Thorne: Death Merchants is one of those titles that can take you a bit by surprise. Set with darker tones, this is a title that breaks out of the standard RPG Maker mold by being an Action Adventure title above all else with real time combat. Put into the role of Thorne, also known as “The Crow”, it’s high time to find out exactly why you are sitting there chained to a damp and dark cell.
Before getting into anything I want to take a moment to truly highlight that Lone Wolf Games have done something that I’ve never quite seen before. They’ve managed to create an title that is dark and gritty while still holding onto the classic SNES-like RPG Maker look*. Darker colour tones and less cheery environments are all further supported by strong language, aka swearing and other derogatory terms (in which no one in the real world uses... at all) to effectively set up the atmosphere. It was surprising how un out of place this all came across as it sold the personalities of some of the characters that had to be dealt with.
Besides talking while strapped in chains in the dungeon, most of Thorne’s time will be spent in the village and its surroundings in which events take place. Moving up into the forests by the lord’s manor or down on the beach by the ocean, there will be plenty of things trying to kill you. Bandits, wolves, goblins. and demonic water beings will all go straight for the kill if they notice you. Not starting at level one however Thorne is a certified killer that lives up to his reputation. With sword in hand and the ability to throw knives and molotov cocktails, if anything does start to give him trouble he can simply heal himself or go into a berserk stance if death is close enough to inflict even more damage.
There are times though that the speed in which Thorne can swing felt off or not fast enough depending on previous actions taken. This could result in taking quite a bit of damage if a couple steps back were not taken in time. More often than not this lag in action time could be seen between throwing an item and trying to swing your sword. At first it seemed like it could have fit in mechanically as it would make sense between throwing something and then swinging thereafter but it didn’t always occur. In the same ballpark, as in regards to how things ran, unlike other titles Thorne required a bit of processing power in order to work properly but this is just a note for those with lower spec machines as I had to use my tower and not my netbook in order to run it smoothly.
What makes exploring the village and the surrounding spaces interesting is that they are not straightforward and sometimes certain paths lead to honestly nothing other than a couple more experience points. Already being level twenty however it can be hard to even see level twenty-one as experience takes a long time in order to accumulate. On leveling up however Thorne receives five extra stat points to be used as he sees fit.
Traversing some of these locations is a good challenging as they are not straightforward. Having to find and even decipher clues in order to move further was an excellent use of puzzle elements that didn’t rely on moving objects onto switches from three separate locations to open one door. Each of these locations were well designed and while some paths could lead to dead ends, others could lead to some rather interesting quests that could lead to Thorne’s own death for what he now holds in his hand.
Unfortunately for everything that it does right, Thorne’s adventure is a very short one feeling more like an introductory portion than a full experience in the two hours it took to complete. It isn’t the first short RPG Maker title that we’ve reviewed of late but unlike Tales Across Time that sets itself up to finish that early, Thorne: Death Merchants felt as if it was just coming into itself as the credits rolled.
Overall Thorne: Death Merchants is a great title but it is also a very short one. Using the RPG Maker to make an Action Adventure title was refreshing and with excellent writing both vulgar and not, I honestly hope to see either another entry or extension to this portion as events felt as if they were just getting started when they actually finished.
*Mythos: The Beginning did dark but also used a different artistic approach and scared the crap out of me.
Lone Wolf Games
Article by Pierre-Yves