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In massive free indie RPG Capella's Promise, created by PlainSoft and translated by vgperson, Velk and his sister Thiana aren't your typical heroes. In fact, they're not very nice people at all. They're slavers, to be precise, and one night Velk wakes up to overhear his sister making an unusual deal... all they have to do is watch over a young girl named Shena for six months in exchange for a large amount of cash. It's a strange request to make of someone who makes their living buying and selling people, but Thiana and Velk see it as easy money. At least until the night soldiers show up demanding Shena, who, having literally spent most of her life underground passed from one "master" to another, has no idea why she's so valuable. Now Thiana's been captured and Velk's on the run with a girl everyone wants to get their hands on, and they soon discover there are more people with bounties on their heads being snatched away in the night. What starts as a quest to rescue Velk's sister winds up being something much more when they stumble across something very rotten in the kingdom of Ilnacia. Clocking in at over twenty hours with sidequests, secrets, crafting, customisation and more, Capella's Promise might be a bit combat-heavy for some, but is one heavyweight freeware title well worth checking out.
Use the [arrow] keys to move around, the [spacebar] to interact, and [ESC] to open the menu where you can save your game and manage your characters and items. In a lot of ways, Capella's Promise is your typical turn-based JRPG-style title, albeit with a few twists to the formula. Using crafting items, you can synthesize not only equipment as long as you have the proper recipe, but also "megalomas", which, when equipped, will cause your character's stats to raise in specific ways whenever they level up. You can see enemies before you encounter them in the field, and both the creature's level will be displayed above them so you know what you're getting into. In addition to experience points, enemies also give you Specialty Points when slain, which you can spend on characters to increase their skills and abilities in specific branches, such as magic or physical attacks. Some equipment will even grant you unique skills and commands, and certain types of treasure chests will respawn... armor you find can even have randomized stats, so two of the same shield may have different enhancements. Add in a warpstone system that will allow you to hop around to checkpoints instantly or set your own, a "conquest" meter in certain dungeons that can summon powerful guardians, and you have a game heaving with a remarkable amount of extra tidbits.
But wait! There's more! Blue forges allow you to embed certain pieces of equipment with orbs to grant different effects, while the "red" (it's totally pink) forge dissolves equipment down into raw materials for crafting. Don't worry if absorbing all the information in the tutorial screens you're walloped with at the start of the game seems impossible... not only is it not as complex as it seems, but you can press [shift] at any time to review it under the help menu. Speaking of reviewing things, if you ever need a refresher on what to do, you can check out "progress" under the main [ESC] menu to view what's going on in the story and what you're supposed to be doing, and people or objects that will advance the plot will always have an event marker floating over their heads. Which must be weird if you're an NPC, right? You wake up one morning with one of those suckers hanging overhead and you spend the rest of the day in terror, not knowing if you're going to be a waypoint on a simple fetch quest, or wind up brutally murdered as part of dramatic protagonist plot development.
Analysis: Capella's Promise, for all of its crafting system and other tweaks, is still a traditional RPG, which means you can get ready for lots and lots of grinding. Embedding orbs in your equipment can have a huge impact on combat, piling stat and skill bonuses on in a hurry, and with the megaloma system allowing you to direct your party's growth as you please, as well as the whole new commands you can equip someone with through certain weapons and armor, you have a ton of customisation. Still, Capella's Promise is slow to start, and you'll spend an hour or so slogging through a series of dungeons and tutorials before the game opens up a bit and lets you explore the outside world. While the story moves slowly and has a lot of common tropes, it's still a loving homage to the genre where there's clearly been an enormous amount of work put into making it as fleshed out as possible, with special attention paid to beefing up the combat into something satisfying and challenging.
If you're against the whole "human trafficking" thing, you might find it hard to get behind Velk as a hero. It's implicitly stated that slave trading is illegal, so while many of the characters are morally gray, and some of the slaves even appear not to mind being sold, you're still dealing with a character who has no trouble treating people as property if it benefits him personally. On the other hand, Shena is wheelchair bound, which is something you don't really see in games, at least not as far as main characters go. She's never treated as a liability for this, and can use any equipment and fight just as well (if you make her a fighter) as any other character in your party. While a lot of the other characters who join you throughout the game may play into familiar archetypes, however, it's your ability to customise them for combat that makes a surprising amount of difference in how you view them. These things, like making Rayne a combat powerhouse or Velk a weaker healer, don't actually change the story, of course, but it helps keep the more common (and boring) fantasy JRPG tropes at bay by making the characters into what you want them to be.
The end result is a classic-feeling RPG that has a surprising amount of depth to it in places, and one that looks and sounds great too, with fantastic character artwork and a solid soundtrack. If you've always been against the genre, Capella's Promise likely isn't going to cause you to revoke your old opinions and fall head over heels. For fans, however, the sheer bulk of the gameplay and the clear effort gone into crafting it all makes this one seriously formidable title, especially considering that it's available at the low, low price of free. While it's definitely a slow boil, the more time I spent with it, the more I liked it, and Capella's Promise offers old school charms with a few modern sensibilities to freshen things up.
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