January 2023: Alfador Isle
Area of the Month for January 2023 is Alfador Isle!
A template format for your review is below; click 'edit' at the top of the page, copy-pasta from the ---- to the next ----, and fill in the gaps!
(Yes, a wiki account is required to edit the page and therefore post your review, but take heart: The wiki is hosted by the Cleft itself, not a third party!
How does the area's room descriptions(descs) work for you? Do they give you a good idea of the area? Do things that stand out in the desc and NEED explanation GET that, either from flavor text(extra-descs) or NPCs in the room or anything?
What about mobiles(mobs) and their descriptions? Can you get a decent mental image of who or what this NPC/monster is? Do they respond when you talk or interact with them?
Some areas have interact-able objects like fountains. Do they stack up well also?
Balance: X/10 (OR N/A)
(NOTE: combat will be most accurately gauged when your character is in the area's suggested level range.)
If this area has combat, how does it feel? Does anything jump as horribly overpowered and impossible to deal with? What about the flipside, anything far too easy to beat?
Are purchased or rewarded items at the appropriate strength levels? Is the effort required to obtain rewarded items reflected in their usefulness (or uniqueness and fancifulness)
Why would you suggest someone come to this area? Is it just a good place to grind experience(lots of mobs)? Does the area provide a chunk of good gold and loot?
What about the quests? Does this area's quests feel properly done, or is there some part of it that you feel needs work?
For towns, are the shops good? Any other non-combative attraction for the area?
How easily and well does this area connect to its nearby areas? Does it make sense thematically to be connected to the areas it is?
Player: Garant(Ninja/41) -- TOKEN'D!
The room descriptions are creative and informative. Everything is connected via easy to see or figure out room desc. No rubbing your face on walls to figure out how to proceed! Everything is lively and evokes mental visuals in every area. From the forest to the hamlet and in Magus' Castle itself, every tile you walk to will be a pleasure to read and mull over as you proceed to explore.
Majority of the area is fairly balanced. You might have a rather large gathering of enemies stuck behind closed doors, but overall I would say it's balanced. There are a couple of fights where you might need to take caution and proceed carefully. The Big Bats like to form trios and being succ'd to death is a very real possibility. Haunters in the area are also rather strong, and if they are still able to clump up in Ozzie's boss room and their backstab attack (Sucker Punch) doesn't hit like it used to (~200 a punch) but is still a painful occurrence (~50-70 a punch) and there are multiple present in the room, so use AoE with EXTREME caution.
Final Boss himself is sort've on the squishy side, but then again he is a nerdy wizard, no matter how many cool capes he wears. But his spells are nothing to sneeze at, and he uses them a lot during his fights.
Some of the more used items in the game are found here. The shops, while overpriced, hold some rather powerful equipment for Mid-30s if you can afford it. The only thing lacking in the area is a stable source of food and water for those who may need it. You can buy filled canteens from the shop here, but it's super expensive. If you don't feel like buying equips, the forest and castle proper have some pretty good stuff awaiting procurement from within. XP is good, lots of enemy variety in my opinion if you can safely navigate the entire zone. Would be cool to have a quest where the inhabitants didn't hate you.
It's super easy to get to Alfador Isle. Getting BACK to where you came from might be an issue depending on where you're coming from. It connects nicely to some higher leveled areas, and those areas are certainly worth exploring.
Overall the zone is pretty straightforward and fun to explore and play in.
Player: Linn(Priest/100) SHELL'D!
Review Date(s): 1/26/2023
When you first enter Alfador through the ferry, you're given a nice little paragraph describing both the ominous forest that awaits you, as well as a good view of the horizon, showing off El Nido. Fans of the Chrono games will likely appreciate the nod, and I personally always like when related areas are in relative proximity.
Taking your first steps forward the southern path turns from a sandy shore to the dark woods that, while not too treacherous, aren't completely straightforward, either. Personally I feel this area is just the right size, given that you're likely here for one of three attractions. Nobody likes getting lost in the woods, and that's unlikely here.
Venturing northwest through the woods, the dark and creepy vibes continue throughout, eventually leading to unnatural stone formations, which can actually be examined for a bit more flavor text! When not used in excess, I do enjoy descriptors like this for things that return more flavor than "nothing unusual". A single apple tree on the farthest northwest section of the forest is a freebie source of food for non-Reploid peoples, a fun little nicety for the adventurer on a tight budget.
