As you can guess from the title of this blog post, I’m going to compare the two RPGs I made (so far). I’m not comparing them to decide which one is the best, because it wouldn’t be fair 😉 I mean, Planet Stronghold had a budget of 1/4 of Loren, and was made completely by myself, so it wouldn’t be fair to be compared to Loren.
I’m going instead to examine the various gameplay element based on customers feedback and random forum/blog post I’ve encountered searching for my games around the net. For each point I’ll give my personal opinion, but I’m quite sure that it mainly depends on your tastes!
From now on I’ll refer to Planet Stronghold as “PS” and Loren Amazon Princess as “Loren” to save time!
PS uses a “classic” system: each character has his own separate inventory, they can trade items but for example if you didn’t select a character in the party, his items are unavailable during the mission.
The equipment slots are only 3, weapon, armor and usable item.
Loren uses a more “modern” system: shared inventory between all the characters. It’s less realistic, but more practical to use (minimizes the amount of clicking you need to do).
There are 13 equipment slots and a much more intuitive inventory system.
My opinion: there’s no doubt that Loren’s inventory is much more practical. It might be less realistic, but it has so many improvements over PS that is the clear winner here.
Vendors, items and impact on gameplay
Because of the setting, PS doesn’t have currency, so you get new items automatically as you progress in the story, and through special quests. Since PS uses a finely crafted combat system, where each battle was tested well, I think the weapons and armors have more impact on the gameplay than in Loren, albeit there are only 40 different weapons/armors. This also because I used a “low-HP” system, where even 5hp of damage difference matters a lot especially in the early battles.
Loren has currency, and through grinding you can afford to buy better equipment even if the best stuff is found in the quests (in particular the new character personal quests of the expansion).
Loren has a very big database of items, reaching almost 1000 different weapons, armors, usable, gems, etc. So much more variety.
A mistake I made in the design of Loren was to have weapon damage as a proportional result of the character skills, and use many hit points for each enemy/character. So in practice the impact of the weapons statistics while still noticeable, is not that big. In a game where enemies can have from 80 to 500hp, the difference between powerful weapons and medium weapons can be of less than 15-20hp on each hit. Luckily, elemental damage still applies, so there’s still some strategy involved.
My opinion: I think PS is slightly better than Loren, even if depends on your gaming tastes. In PS you need to find better weapons to win the hardest battles, on Loren is more about the skill combinations you use in battle.
PS has 4 vs 4 battles. There’s less strategy related to positioning on the battlefield, since there isn’t a front and back row. The mechanics though, as noted above, seems to work well, in particular the aggro system.
Loren has a much more complex battle system featuring a 6 vs 6 fight, with a front and back row. It has everything a fantasy RPG is supposed to have, including buffing, healing, area of effect attacks, guard other players, many types of attacks, and so on.
My opinion: They’re two different experiences. In Loren you can have more variety of tactics, battles tend to last longer especially at hard difficulty. Battles in PS in general are quicker, because there are less units on screen and except some special cases, enemies can’t resurrect allies. Loren has more variety of strategies and combos, but I don’t mind PS different approach.
Classes, Skills and Quests
In PS there are 4 classes: Soldier, Scout, Guardian and Psionic. The skills are 23, including the psionic skills. They use a big scale system, so values 0 to 200. On each level up you can assign skill points. The main problem is that the impact is not extremely noticeable. If you add 3 skill points on Sniper Weapons you’ll get +1 damage on each attack. Which is not really much. So takes several level ups before you see the effects of your choices.
The max recruitable characters are only 8, but in any case the characters have the same skills (even if different classes). So there aren’t character unique skills like in Loren.
One thing that was really appreciated by players is the impact of the non-combat skills on the gameplay. During several points of the game, you can decide to use a skill to perform a specific task, changing the result of the mission. A door might need Lockpicking to be opened, you can throw a grenade if you have enough knowledge of Explosives, and so on.
The quests have more variety, since depending if you play as the Empire or the Rebels you’ll see the same enemies but have very different goals to accomplish.
In Loren, the system used is the skill tree. There is a base Class (Warrior, Thief and Mage) and a specialization Class with a unique skilltree containing 5 skills. The total recruitable characters including the expansion is 14, so you have a very good variety of skills and attacks!
The story is more linear than PS (except for the expansion), so it’s more like reading a good book and fight battles at certain intervals. The fact that there aren’t non-combat skills limits the roleplay part to only the battles.
My opinion: In this case I think they both have pro and cons. The PS skills system is good because has a series of skills that can be used also outside the combat. It’s optional of course, but is interesting in some quests being able to use Explosives, Survival, Charisma skills to avoid a battle or see a different outcome. Something that Loren missed. On the other hand, the big-scale skills of PS didn’t work really well, while Loren’s skilltree was better. I think the ideal solution is a mix between the two, with lower scale skills (0 to 10 or 20).
Romances and Relationship System
PS has less romance options than Loren, but the dialog choices that increase/decrease the relationship are non-trivial and better integrated into the story. There are several points in which picking a choice will increase the relationship in some characters and decrease it in others.
Loren has a LOT of romance options, a much longer romance path (and of course much better writing!) but as many people complained, is like playing with autopilot: to increase the relationship with a character will be enough to pick the dialog option “(Romance)”. While there are some occasions where other choices impact the relationships (like fighting Krul or not will impact your relationship with Amukiki) in general there’s less freedom.
My opinion: In this case, the system used in PS is better, because is non trivial and also more realistic: taking a stance on a particular topic is very likely to create friends and enemies, like in the real world. Loren’s approach is more casual, and even if I decided to make it that way on purpose, probably it wasn’t a good idea.
I’d like to add that making the “perfect RPG” is hard, also because every RPG player has a different idea of what is the perfect RPG. Loren might have been better with non-linear quests and non-combat skills, while PS could have used more variety of skills and combat actions, and a better writing.
I’d say that while Loren is very complete RPG under the combat aspect, and has much better story (in particular the romances), variety of enemies, is much longer, Planet Stronghold has more gameplay elements: beside the battles indeed, there are the skill choices, the minimap exploration with random places, the training facility where you can train your characters, and so on.
So in the end when I hear some people saying that one of the two games is better than the other I think it mainly depends on what you’re looking for in a RPG game. Personally, I like both games for different reasons 😉