Theia: The Crimson Eclipse is a free RPG deloped with the “RPG Maker 2003” engine, with a fantasic story that will remind us of the “old-school” RPGs. I jus needed to play a few minutes to realized I embarched on ajourney without pair, and so it was.
Because Theia: The Crimson Eclipse (at which I will refert to as simply “Theia”) got me so much as to enter my “Top 10 favorite games of all time”, this article will be a bit longer.
And it’s mostly the transltion of the article I wrote about it in italian, but eh.
STORY: LINEARTY AND NON-LINEARITY
Theia is set in an alternate version of our planet Earth (here called Ariathale) in a almost post-apocaliptic future. In the past, fossil fuel used by mankind run out, but then a new energy source was found. It came from green crystals called Atlas. But when eventually even the Atlas starts running low, a treaty is formed which bans all non-reusable energy sources. Government are reorganized in fiefs and the few still in possess of Atlas, use it to suppress the others.
The main story follows a young man named Seth, soldier of one of the fiefs’ army who has to investigate on a possible new energy source coming from red crytals. Obviously this does little justice to the plot, but I’d like to avoid as much spoilers as possible.
Generally, the plot is pretty linear. Choises made by the player rarely influence the events except in some rare cases. The game is divided in chapters which underline the advancement of the plot.
Theia has what I call “FFVI path split” in which when the heros divide into multiple groups, we can choose which team to follow even though we’ll have to play all scenarios eventually.
The biggest non-linear element we find is in the finale, which changes slightly depending of some choises made during the plot. This will bring us to 4 main endings and 2 secret ones.
The playable cast is composed by 19 characters which might seem a lot, but actually only 7 of those will be definitive party members. In Theia all characters joni the team as “Guests” and only join for good if they reveal themselves as one of the big sevens. Otherwise they just won’t.
But, if you want to go beyond the main story, it is possible to recruit back all of the team members who you only saw as “Guests” bringing the roster back to 19. The game doesn’t advised though, as it might seem a bit weird but it’s ok. After all it’s just for completion purposes.
Plot twists and turns are very well made in Theia. Every character has their own personality, goals, relations and past that you find out during the story. Even some of the minor ones. It gives a good feeling of a connected world.
Exploring towns and other locations is a recurring mechanic in RPGs. Theia doesn’t fall behind here. While exploring the various locations we’ll also bump into various chests, however some will be locked and will require a Safecraker in the party; some others will require special skills (like Seth’s jumping ability) to reach. Add to that a sidequest that asks the player to open as many chests as possible and you’ve got the perfect recipe to encourage backtracking.
Speaking of Seth’s jumping ability, this gives Theia’s maps a sense of depth, bringing in a “sudo-3rd dimension” in its 2D world.
Another good thing that Theia does well, are the dungeon maps, where you usually fight battles. Battles aren’t random anymore, you can clearly see the enemy on the screen and can all be avoided (given we’re skilled enough with our fingers)
And once the enemy is defeated, it will disappear from the map until we come back, which is good if you want to simply explore an area without the enemies bothering you.
Theia also divides the enemy encounters in three types: normal, medium and big. Mediums are stronger than normals and bigs can be compared to minibosses. In this last case, once a big encounter is completed it won’t reappear for the duration of the playthorugh.
Then we have the world map. We don’t move the character in the world map, rather we just move a cursor around and select where to go. The good thing is, that there are no random battles and you can save anywhere.
The only problem I had in this aspect is that backtracking is kinda hard. Due to plot reasons, you are truly free to backtrack anywhere when you reach around the 30 hours mark and you are approaching the end game. I wished I could backtrack a lot earlier but oh well.
Like I said above, due to Theia being made in RPG Maker 2003, it’s entirely in 2D. But, as I said, it gives a good illusion of 3rd dimension with the jumping ability of the protagonist.
Like music tracks, Theia contains various third-party grafics too. It’s not too bad, and it gives the place a lot of variety so exploring around new places never feels boring or repetitive.
In battle however, the animations truly make this game shine to most. Expecially during the characters’ various Exceeds. Due to the engin being a bit old, however, some animations tend to lag quite a bit on newer systems. Thankfully it’s just 2 or 3 animations in total that have this problem so it’s not a big deal.
However, it’s in battles where Theia really rocks! After all if and RPG is good, mostly depends on the battle system. Theia used the old-but-gold ATB2 like we saw in ips like FFVI or Chrono Trigger. It worked then and it works just fine here.
So what news does Theia bring to the table? Exceeds and Mastery.
If we keep doing comparisons to the Final Fantasy series, Exceeds are kinds like FFVII’s Limit Breaks, but this time, the gauge that once filled will enable the use of the Exceed, fills differently depending on the character.