Eastward, the gloomy forest straight out of a horror movie gives way to an onyx gate with a crayon-scribbled sign leading to Medina, village of the imps. I've always enjoyed the quaint feeling of this place, and by comparison to the armed soldiers in Magus' employ, these guys seem a lot more mischievous and a lot less murderous. Everything here is comparatively pint-sized, a little detail that drew a grin from me as I was writing this.
On the north side of the island is Magus' castle, and its as dark and spooky as you would expect. With one minor spoiler-y exception there isn't anything to pay attention to in room descriptions within other than the immersion factor, which is done well here. As an aside, the periodic ambient noises such as the distant screeching in the forest and the ghostly horrors in the castle are a nice touch, I always appreciate zones that incorporates those.
Of the mobs in the area, nearly everything on the island feels accurate to the source material, while distinctly remixed in that Cleft sorta way. The Medina citizens themselves are a fun variety of characters. Very colorful they are, its clear a good deal of care was put into the characterization of even the most minor NPCs here. All of the notable, named NPCs that dwell within Magus' castle are the ones you likely expect, with few real surprises.
In general, combat here is pretty simple, even for those on-level. I don't think throughout my two year history with Cleft I've ever struggled with any of the mobs or bosses in this area whatsoever. And that's okay, I think its a good thing to have an accessible area to fall back on, especially if you find yourself struggling in McNeil, a more dangerous area that has a level range overlapping with this zone. A few scattered solo mobs in the forest are ripe for the pickings of those aiming to push level boundaries and grind above their weight class, and the early rooms of the Castle are prime candidates for this too.
There are, however, a small handful of rooms within Magus' Castle where you can find yourself ganged up on by a big number of foes at once. While I never had too much issue with it, good general advice for the entire game applies here: keep your Health/Mana/Move up between fights. No one mob here is particularly nasty, but a small army of them at once can send you home with a hefty Necro bill.
OF NOTE: the one major outlier in difficulty is the Battlefield Rune, it is easily the most dangerous subsection of the entire zone, capable of sending a player packing if they aren't prepped and paying attention. By its nature, you will be facing 3 - 4 things per wave, and they always get the jump on you, and many of them have tricks a low level player may not have seen before. Don't ever get overconfident here, even if above level!
As for quest rewards, the boss drops feel largely middling in terms of power, neither particularly bad or exceptionally good. Given that its mostly a straight-forward run through a few branching rooms, that's not all too unexpected, and I can't claim the modest effort required to clear the castle feels unrewarding given its relative ease. Honestly, the best prize to be had isn't even from the Castle itself, but the forest's Battlefield Rune... 16 remorts in and I still wear two copies of the ring prize for a majority of each run (and it can be enchanted! Just remember, one drop per remort!!)
Firstly, anyone that's a fan of Chrono Trigger will likely enjoy the sights, I know this is what drew me to the area early in my Cleft career, years ago. Great care has been made to keep the Chrono Trigger vibe in this area, and I really dig it.
Flavor isn't the only reason to check this place out, for such a compact zone there is a good deal to be done here. Trainers on their gym challenge will want to pay a visit to the Medina Pokemon gym to continue that quest line, and the miniquest involved to challenge the gym leader shouldn't put you too far out of your way to solve.
For everyone else, there are two other really good reasons to visit, the less obvious of which being the Battlefield Rune in the northwest part of the forest! I always love encountering these, though this one as mentioned before is decidedly more difficult than Truce Canyon's. The enemy variety in this one is rather diverse, don't expect to just get hit with some lazy DPS, some of the mobs you'll face have some nasty surprises, keep recall scrolls at the ready to dip if it gets dicey! The reward for clearing this rune is well worth it even if you're overleveled, I highly recommend you nab it every remort!
And of course, the main event, Magus' castle. For such a daunting keep, the interior isn't actually all that massive, which I can appreciate. There's a bit to say about the navigation here and the sheer number of keys you have to manage, but its all done in a particular order that isn't too obtuse. The rewards within are potentially worthwhile for first/low remort characters, though nothing absolutely spectacular. still, if you love Chrono Trigger, its worth a run through for the fun of it, and the mob density means on-level players will likely come out a with a heaping helping of EXP.
Grinding area of note: The first few rooms of Magus' castle are very mob dense. Henches are aggro but they have a unique "slow" aggro cycle, oblivious to your presence until you've hung around for several pulses. Generally, it isn't too dangerous of a spot to do some good old fashioned bashin'. There are a few common pieces of loot that include some weapons at this range, and though none of them are particularly noteworthy, Merchants will probably come out with more than an armful of stuff to fence off for some sweet, sweet low-level gold.
