Genre : Action/RPG
Developer: Anino Ent.
Publisher : Anino Ent.
Release Date : November 22, 2003
Buy 'ANITO: Defend A Land Enraged': PC
So I received my review disk of Anito - Defend a Land Enraged for review. All I knew about it was that it was from a little known Philippine development company. With a little looking around you can learn that the game has been entered into the Independent Games Festival and is a finalist. The company that made Anito is Anino Entertainment. This is their first attempt at a pc game that I know of. Anino Entertainment also provides Computer Generated 3D Graphics and Animation for various applications including video games, web, print, and video. If you get on some message boards for the game you will find that the Philippine gaming community is very excited to be on the map.
The Independent Games Festival is held once a year and gives independent developers a chance to be heard. This years finalists will be judged in March. For the 2004 contest there are 110 entries from 18 different countries. The average development cost for each game is about $6,000.00 dollars and the average development team is almost 2 people. Although the average development schedule for a game entered is about 5 months, the shortest development schedule for a game entered is 3 days and the longest is 8 years. This gives you an idea of the resources that most of these folks are working with.
Many of the games reviewed here find budgets that sky rocket into the millions with ease. The winner of last years Independent Games Festival had a development budget of $5,000.00. This causes a little bit of a dilemma for a reviewer. Should this game be judged just like any other high budget game? Should there be some sympathies given for a game that reaches such high aspirations without the resources to compete with the big guys? I'll be as objective as possible but I found myself easily forgiving many things as I played through the game. Was that because the story was interesting or was it because I wanted the little guy to have a chance? Hmmmmm. Also, worthplaying.com was the first to host the demo from a company where you can only buy the full game from Anino's website.
Ok, enough already on the background right? What about the game? Well the story is based in 16th-century Asia during the Age of Conquest. You start off the game with some a video that is short and really doesn't give you anything to go on. A couple guys shoot down a bird from a mast on a boat and an old prophetic looking man mumbles something about someone coming back again. The video isn't real high quality but, right or wrong, I was thinking at least this indie company gave cgi video a try. With a dream sequence complete your first item on the task list is to choose one of two characters. You will choose either Maya or Agila. Both are children of Datu Maktan, the father who has mysteriously disappeared during the onset of war between local tribes. Datu, your father, has also been the leader of the Mangatiwala tribe for many years and kept peace in the land of Maroka for many years.
If you choose Maya you get a little more Chakra, mana, and are a little more proficient in melee weapons. If you choose Agila you will be more proficient at ranged weapons. Niether of the characters stats are too different so you could end the game with very similar skills. Each character has a different main quest so you can complete the story by playing the other character. I played the game mostly with Maya as I always prefer spellcasting characters over melee characters. Maya is a melee character but she begins with more chakra. This is a little odd because your chakra is really pretty worthless through most of the game and you find yourself putting more points in skills so you won't get pummeled to death.
Once you have made your character choice, your first task list item is done. You have chosen a character and you are in the game world. You know that your father is missing now and you basically have to go find him and try to restore peace to a land that is quickly loosing the balance that Datu kept for many years. You may have noticed that the words task list were chosen earlier. That was for a reason. The game feels very much like your checking off items on an agenda or task list for much of it. The idea of completing quest and journal items is basic to role playing games so this is understandable. The other big reason to play a role playing game is the chance to fight and maybe find some items worth keeping or selling. Fighting and item finding doesn't happen very much in Anito, at least through most of the first parts of the game. With Maya you fight a horse that has turned into some kind of a monster after about an hour or so in and that's it. After a bit you get to fight off some wild boars as you wander through endlessly 'boring,' pun intended, forest areas trying to find the next item on your task list to check off.
Anito feels more like an adventure game often than an rpg. If you keep that in mind, Anito can actually be enjoyable to play. I would say the strength of this game definitely lies in its story telling. If you check the faq on Anino Entertainment's website, it does state that the game is more of an adventure than an rpg. If you consider that, the story of a young girl looking for her father and finding ancient traditions that were very much part of who she is was intriguing to me. This kept the rather perfunctory task of running around and talking to people so I could check off a journal item from feeling like it was a complete waste of time.
As you complete quest and journal entries by talking to various people and doing different things, you get points that apply to your skills later. At various points you will awaken new chakra within your character and be able to use new spells or abilities. Leveling your chakra points up comes as you continue to battle and become more proficient as a fighter. The chakra points apply to intrinsic abilities like slashing and thrusting, or they can apply directly to a spell. Unfortunately you don't have a lot of control over the spell points. When they become available, you get them, simple as that. The area of spellcasting is disappointing as the number of spells and the spells themselves are not all that exciting. Graphically Anito looks pretty average. The animations are very simple and some of the locations can be hard to judge how to get through. You'll find yourself from time to time getting stuck and backing out because you can not judge the depth of the 2d graphics very well. Fighting is basically limited to clicking your mouse and hoping for the best. The swing animation delivers a hit or a miss. The words come up as you swing showing if you hit or not and tend to get in the way of the fighting at times. If you are familiar with Divine Divinity, the graphic nature of that game will give you a good comparison of Anito's graphics. Anito would probably fall a little short of Divine Divinity's. As a matter of fact, you will find quite a few similarities between the two games. Divine's story was a very big part of the game; however it seemed to have much more in the way of fighting and item finding.
Fighting doesn't seem to happen very often and when it does the enemy does provide a good challenge. You may find yourself running off to the next area that loads just to get away and rest. If you're in it for items you will be a little frustrated here to as there isn't much to find. You will spend much of the first part of the game broke and unable to buy much at all. This is ok if you're in it for the story. If not, you may fell the game is very tedious. You're chakra will run out quickly as you cast various early spells like charm and spook. You will need to find a bed to rest in so you can restore health and chakra.
Resting will cause the clock of day and night to move a certain number of hours. Day and night affects the game to some degree. You won't be able to buy or sell at night. You won't be able to talk to many people so you can fulfill journal entries at night either. You will mostly be able to walk endless paths in the pretty large world getting from one place to another. Sometimes you will get escorts to help you and sometimes you may find a horse to get from one place to another quicker. I tended to like the portals in Divine Divinity more. There is a whole lot of walking and screen loading here.
At various times you will find the need to combine certain items to create new or upgraded ones. For instance, if you have wild boar meat from a fresh kill, you will need to find a stove and put the meat from your inventory on the stove to create a pork chop. There are actually many items that have this kind of interactivity in the game and some quests will call upon you to use them.
Even with all of its shortcomings Anito was still enjoyable to play. This is almost entirely based on the fact that the story itself was intriguing to me. If this wasn't the case it would have been quite tiring. Trying to find the right people to talk with, when they're awake, so I can check off a journal entry can get a little tiresome. Somehow finding out more about Maya's history and slowly learning that she is the chosen protector of Maroka became compelling enough to continue on. Any story that has some of Aragorn's search for meaning in it can't be bad. Just as Aragorn was finding out more of his destiny through helping others; so is Maya attempting to find the meaning of her life. If you couple the story and a good enough game with the fact that this is an independently developed game, you have a lot to admire. It really is quite an achievement. In the end I must offer a score that doesn't show too much sympathy because of limited resources so as not to skew the ratings of other games. Anito is a fine game and worth trying if you like story based role palying games. Or if you consider the game an adventure game with some rpg elements in it your expectations may be set about right. Especially, if you consider that you can acquire Anito for a very negligible $20 price directly from Anino Entertainment's website.
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