • Baels
  • Another indoor map that started out way too big and had to repeatedly have bits carved out of it
  • the Wizard class (don’t get excited)
  • More fucking flags
  • A Codex with a single Read flag so it never glows insistently at the player
  • Three kinds of soldier in one room

I’m still looking at roughly a January / February release for Act 2 and the improved Act 1. The big obvious uncertainty is that I’m moving back to Australia around then, so I’ll try and hammer out what I can while I’m still in limbo. As ever, any feedback is appreciated, even if it’s something as simple as ‘hi, tried using Felice, this is my Felice, she’s shit, pls buff’.

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Short update: the revamped Act 1 has now been fully playtested. Changes ended up extensive in some ways and relatively small in others. Given that all that’s left to do before the official release, I figured I’d drop the patchnotes a little early - though this will only mean anything to people who’ve already played Act 1 in v. 0.35, and given the unmarked semi-spoilers I’d advise anyone who hasn’t played yet to avoid looking.

Leaked patchnotes

General

  • Various miscellaneous fixes
  • Broad axe added as slim equivalent (+1 Mt, +10 hit, -weight, -20 uses over iron)
  • Slight rebalance of economy. Iron weapons have a round 50 uses. Slim weapons slightly more expensive than steel
  • Group AI added and used on several pods of enemies (credit to Vesly)
  • Boss and defence markers now consistently applied
  • Trialling a new assassin mapsprite (credit to ArcherBias); unsure if I’ll stick with it, but worth a shot
  • Team colours slightly darkened and intensified
  • Battle interface now reflects cyan vs. purple theming
  • Changed some of the bounties for various units (mostly downwards)
  • Changed status page background; now also changes colour by faction

Prologue: Muster
General comment: As the first chapter I ever made, Muster was subject to a lot of jankiness under the surface. I feel that it plays very tightly, and has done from an early stage, so iterations are mostly focused on minor fixes and accounting for edge-cases rather than gameplay changes. Most prominently, pace. I was caught between the desire to make a recruitment village getting burned down a failstate, and the desire not to figure out how to code it. Laziness won. Pace is already encouraged by the one village that does burn down, as well as the need to get the ironclads before the mercenary / archer wave.

  • Fixed the raider attacking recruitment villages with a workaround so lazy I should, frankly, be ashamed (he will still attack the hatchet village and destroy it on turn 10 if not intercepted)
  • Map palette changed with custom grass
  • River may or may not be fixed but looks better than it did
  • Miscellaneous jankiness sorted out

Chapter 1: Kick the Nest
General comment: C1 exists as the most straightforward chapter in the hack, to allow the player the chance to acclimatise to their starting party from a standing start, and has been subject to the fewest changes.

  • Zoltan is now tougher, and escapes on NPC phase 1; his survival leads to a (tiny) reward. In hindsight, his position as a joke unit essentially meant to eat a hit and be forgotten runs counter to Roxelana’s characterisation

Chapter 2: Contested Waters
General comment: I mean, you’ve got to have a ship map, don’t you? And any ship map where you can’t be bothered to code multiple ships showing up as the map progresses is basically going to look like this. Main issues were the lack of threat presented by the pegasi and the closedness of the map, with an enforced zig-zag; now it’s more of an open knife-fight, against tougher enemies, but where recruiting Helje should still feel obviously rewarding.

  • Reshuffle of enemies; most prominently, 12 weak pegasi now 9 stronger ones with better AI
  • New access points added to each ship
  • Alarik starts with broad axe instead of hatchet
  • Ending rewritten to flow into new C3
  • Map palette changed, and sea no longer shits tiles around erratically

Chapter 3: Chevauchee
General comment: A breather map from a gameplay perspective, and one that smooths over the plot in a number of ways. All zero-to-one of you that have ever played Myth: the Fallen Lords may recognise the map concept.

  • Exists

Chapter 4 (formerly 3): The Cause
General comment: The obvious showpiece chapter of Act One, pretty much every change made to the Cause since its 35x35, 16-turn beginnings has been to make it shorter, smaller and tighter. This is no exception. While still the crescendo of the Act, it should now better evoke the feel of hunkering down against overwhelming force without feeling like a slog.

