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RPG: Anito: Defend a Land Enraged [by Anino]

Game: Anito:  Defend a Land Enraged
Release: November 22, 2003
Genre: RPG/Adventure
Developer: Anino
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 600 MHz Processor, 128 MB Ram, 16 MB 3D accelerated video card, 1 GB free hard disk space, Microsoft DirectX 9.0
Price: $20.00

As December of 2003 started I was really in an adventuring mood.  After all, The Return of the King was about to be released, I had just gone through my extended version of The Two Towers, and the gloomy weather outside made me want to disappear into a fantastic adventure.  I again and again considered playing my personal favorite, the first Baldur's gate game.  However, with the end of the year awards that I was doing, I didn't have time to breath, let alone to play such an involved game.  And there was the problem that I'd already played through the game and though I hadn't played through the expansion pack, I  hadn't enjoyed what I'd played of it.

Then a great thing happened.  After some emails with Anino, I was excited to have the chance to play their new title, Anito: Defend a Land Enraged, which coincidently looked very much like Baldur's Gate with its seemingly isometric game play.  Excited for the opportunity, it gave me good reason to put off playing, which was of course very important as I didn't have time to play anyway.  It helped me focus and actually complete the 2003 Independent Game of the Year awards.  (so you owe those awards in some way to this game...even though it came out after the cut-off and will be considered for the 2004 awards)

Sometime in January, my copy did finally arrive, in a FedEx bag from the Philippines.  I rushed to open the game immediately installed it and started working through the tutorial.  My first thoughts were that there was certainly some interesting features in the game.  After all, when was the last time you had to make lime and honey chicken to get out of a room?  The food aspect of Anito, with the different available components for making food, ovens and stoves, make for an interesting part of the game.  My other thought was that I was extremely disappointed in the graphics.  They graphics somehow looked old.  They were a bit different then other things that I had seen recently, but the way things looked reminded me of Nintendo 64 games, where the graphics were good, but now were seeming a little dated.

Due to the time that it takes to play a game of this type (RPGs are a nightmare in time consumption) I put Anito on the computer desk right next to my computer case, and looked at it daily for the next 2 weeks wondering when I would be able to fit it into my schedule and wondering if I might give the game a scathing review.

Two weeks later on a day I was recovering for being sick, I decided early in the morning to get back into the game and so for the entire day and on into the night I played.  It is amazing how much playing a game for hours on end can help you to appreciate what the game really is and how good it is.   That was certainly the case with Anito, which got better and better every hour that I was playing it!

Anito isn't your typical RPG game.  There certainly is some hack and slash to the story, but the game is much more adventurous then that.  Instead of simply having random monsters always walking about that you run around and kill, the game focuses more on providing a solid storyline, and it does so with stellar results.  Instead of wandering about killing things, in Anito you become deeply involved in an adventure.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this adventure is that there are actually two completely different adventures in the game.  You can play as Agila, the son of the missing tribal leader, or his sister Maya.  In most games, choosing your gender at the beginning of the game is something to do for fun.  It may make the game play differently, but it doesn't really affect the game all that much.  In Anito, choosing Agila or Maya will completely alter the game that you are about to play.  Each character has a completely different set of tasks to undertake as they travel through the land.  This is a storyline with two main characters.  There is some danger in what was done here, having two storylines that are woven together around the same mystery could work, or it could fall flat, leaving players frustrated or confused.  In Anito, the story works, and it is the main reason why this game is such a wonder.

Play the game as Agila, and you will progress through the towns talking to key people in the towns, moving on to try and spread peace while trying to determine where your father has gone.  Then play as Maya, and get a completely different story.  It is amazing as you talk to the same characters and go to the same buildings how you are involved in the same plot, but interacting in a completely different way.  You discuss different things with the characters and come to understand different facets of the same storyline.  The way the two storylines were woven together in addition to providing so much intrigue and mystery is one of the real joys of Anito.

The complex storyline isn't the only joy to the game.  In many RPG/Adventuring games, there are a series of side-quests that you can embark on.  These quests typically aren't all that important to the storyline and can be skipped without changing the final outcome of things.  Most of them are fairly simple, such as "kill this really bad guy," "find my daughter," etc.  In Anito there are some side-quests as well.  However, most of them are quite complex in and of themselves and they intermingle with the main story to give you a little more insight into what is going on.  Instead of just going after the thief who stole a wallet, you may find yourself talking to multiple people in multiple cities as you try to unravel just how involved the side-quest really is and how many people were involved.  Each of these quests feels like an adventure in and of itself, and the journal does a pretty good job at helping you stay up to date on each of the quests you are involved with and what the latest thing to happen in each of those quests was.

In addition to all of this there are of course battles.  There are weapons and a special kind of magic called Chakra.  As you progress through the game you learn more useful skills and spells, you buy weapons and become more powerful as your experience increases and you properly apply your attribute points.  Most of that is fairly standard affair.  Anito though isn't standard affair.  Those who play it will become extremely involved in its storyline.  That in my mind is the mark of a good RPG, and Anito certainly delivers as one of the best I've played. 

Graphics: 9
I debated back and forth on the Graphics.  In fact if there is one thing that I spent the entire time I was playing the game evaluating and judging it was the graphics.  I think more than anything else the graphics are likely to keep people from really getting into Anito.  At the same time, I believe that the graphics are the most likely reason that you will buy the game.

