I am a reviewer who prides herself on completing games before passing judgment. There's nothing that grates against my gaming ego more than not completing something from start to finish. As I've gotten older, I've noticed my patience dwindling for things that either take too long to get started or are showing no signs of engagement. After six and half hours, Sylia is one of the first games in a long time where I felt nothing as I played it. No sense of joy or excitement to keep me going forth. I can handle a bad game, but what I can't handle is a boring one.
" Perhaps I'm simply not the target audience Sylia was aiming towards. "
As a staff member who adores cute RPGs, you'd think Sylia would instantly hook me. The story is about some adorable animals who attempt to save their masters from the evil Lady Godiva. Well, that's not entirely the premise. When three mysterious cubes land on the three major islands that make up the world of Sylia, four heroes set out to investigate the eerie power within them. However, their investigation takes a turn for the worse as they confront Lady Godiva, a smart-mouthed witch, and are defeated by her powerful magic. Godiva, wanting to be the sole ruler of the world, casts a spell on humanity turning everyone into stone. What she didn't anticipate, was that the animals of Sylia would be unaffected by her spell.
Sylia has a novel idea, and it's hard to find fault with it. It's pretty ingenious to have a bunch of animals attempting to save the world from an insane and childish witch. However, this neat idea is marred by very bland and boring storytelling that feels a little too juvenile for the average gamer. I do expect some childlike innocence from talking animals who are coming to terms with the fact that their world is in great danger, but not when the writing feels so immature that you have to wonder who proofread it. It also doesn't help that the characters are very one-dimensional, flat, and fit nearly every cliché imaginable. They are characters that are more infuriating to be around than fun, thus weakening the premise further.
It also doesn't help that the gameplay is very monotonous throughout. What players are presented with is the tried-and-true turn-based battle system doing what we've all come to expect it to do over the years. Characters can attack, defend, use skills and items, but have no option to escape if battles get rough. This gets particularly annoying when enemies stalk your every movement on the map, making combat unavoidable most of the time. Characters come with a wide variety of skills as they level up, but a lot of these abilities come across as redundant or seldom work at all. In particular, I had constant trouble getting any of Hans the crazy chicken's skills to work. In fact, Hans spent far more time dead than he did alive. Such a common fate for chickens.
While I think the amount of skills is commendable, and I do see it as a positive when they work, what I find Sylia provides is a very unbalanced challenge. Sometimes the battles are way too easy and other times players will find themselves backed into a corner. There's no real balance in how the gameplay presents itself, making it very problematic even on the easiest setting. Furthermore, the combat is just not interesting enough that this should be such an issue. Grinding also comes into play, as once you hit the second continent, the difficultly ramps up a far bit.
Part of my issue with Sylia is that it's a boring experience. Players go from town to town and spout inane dialog at each other. There's just not a lot that fleshes Sylia's world out and makes it stand apart from other RPGMaker titles. The world isn't compelling in the slightest to explore, which is a shame considering how much I love the idea of the game. It feels so empty, but not in the metaphorical sense. The graphics are very basic, and the map designs are just such a mess that it's vertigo-inducing. The music is quite lovely, which is sad considering how disengaging the game is.
If you're wondering why this impression is so short, it's really because after the time I spent with this game, there just wasn't anything to say about it. Sylia does little to stand out in a crowd, and while I can see the love put into its development, it's not a sentiment I can say I share. The hardest thing in the world is to critique someone else's hard work, but when it feels like your time has been wasted by playing something that feels like it has nothing to offer, criticism is exactly what the offending product demands. I'm amazed at the amount of enjoyment people are having with this game, and I'm constantly wondering why such a novel premise is bogged down by boring gameplay and awkward writing. Perhaps I'm simply not the target audience Sylia was aiming towards, but I simply can't recommend it to those looking for a nice casual RPG experience.