There's also a quaint little weapon shop in Medina that has some options for every weapon type, for non-Reploids that have found themselves behind the damage dice curve, which actually seem pretty decent for store-bought options. If you're level 35 and find yourself in dire need of an upgrade, you could do worse.
A simple ticket from Truce will put you on a ferry that will get you to your destination. I never really understood why these ferries needed to force you to wait for the duration of the ride, and why you can't simply be teleported to the location upon handing in the ticket, but immersion isn't a bad thing unless it actively hurts the gameplay experience, and the ride is rather short anyway. Alfador works as a means to get over to Cactuar island, which is a particularly nice leveling zone in its own range, as well as the Seaside town in Shadmire.
Being that its a ferry ride to get here, there's obviously no walking back, and a player would be foolish to spend a ticket on a ferry back where they came from. A shop in Medina itself sells recall scrolls in case you forgot yours, its nice to see care was taken to prevent an underleveled player from getting easily stuck here.
An easily accessible owlite statue is also here that requires no extra obnoxious quest hoops to jump through. Hooray for convenience!
One of my favorite areas in the low level range, a place I frequently return to on my remort speedruns. It's definitely worth going through the gauntlet of Magus' castle at least once, especially if you're a fan of the source game. There's no real needless frustration or obtuse builder mind-reading to contend with. All and all, very comfy and enjoyable.
Player: Kilicx(Gladiator/81 --TOKEN'D
Review Date(s): 2/5/2023
When i first got here I of course went to the forest. Everything was what you would expect from a forest descriptions were well done and fit with the theme. The Medina Village was my next stop. I wandered in a house with two imps who started arguing with each other. This was an interesting addition to the interactions from there that give a feel as to how some of the imps may act. From there I went to Magus Castle another place i enjoyed exploring as well descriptions and colors and all seem fitting for the area which is also rather well done and straight forward. In all the places I ventured into it seems to give a good feel of the area and where things are. Things are explained rather nicely and I don't remember having much trouble using the knowledge of what you learn this way in figuring out where to go or what to do. The way the final boss works also is rather enjoyable to see. One of the mini bosses crystallizing and requiring interaction for the player to do something about this was entertaining.
The combat is this area isnt overwhelming and is fairly decent if you are attempting this at level. There are only a few things that seem to stick out here. The Final boss is about right for level if you are attempting this on your first play through or not it doesn't seem overpowered to the point where you would not be able to handle it either way. The regular enemies around this area in the forest or inside Magus Castle seem to be on average what you would expect as well and possibly a slight easier than some of the other places you can find enemies in this range. The items you receive as rewards from quests or from the boss fight itself seem pretty good as well. The things found here are more geared towards casters and the such. Since Magus Castle is in this area that seems suited toward the theme of things.
Magus Castle is for sure the main attraction for coming here and it's fun to complete and enjoyable. Especially the last boss fight. Don't forget about the arena in the forest. I have always enjoyed the arena fights from the first introduced one in Truce Canyon and finding another one here was fun to do as well. It's fun to get to fight waves of enemies. The quests in this area all seem easy enough to figure out without having to waste too much time or wandering around too long to figure out the answer. The town shops are ok even though there is not a lot to buy at the Cafe the other shop seems to have about what you would expect including some level range weapons for the area and of course recall scrolls. This is nice in case you ran out or forgot yours. It does lack a fountain in the town which I found a little odd.
Being just a ferry ride away from Truce it is not hard to find this place. Everything around here is easy enough to find and not much having to stumble upon things as you go. There is also a faster way to get back to here once you find it so that is reassuring that you don't have to ride the ferry every time if you choose not to do so.
Worth visiting and doing quests here. It's overall a fun area to explore with lots of neat things going on.
Player: Slurmp (Geomancer/30 to Time Mage/34) --SHELL'D!