The problem that I ran into with the graphics is that they often look dated.  Not dated in the Independent Game realm, but dated in comparison to what is available in mainstream gaming.  I've compared the game to Baldur's Gate, and I will again.  This game doesn't look as good as that one does.  The main problem with that statement is that Baldur's Gate is years old.  The great thing about Anito though is that it also looks better than Baldur's Gate.  The landscapes are much more varied than I've ever seen in an RPG.  The game climbs to tree tops, passes through firefly lit canyons, strolls through graveyards, and explores multiple cities that each have been designed by individual races and look completely different.  Some of the landscapes are absolutely stunning.  Others show what looks like a hurried design.  One of the buildings in Villacredo is textured with a single seemless texture.  The doors, roof and walls all have this brown and light brown pattern to them.  It looks terrible.

Then there are points, inside buildings, where every little detail has been carefully drawn ought.  Honestly it is quite a contrast and this is part of the reason I debated so long on the graphics.  Much of the game actually uses flat ground with textures that have been created to imitate what a 3D landscape looks like.  When it works, it is amazing how it fools your eyes.  When it doesn't work it leaves you wondering just what they were doing.  Overall, I liken the graphics to the Zelda games that came out on the Nintendo 64.  At the time, the graphics were considered ground-breaking and some of the best ever made.  Now people have a strong distaste in their mouth when they play that game because the look is so far behind what is available now.  I went into Anito excited about the graphics, and after playing a few moments I was disappointed.  After playing many hours, I think that the poser-esque models have grown on me, and the varied landscapes and well done flat ground textures win me over.  The game is graphically impressive, and those who play it for a good while will be in for a treat as they travel to the many lands in the game.

Sound: 9
Other than Maya's voice, the sound effects are extremely suitable to the game, and the voice-overs are well done.  The music in the game has a very adventurous tone to it.  It is clear that as was done in the creating a huge world of variety in the graphics, the developers have taken the proper care to ensure that there was great depth to the music.  Multiple soundtracks for the different areas of the game help to keep players entranced with the screen.

Game Play: 7
This is definitely a point where the game takes a big hit.  Walking around some of the cities in Anito, notably Fort Ortañez, is an absolute nightmare.  It is difficult to to find paths that you can take, and the character seems to get stuck going anywhere.  The battles in the game proceed well enough, but there certainly is a huge luck factor that will keep you doing quick saves after every good battle that you have so that you can jump back quickly to that point when suddenly the same animal you just dispatched with ease appears in a different part of the level and nearly dispatches you.  Once you get used to how the character moves you'll be able to get around most obstacles with ease, but the getting used to part takes away from some of the game experience. 

A personal favorite option in the game play was the use of the 'TAB' key.  When used in game this key shows you every object that you can interact with.  In a room it might show you that you can open a chest, lay on the bed, talk to a person or go through specific doors.  This may seem very simple, but it made things flow very well in the game as I didn't spend all my time running around to objects and doors that I could not interact with.  In fact I often made it a habit to walk around the different areas with the 'TAB' key pressed, just to make sure I wouldn't miss anything.

Options: 9
You have just about every option that you could possibly think of or need.  The most useful being the quick save.  All of the standard options are available, including changing resolution and texture depth, and also the ability to increase the gamma (which I certainly did).  My machine did have problems with the music becoming filled with static after modifying the screen resolution, but beyond that, this is about as a solid a setup as you can find.  The different options should make it so that you can modify the graphics options to the point where you can play this game on your computer.

Concept: 10
The concept is one of the most interesting points to the game and perhaps the area where the game shines the most.  Playing through an action adventure game isn't something new, but playing through an interwoven storyline with each of the two main characters is really quite amazing.  The cross-overs between the two story lines is just cool, and the whole idea of how this story and game were put together on this premise is really just wonderful.

Fun: 9
Perhaps it is due to the enemies being beatable, but I found myself rarely getting frustrated with Anito.  That is certainly saying something as often with RPG games you can find yourself in a nearly impossible situation where you run the battles over and over again knowing that if everything goes right you will win, and waiting for that to happen.  With Anito, the battles aren't as big a part of the game, as mentioned earlier.  Instead the greatest part of the fun of this game comes from getting involved in the story and really feeling like you have become part of the conflict.  In many RPG games, talking to people was just something that you did to make it so that you could move on to the next scene.  In Anito, talking to the other characters in the game is actually an interesting experience as the plots and tasks in the game are so interwoven with different people and full of character that the conversations bring excitement as you close in on understanding the mystery of where your father has gone and what is really happened in the land.

Overall: 9
For the number of hours that you will play this game, the depth of the game play and overwhelmingly involved story, it is amazing that the game is only $20.  I whole-heartedly recommend that you immediately purchase this game.  Anito shows some of the promise of what the future may hold for Indie gaming.  This game is very professionally done.  The graphics are original and breath-taking at times.  The sound will sear itself into your brain and flitter around your head for days.  More than anything, you will become a part of the storyline.  Anito is a wonderfully constructed game that will delight any gamer and will keep you glued to your monitor for weeks.

Added: February 4th 2004
Reviewer: Russell Carroll
Hits: 26934
Language: english


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