For example, Seth’s Exceed gauge fills a bit every time he uses the “Attack” command. Nadia (a mage type characters) fills her gauge by using the command “Skills”. Other characthers might fill their gauge with more than one command. Rudra, for example, fills his gauge by using either “Attack” of “Defend”. This pretty much defines what role every character fullfills (DPS, mage, healer, tank, etc.)
The problem with this is that some characters become a bit too, let’s say “simple” for the lack of a better term.
Ok, I need to elaborate on this: let’s take as an example two characters: Seth (physical fighter) and Nadia (mage). Nadia, charges her Exceed by using “Skills” but since her basic attack sucks and defending or using items kinda sucks too, I’ll end up using “Skills” 99% of her turns with little thought. Seth however is a bit more complex. Sure, I could just spam “Attack” and charge his Exceed but what if the enemy I’m fighting is weak to one of his special skills? I could use a Skill to try and more damage, but at the cost of not charging the Exceed gauge in that turn.
Let’s now talk about Mastery, which (as far as I know) it is a unique mechanic to Theia. Even if this is a mechanic avaiable from the very beginning, we won’t be able to fully use it until a few hours in, when the battle team grow into 3 or 4 characters.
Mastery is basically a gauge at the side of the screen divided in three segments (or levels). It fills as we use “Attack” and “Skills” and empies as we use “Defend”, “Item” or an enemy acts. Basically it fills if we play offensivly, it empies if we play in defence.
And if we assign a Mastery Skill to one of the three levels, our party will benefit from a constant buff, as long as the Mastery gauge is above that level.
For example, the Mastery Skill “Salvation Barrier” if set at lv.1 grants +60 Resistance but -30 Streanght to the party, at lv.2 grants AutoShield (basically double defence) and finally on lv.3 grants immunity from basic attacks. Mastery Skilly have a variety of effects and different play styles will demand different Mastery Skills.
The Mastery gauge has another function: it increases battle rewards depending on how much it was filled at the end. Basically every character has a “Overmaster skill” which defines what of HP, SP, AP, XP or Zenit (money) is increased at the end of the fight. The more master was accumulated, the better the bonus, and more character with the same Overmaster will yield even greater bonuses!
At the end of the day, from ATB to Exceed and from Equipment to Mastery, there are enough mechanics to make combat not too complex but not too simple either.
Theia’s equip screen is as easy as it gets: every chracter has one wepaon and one armor. Depending on the weapon, it might also equip one or two Atlas Shard (A.S.) which will grant special effects of stat boosts.
Weapon choise is crucial in Theia. Weapons can’t be bought from shops, rather they must be forged by finding special items hidden in the world. Once forged then can be equipped and powered up, provided that we have the materials and money to do so.
Weapons possess several abilities too. Let’s use the above picture as an example. The Gaia Claw is a weapon for Nadia. It has:
- One slot for A.S. (Atlas Shard)
- A “Innate ability” which boosts physical damage by 50%
- A “Hidden ability” which can be activated by equipping the A.S. “Unveil”
- A “Alter”, which is a status ailment (in this case “Frail”) that can be inflicted by attacking but only if we equpi the A.S. “Alter”
- A synergy with any elemental A.S. which in this case ups the weapon’s strength even more.
- The stat that gives to the character (in this case, only Spirit)
- Its % of hitting the enemy when attacking (in this case, 100%)
That means older weapons can still be viable later due to some characteristics that can help in specific areas.
Theia offers a bunch of optional contnent. Starting form the “Hunts” which are given to the party from different people and all boil down to “go here and kill this thing” to Sidequests which expand on certain characters backstory. Unfortunatley most of those are reserved for end-game which is a bit of a shame.
Speaking of end-game, Theia also has two challenge areas meant for end-game: the Arena and the Extreamordeal. The former is kinda like a Battle Tower in fight you fight battles to earn BPs which you can then trade for items, the latter is a long dungeon with stong enemies and bosses which will push your skills to the limit.
Because Theia contains tracks from severla different third-party games, I can’t really say anything about quality but I will say that every track was perfectly on point with the location and/or moment on when it plays.
Theia even has several battle themes which, in end-game, can be changed with the one we like the most.
But the most interesting thing is the voice acting in battle. While non original, it’s still a welcome addition which makes the battles feel a lot more engaging.
Theia: The Crimson Eclipse is unique. A old-school RPG for nostagics and not. It exceeds (see what I did there?) the mitations of its engine, RPG Maker 2003 and creates a wonderful experience
The Let’s play cover the entirety of the game. From the plot to all the bonus contnent as well as some extras that were not put into the game or thigns that cannot normally be done. You don’t want to miss this one!
Let’s Play Stats:
-First episode aired on: Gen 15, 2020
-Last episode aired on: Mar 31, 2020
-Number of episodes: 70 (64 + 6 extra)
-Total time of Let’s Play: 38 hours and 41 minutes