Review Date: 2/23/23
I should note that, while I try to be objective, this section especially is pretty subjective. I'll start with the more negative comments: I, mostly, like the roomdescs. However, I think it is apparent that there are, per the wiki, 5(!) authors to this zone: the descriptions and style vary wildly by section. As strictly a matter of personal taste, I enjoy the descriptions in Medina the most, the Forest and Upper Castle next-most (a bit overwrought (walls "looming overhead with their stony composition") but in a pretty fun/mood-setting way), and the Lower Castle the least. Three major points of contention:
- I personally object to the regular use of the second person in room descriptions. That preference notwithstanding, it's not used terribly in *most* of the zone (eg I think the forest is fine). However, in the Lower Castle I think it gets really problematic. Sometimes it doesn't line up with my character's 'lived' experience (a room mentions the "stairs you have climbed," but what if I'm returning from the other way? etc). Sometimes, it's the next problem:
- In the Forest, the descriptions are moody. In the Lower Castle, I think they are, occasionally, outright edgelord-ey. Now, for this review, I made a new alt, to simulate the new player experience -- but, were I a level 100 remorter (say, returning for a questline), would I really feel that "everything inside of you is screaming for you to run for your life"?
- I count one room with *10* lines in its roomdesc, and its not an unusual case. :|
...anyways, all of that isn't the most important thing, really. And I do feel the rest of the zone ranges from good to great in this regard. What *does* matter more is its use of extradescs, because there the inconsistency *matters*. There are five or so fairly important extradescs in the zone I can think of, but many would be unlikely to find them -- because the rest of the zone trains you that, no, there's not going to be a extradesc for practically anything, not even (say) the important-sounding altar or the specially-described door. What's more, the zone's not consistent in that regard -- Medina has a handful of extradescs (and they're all adorable and wonderful), but the castle has few to none. I'm all for hidden extradescs that reveal hidden secrets (in fact, I found some while doing this review), but it's not fair to have such secrets when the zone otherwise seems to pull the other way entirely. (A handful of notable items that I think could use descs: Slash' throne; cart corral & trash can; castle doors; portal; heavy purple door; magus' altar. Lever could afford to have chain added as a keyword.)
On the positive side, I think there's some areas that feel bursting with life -- Medina is a delight (the philosopher imps and their Orb, to whatever's up with Huggyfofo), and many of the roomdescs *are* cool and fun. (And, it's been awhile since I've played Chrono Trigger, I think the Castle feels pretty accurate to source?) Plus, occasionally you get these little details I didn't expect -- chanting in the room before Magus, for instance. Oh, yeah, and the Ascii art's lovely. All told, I think this area's descriptions are decent -- they just vary a lot, and that inconsistency (IMO) makes it worse than if the entire area had been written with one convention for extra descs and so forth. But the detailwork is sporadically there, and frequently delightful when present.
Miscellaneous, unrelated side notes: 1) it'd be nice if there were a fast way down from the top of Magus' castle (besides recall). Could we maybe add a jumping-off point? (Not in the second boss room, though - it's too likely someone would flee right off it.) 2) For the quest that features 3 little melt_drop items, it'd be nice if they weren't keys, so they didn't disappear on logout. Mostly cuz going back through the area is really, really annoying, if (say) you don't know where to bring 'em, or need to logout, etc.
tl;dr not enough extra descs, or rather, inconsistent use of them, which makes the very few that do exist feel somewhat unfair
I can only really comment in an extremely limited frame of reference of a level 30ish geomancer. That said, I think the balance was good! Imps and Henches are pretty easy but not pushovers (Henchs can be dangerous in large numbers), Bats punish casters (always good imo), the bosses are mildly challenging and have a very smooth increasing curve of difficulty, all told very good.
I can't personally comment on weapons... I didn't really find anything I found worth keeping as trash drops (as a projec/shortbash Reploid not fond of 2-handers and too low-level for the shop weapons), but at least one of the boss drops seems like it'll be usable in a few levels. All told, decent-seeming drops, balance-wise, and the shop weapons seem okay.
Some miscellaneous comments:
- Slash' fight might be progged to make you pick up the wrong thing when he dies -- I picked up a black ball with silver spikes that happened to be lying around, rather than the key.
- I feel the Haunters are still a bit much, to be honest. If 2 are meant to be a moderate challenge for a post-fight fight, then letting 6 (that I saw) float around is an issue, imo. But, admittedly, this is largely an issue for Geomancer (and maybe Elementalist?), since most classes don't get much AoE.
- One comment on the imps: none of my Geomancer skills seem to be able to move them. Which is a moderate downside, but mostly just seems weird -- they just seem like the *should* be wandering mob equivalents, so why can't they be moved? (Possibly also relevant to suplex, Fear, ... idk, maybe I'm just, like, doing it wrong?)
