Machina of the Planet Tree – Planet Ruler – is filled with well-designed characters, and a unique combat system, that JRPG fans will appreciate, despite the slightly over complicated story.

Score 7.5/10

+ Interesting combat system
+ Great character art
+ Well-developed side characters

– Bosses have too much health
– No side-quests

Platform(s) available: PC
Platform Reviewed: PC

Full Review
Many budding game developers dream of creating successful RPGs, and one way of making that wish come true is by seeking the help of RPG Maker. It’s often panned, since developers don’t require their own assets or maps to make a game. However, it is still possible to create everything from scratch, and a host of beautiful games have been produced through the software.

Machina of the Planet Tree – Planet Ruler – is the first game by Japanese developer Denneko Yuugi. Set in a fantasy world that retrieves its power from the Planet Tree, the story follows Cram Lanvelouche and his weapon Cronos, as they fight for the safety of said tree, and thus their world. Despite the basic premise, things do get complex at times, with characters constantly having to explain what is happening. Some of the bumph is tagged on as an optional extra, much of this just being added flavour for the characters, which was an appreciated touch.

Unfortunately, something is still lacking in the characters themselves. Perhaps they feel a little stereotypical with the cocky student, carefree Cat-girl, and Robot with amnesia who’s confused by all things modern. Sure, there’s plenty of amusing banter to keep things light-hearted, but it wasn’t enough to stick with me after for long after playing.

Having said this, a good amount of attention has been given to side characters, who have small dialogue trees to keep them from feeling too standard or thrown in. For example, the young girl in the inn, Ricotte, clearly has a crush on the main character, and slowly becomes more disgruntled by the added female company that surrounds him. These optional snippets of dialogue helped create a feeling of history and home in the world.

It’s the game’s combat system where things start to become a little more inventive, while still managing to be easy to use and understand. Each character has a certain amount of attacks, which they gain from leveling-up. Four of these can be equipped at a time, although they can be changed at any point.

Everything has a cost, from attacking to using potions (between 1-4) with only a certain amount being available per turn. Extra powerful moves and any stat based actions then require TP. Characters always have a max of 100TP, while going below 10TP causes stat damages where attacks are weaker and also damage hits them harder. There is also a combo system, where using the same move twice in a row has a negative effect, but attacking in a string gives bonuses.So testing things out, and keeping combat fresh is encouraged.

The game features a lot of boss fights, which range from fun levels of strategy, to long and boring slogs. Too many of the bosses lasted for half-an-hour simply because they had too much health, and kept healing themselves. Given how close a number of these long bosses were to each other, the game was dragged down because of them.

Another smaller gripe is the very linear gameplay with no side-quests, mainly because it seemed to be set up in the narrative, then denied from the player. At the beginning of the game, Cram mentions how the Academy has been overly busy and since he’s the best in the school, he’s been tasked with all the jobs. This leads the player to expect missions from characters, but after the first dungeon, the headmaster tells Cram to take a break as he deserves a rest.

The only thing close to a side mission is collecting items used to level-up weapons. Items can be gained by defeating enemies and excavating attribute points, which are scattered around each map. Battling does gain quite a few drops, such as health and weapon items, rendering the shop as pretty pointless, as it only ever seems to sell the items that drop regularly from enemies.

Weapons themselves are only gained through rare drops and there is no change of armour or accessories available – despite a slot for them in the character menu. Being able to sort weapons and armour, as well as going on side-quests have become expectations of an RPG, and although Machina of the Planet Tree – Planet Ruler – works without them, the option could have brought some extra interest into the game.

Machina of the Planet Tree – Planet Ruler – is an enjoyable JRPG,  and it’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into making sure that the design, combat and art style never feels stale. So it’s a shame that it lacks that spark of originality and character necessary for something truly memorable.

This review is based off a review copy of Machina of the Planet Tree – Planet Ruler – provided by Sekai Project.

This review was originally part of the GamersFTW site, the servers of which have been taken down. It now appears on GabsTannerReviews out of respect for the developers/publishers that gave me a copy to review.