  • Reshuffle of enemies; now fewer but stronger (except for east side). Now unlikely to hit enemy unit cap
  • Guard units slightly stronger; archers in west will no longer be immediately picked off
  • Removal of enemy quartermasters
  • Ecorcheur reaver usage now more consistent and telegraphed by class
  • Southern assault made easier in general; two promoted guards now protect Auberdin, who has moved slightly further from the door
  • Start rewritten to flow from new C3
  • Map palette tweaked

Chapter 5 (formerly 4): Gloom of Night
General comment: While ferrying an inert NPC around the map was part of the point, I personally ended up finding it more tedious than engaging. These changes will hopefully lead to a fairer chapter more true to its original design, to make up for fog of war by clearly telegraphing dangerous areas and avoiding the sense of being ambushed due to inadequate information.

  • Micah now temporarily under player control and able to defend himself; now he, not Roxelana, must talk to the ship
  • New popup makes explicit that the forts mark out significant boundaries
  • As punishment for not listening to her AI instructions, Auberdin has been stripped of her Bolting
  • Southeast forts now guarded by soldiers instead of ironclads, to make them more visible
  • Lakes are now lakes, not wide rivers
  • Fixed the flag issue that made the Aulestri ambush-spawn the player
  • Change not made: turning the undead into a third faction, as they still gave the player LoS and ended up fighting Jenson’s Guard more than the player
  • Northwest and southwest enemies given more distance from each other

End of Act 1

  • Temporarily removed convoy access. Who knew 5x hardcoding was good for something after all?
  • Popup indicating the end of the act now removed
  • New portrait for a young Roxelana (I probably wouldn’t have thought of this at all without Alusq pointing out the need for it, but it adds a lot)
  • Now able to be beaten

So what’s left?
In addition to a better Act 1 and a number of changes, patch v. 0.6 will contain the whole of Act 2, with six new chapters of traditional gameplay followed by an End of Act chapter much like Act 1 had. C7, 8, 9 and 11 had all been playtested and rebalanced… around the old party. With the formula fixed, any party going into them now would be wildly underlevelled.

DoW 1-0.emulator-71
It was around this time I realised something was terribly wrong with the XP formula.

So basically the holdup is, besides the new addition C10, a matter of:

  • playing C7-End of Act 2
  • rebalancing C7/8/9/11
  • balancing C10 and making sure it works
  • completing dialogue for the end of C10, C11, End of Act 2
  • finishing around 15-20 more support chains (17 are currently done, if I’m counting right the final total will be 47, but I obviously don’t need to do Act 3 characters yet)

From there, the roadmap is to basically repeat the process but an Act down the line: never touch or think about Act 1 again, improve Act 2 with peoples’ feedback, push out the first version of Act 3 (another six chapters), which is as traditional the final act. Depending on how things go, I may release it in two parts, for… reasons. But no matter what, the target for final completion is FEE3 2023, and so far I’m comfortably on track.

TL;DR: expect v 0.6 to come out in around a couple of weeks, with seven new chapters and a lot of improvements to Act 1.

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And after much hammering of supports, Drums of War v. 0.6 is now released! You can find the patch in the OP, along with a new series of hype screenshots and an updated list of credits.

Version 0.6 contains:

  • Act 2, comprising seven chapters with a variety of objectives
  • Chapter 3, a new addition to Act 1
  • Rewrites and improvements to Act 1 based on player feedback (see above post for more details)
  • 15 new playable characters
  • Another resting place to leave a completed save
  • A near-exhaustive quantity of written supports possible to attain at this point
  • The colour ‘blackcurrant’ replacing the colour ‘damp pavement’
  • An in-game Codex that provides backup exposition, character details, and only ever glows green once
  • More CursedBalkanYTComments energy than ever

Short-term roadmap:

