I have played a few hundred RPG Maker games over the past 15 years and the Book of Legends is a standout from the norm. It is a standard old-school, turn based battle JPRG along the lines of the Dragon Quest or and original Final Fantasy series with a lot of emphasis on exploration. The dungeons are big, open and detailed. They have a lot of interactive objects with loot hidden in more than just chests and dressers. You will find plenty of characters to join your party hidden throughout the game. These include cows, chickens, men hiding in baskets. Again, you are rewarded for exploration in big ways.
The game feels free and open after the first area where you can go virtually anywhere you can walk to if not fast travel for gold. Each town feels big, and there are small settlements littered throughout the world map that add a lot to the game. You’ll find merchants, shops, shrines and quests in each town, settlement and castle. My only problem is the world map itself for the most part are literally lines of land instead of big expansive plots of land like the towns and dungeons are big and ripe for exploration. The one problem with such big towns is that there is no run button.
Once you’ve gone through a tunnel, you have an option when going back into it whether or not to simply travel through it or go into it. Its a nice time saving feature that feels like its not padding the game with wasted time, but you can still go through for those that want to.
When you start the game, you’ll find a choice of casual mode or normal mode. Normal mode feels easy enough, but casual mode has random enemy battles less frequently and you regain health after each battle. Its good to have a choice for people just looking to plow through the game. The random battles are not painfully frequent like in old school Dragon Quest games. Its more like every 40 paces or so. You will find enemies in walls or thieves attack on over world bridges. There are tutorial books littered sparingly throughout maps and having a tutorial book seems odd instead of just having NPCs explain things to you if not have an extensive help feature in the menu.
There is little enemy variety in the game and you’ll see the same enemies from area to area, which is a disappointment. A few enemies are reskins, which I’m fine with, I just wish they did different things. The combat feels pretty shallow and you can use a ‘rush’ (autobattle) for 99% of battles. The battles are turn based, where you select everything that your party will do on their turn of the battle ala old school JPRGs, then when everyone knows what they’ll do a turn happens based on their speed. Quicker characters will take their turn first. It is as old school as possible straight down to map movement moving you an entire body length with each press of the left, right, up or down.
The skills in battle seem underwhelming if not almost useless except for certain circumstances. At least every character has their own skills so everyone feels unique. You’ll gain more skills as you level up. You can even change characters on the fly with the party system. So if you have 3 dead party members, swap them out with living members. There are skills and items to revive people of course. With the excess amount of accessories, you’ll be able to craft the character’s stats and resistances to your preference. You’ll have to chose different weapons based on stats, do you want this sword to make your character speedy at the cost of damage or have a heavy damager that is slower than enemies? It is a nice sense of freedom from typical armor and weapon upgrades. It adds something to replayability since you can customize your party so much.
One downfall if not exploit I have found that I can have 3 party members block and my main hero can destroy every boss. Some bosses throw waves of enemies at you before you get to battle them, which I suppose is a unique take on boss fights, but it could also be seen as useless fluff.
There is an Asian style to the game that makes it feel fresh, even if I suspect the graphics are from the Samurai DLC pack instead of custom. Even with an Asian style, the characters speak with modern words like ‘dude’ and ‘cool.’ I think the game is in on the joke and embellishes on it.
Book of Legends feels very dialog heavy, and offers some fun banter between characters when you search or find treasures, but the actual story is just far too dialog heavy for me and I found myself skipping through everything said. Even the NPCs have a good amount to say instead of just one line throwaway statements. It adds to the immersion even if I can’t be bothered by the story when its just paragraphs of dialog.
You can save in most every settlement, but there is an autosave feature and your main hero can save and fully recharge his energy. Its nice to have just before a boss.
With all of that being said, are there better RPGs out there? Yes, but this stands out as being better than 99% of the RPG Maker games out there for its sense of exploration, freedom to do as you please and make your own party, customizations and all. I am a big fan of customization and freedom. Is it worth $15? Probably not. Maybe $5 hits the mark.