- The doors lock on area reset, so it'd be really nice if a) the doors could be opened for free from the other side (since the area's basically linear in the order you have to play it in) but more importantly b) can we either add a corpsecatcher or make the keys adhesive? My corpse got trapped behind a door at least once.
- The Imp Armor is a neat idea
- The PokeBattle, while extremely difficult to my low-30s Geomancer (well, okay, I just need to buy more potions, that's my own fault for not using them enough), is really interesting, tactically and aesthetically. All told, that's a 10/10 PokeGym in my books.
- Can't comment on the Rune much because it was significantly too difficult for me to make more than cursory headway at my current level (and, while I must have done it at some point since I have the reward on my main character, I don't remember it). But, honestly, a bit of challenge is okay, nothing wrong with that (and it may be a side-effect of my current class -- Wizard, for instance, could put foes to sleep to get time to regen).
tl;dr With some asterisks, felt good to me! Pls add corpsecatcher to the castle, though
This one, I think, would have really surprised me, before. Imo, Alfador felt kinda empty, in my earliest playthroughs and first impressions? (Maybe this is my grudge with the castle's descs speaking.) On further exploration, though? I mean, there's literally 3 major out-of-area quests I can think of going thru here, plus a whole area I'd had no idea about before this review. Oh, and an apple tree. (Plus, <redacted> -- I especially love the existence of the motivational banana and the considerably-less-than-miraculous miracle potion, but on a practical note there's *extremely* useful stuff, too.)
If anything, it's just the actual area's quests that are a little more disappointing. Magus' drops are strong but not earth-shaking, and really, likewise for pretty much everything I found around here as a drop. Ymmv on what you prioritize. (The Rune's reward, though, is pretty good, if I remember right... I'll need a few more levels to complete it, as-is.) The shops everyone thinks of in the main square of Medina... meh. Weapons are alright, Naga's shop is pretty bare but it's alright. In some sense, I'm kind of okay with an area that doesn't have a free fountain, occasionally -- this is meant to be a pretty out-of-the-way, and somewhat hostile, place.
To me, the main quest is kind of boring in outline (walk in a lot of straight lines and kill a lot of things), but interesting in execution (those bosses are well-progged and feel distinct, especially for a lower-level area). Could use some sprucing up, maybe, but I suppose there's something to be said for a more straightforward area in that respect. In any case, I'd certainly recommend it.
Oh, and not that I'm a good person to comment on this, but it *seems* like a fantastic place to grind, if you're into that. I certainly earned some XP along the way.
tl;dr the actual zone's rewards aren't bad, just imo kinda boring. But not everything can be groundbreaking, and I think they're good enough to get one interested in doing the pretty well-done main quest.
This is an odd case. I have absolutely no complaints about connections in the sense of not having enough the ferry rides provide access to Cactuar Island (a useful and moderately difficult-to-reach place), Isle of the Demon King via Seaside Town (for now, possibly). If anything, my complaint is that the connections are *too much*: looking at the atlas, a ferry from Alfador to Cactuar seems particularly distant; and Seaside Town will be an eminently reasonable destination (geographically speaking) in the future once it's a real place, but for now it feels odd that Alfador, of all places, should be getting sole (to my knowledge) access to the new zone Demon Isle. Also, I don't understand why the portal exits where it does at all -- is there some thematic connection, or just raising player awareness of that place in particular? And the exit to Wutai makes the least sense of all, geographically, unless you assume some ocean-currents or something went unmentioned -- I was initially very confused by that.
tl;dr Well-connected, but maybe too much so? Feels odd, at times, for such a supposedly-isolated place. Meh. It's fine
(Note: the 'connections' in the sense of the outside quest connections, on the other hand, seem great, and appropriate to their respective plots.)
This area grew on me greatly while I went about this review; there's a lot to like, from the descs to the mobs to the items and the quest(s). I feel there's parts of it that still feel unnecessarily rough -- the seams between the different authors seem apparent. I've reported a half-dozen typos, and I never found anything meaningfully problematic here, but there's lots of little things, in both the writing (10-line room! no descs except where there are!) and progs/items (no corpsecatcher! etc, see above) Still, the writing in many places can be moody, witty, bracing, or absolutely hilarious, and while the mob drops could imo be boosted the slightest hair, I also think it's a zone that has a lot to offer players who take some time to poke around -- which, to me, is the biggest criterion of success for a zone in the Cleft.