  • Further tweaks to existing maps, though at this stage Act 1 is in near-completed state
  • Accounting for further edge-cases in gameplay
  • Continuing to make graphical improvements
  • Just saw that there’s a graphically superior version of the overworld graphics mod this uses, made by Alusq and endorsed by the original modder, so I’ll switch to that as of the next patch
  • v. 0.8, containing Act 3 (the next four chapters), coming soon
  • v. 1.0, containing the Finale (the final three chapters), coming either at FEE3 or some time before
  • v. 1.1, the completely polished and likely version of the game, coming either at FEE3 or some time after

Can I still use my existing save from v. 0.35?
Yes. You obviously won’t get a chance to replay the new C3, and you’ll come into Act 2 slightly underlevelled and may want to burn promotions early, but you aren’t missing any characters or particularly important items. The Codex may also be a little fucked. I would still very much recommend replaying Act 1! There’s been a lot of changes for the better. But there’s only so many hours in the day, so feel free to forge on.

Are my units going to hit 20/20?
Right now it doesn’t look like they will, so feel free to promote earlier without the stress of ‘missing out’.

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Howdy.

  1. You messed up when setting up the Discord invite, it has expired. There’s an option to make it permanent.
  2. Same goes for the HP cap, it overflows and now my 20/20 Roxelana is stuck at 6HP from chapter 6 forward. This curse is probably going to strike Ochulos too with his high HP growth.

Thanks for the heads-up, though I’m somewhat inclined to let the Discord die peacefully anyway…

At what point did the HP cap overflow? My test file’s had characters with above 60 HP and it’s yet to do that, and the caps are set to 80, and–

and I thought I had the patch installed to allow that, but apparently not. Playable Character HP was apparently still at 60. I still vividly remember changing it, so it must have been rolled back at some point. Which makes it weird that it’s working on the test saves!

Well, this just means I’ll be pushing out a new version sooner than intended, with this and a few other fixes. Hopefully in the next day or two; sorry for the inconvenience.

Out of curiosity, are you regularly running with a very small team? Because that’s a very high level for that point of the game, so I’m wondering if something else might have gone wrong, too.

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No, I just trained her in the dream arena (and made banks out of crypto while her body was asleep, or at least that’s my headcanon).

“But how does that work, you have no healers and no access to the convoy for potions ?”

Dodging axe and flux users. After promotion, with the innate crit boost she gets, swordmasters and mages are also on the menu with some luck. The option to rewind one turn makes it possible.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the writing is fantastic. Easily in my top 3 in that regard. Read through the codex on top of the dialogues, now I’m very excited to be eaten alive by giant spiders one day maybe, looking forward to it. All the juicy bits of world building made the conflict and countries visited more tangible, less abstract. Made me grind boss supports just to see what they have to say.

For some reason death quotes from bosses and playable characters alike don’t pop up sometimes. Happened with the bosses from chapter 4 when I killed both in the same turn (second one would never speak up) and the assassin when he got killed by his boss in chapter 5 (also no dialogue between these two ?).

Also chapter 4 is annoying bullshit :smiley:


Absolutely love the set up and narrative, conflict, and gameplay and story ties, but gosh it made me want to die a little, ah ah.

Also also Roxelana and Calista are cute together :3
.+ Ochulo is very cute, I’m glad you added them to the game.

That explains it. Yeah, the arena there isn’t meant to be real, unsurprisingly, but I only realised the tile was hardcoded to function and didn’t need to be set like a door / shop / house a couple of weeks ago, and forgot there was one still in End of Act 1. Well, for catching it early, you get to enjoy having the strongest Roxelana on record. I’ll fix that arena in v. 6.3 to come, along with various other tweaks (like fixing the lingering 5 crit on a couple of weapons from vanilla…).

I’m also doing a pass over battle / death quotes; it looks like with the C4 bosses in particular they were accidentally set to the same flag, so I’ll see if that’s the issue with any other bosses. As for specific battle quotes, I’m planning on those being a later addition; we’ll see how much battle quote and text space is remaining after the rest of the game is blocked out. But for now, yeah, there’s only a couple in-game.

I appreciate the kind words regarding the writing, and am glad that it’s backing up the gameplay well.

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