RPG Maker Fes: Is It Worth Buying?

That’s an awfully brave thing to say to the guy who writes your dialogue…

Think game design is easy? Try messing around with RPG Maker Fes for a while, and see if it changes your mind.

The RPG Maker series has been around for several decades now, but it finally made its 3DS debut this past June with RPG Maker Fes. At its core, the game is essentially Super Mario Maker for RPGs, giving the player a powerful set of tools to design their own worlds however they see fit. (There’s also a free RPG Maker Player that allows anyone to play finished creations, even if they don’t own the game itself.) If you fancy yourself a competent storyteller but not a great programmer or graphic designer, this game is your opportunity to show the world your stuff!

As someone who’s been dabbling in game design for a long time, I had a ton of fun messing around with the tools in RPG Maker Fes. However, if you’re thinking about picking up this game, there are a few important things to consider:

  • If you’re really serious about creating an RPG, you’ll need to put a lot of time into this game. Despite my earlier comparison to Mario Maker, the controls of RPG Maker Fes aren’t quite as intuitive, and the game doesn’t offer much in the way of a tutorial. You’ll need to spend quite a bit of time at the outset just figuring out what the controls do and how to make them work.

Once you do that, there’s the small matter of actually building the world, characters, villains, items, etc. of your masterpiece. There are plenty of canned examples that can be dropped into the game, but you’re still going to have to lay out the overworld, painstakingly detail each town and dungeon, script out your cut scenes, tinker with your enemies to ensure battles aren’t too hard or too easy, establish the skill-learning progression of your heroes, and so on.

As an example, designing a small overworld map, fleshing out a single town, and putting together a brief opening cut scene took me almost eleven hours, and they could still use another coat or two of polish. Bottom Line: By the time you’re finished with this game, you’ll understand why games (especially RPGs) take so long to develop.

  • Be ready to spend a lot of time away from your 3DS thinking about your game. Oh wait, you thought the game ended the moment you turned off your 3DS? Think again: There’s no option in the game that says “Come up with a cool storyline for me”—you’re going to have to do that on your own, and that means spending a lot of time away from your console thinking about how to weave together a coherent plot. (It’s a bit like running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign as a DM, actually.)
  • Don’t expect to create a unique visual masterpiece. The game comes with a surprsingly-limited selection of character, item, villain, and backgrounds sprites, so if you’re an ultimate power-user who wants more control over the game’s look, you’re probably better off using a different tool to create your game (my favorite back in the day was the O.H.R.RPG.C.E).

RPG Maker Fes caters to a very specific crowd, one that daydreams of deep and complex adventures but may not have the technical or artistic chops to build a game from scratch. Members of this crowd (like me) will enjoy this game wholeheartedly, but casual gamers/creators are probably going to want to steer clear of this game, because if you don’t enjoy the actual creation process, the game is just a huge time sink with no real payoff.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to send my intrepid hero off to Port Machado to retrieve some precious cargo for the king’s army. Let’s see, what items should I offer in the weapon shop…