By – Jarrett Riddle
Adventurer Manager by VAStudios attempts to combine the simulation and RPG genres into one humorous package, balancing team and inventory management with strategic turn-based combat. The result is an incredibly in-depth and fun experience that has rarely been done. Created in an original setting, you are a king or queen whose goal is to form an army capable of defeating the evil illusionist Miraj from taking over the world. Your forces have managed to keep the antagonist at bay for now, but only through fighting hordes of his army and upgrading your kingdom will you be able to stop him.
The game boasts cute and colorful pixel graphics that stretch nicely to full-screen, or play in a window. Popular widescreen resolutions are available, ranging from 1280×720 to 1920×1080. Though the art style is simple, there is plenty of attention to detail throughout: Appearance customization is possible with your ruler and adventurers, and every party member will proudly display all weapons and armor you equip on them, which is a nice touch.
Controls and navigation can easily be a hindrance in any game that involves sorting through multiple menus, but Adventurer Manager lays everything out in a simple, easy to understand manner. All of the information given to you can be daunting at first, but is properly explained in the tutorial built into the main questline by your loyal advisor and funny man, Jester. Tooltips are abundant as well, displaying all that is needed to know about various game mechanics. This makes learning how to play and succeed much easier. There’s no way to disable them so if you’re the kind that dislikes popup boxes, it may get irritating after a while. Personally, I was never annoyed by them.
After an entertaining Star Wars-esque opening, the player will be presented with an overhead map of the land they will be defending. There are many different locations to visit, including the castle, which serves as sort of a home base, villages, and hostile areas filled with monsters. Something neat about this screen is that not only does it get darker and brighter according to the time of day, but also the ground changes as the seasons pass; foliage covers the island in Fall, while snow blankets the landscape in Winter. A lot of time will be spent here, so all of these little variations are much welcomed.
But there is much to do besides gazing at the scenery. As a mighty king, the player must recruit combatants of various races and classes to complete quests given out by the different towns. These jobs will net you essential loot and experience, which will be needed to advance the story. After an appropriate gang of fighters has been prepared and a quest is accepted, the location will be marked and the brave (or foolish) adventurer party you chose will have to enter and dispatch some dreaded creature that resides within.
Since the game is called “Adventurer Manager,” one would expect that a large focus would be placed on the individual soldiers. And they would be right, as each person has an impressive amount of information about themselves. Their character screen boasts basic information you would expect in an RPG while also including birthday, age, biography, plus a mess load of statistics that most players probably don’t even think about.
Speaking of biographies, I believe they deserve a paragraph of their own if not for their originality, then for their silliness. Each one reads like a Mad Lib, with the same basic story being told, but with random words inserted into different parts. Here’s the history of my elf ranger: “Opal was born among spoons in a sassy boat. Inspired from being a Water Cooler Talker, Opal decided to become an Adventurer. Opal is jovial, slothy, and pensive but is flabby. Opal enjoys cookies and gypsies but does not like roses. After Adventuring, Opal hopes to someday settle down and become a Nut Historian.” How can you not love that?
Available recruits can be found in towns around the island, each one sporting a unique race with specialized combat abilities. It’s pretty easy to find what kind of soldier you’re after, as each area is named after the kind of people populating it: Giantia has giants, Halflingia has halflings, and Elfia has dwarves. Just kidding on that last one.
Once hired, they will show up in the Adventurers tab and be ready to be sent off to explore and battle. Experimenting with different classes in a party is both fun and advantageous; bonuses are applied to the party depending on who is in it and how they are arranged in formation. Numerous benefits can be had such as “Shield Wall!” which adds 5% armor to the team and is obtained by having two warriors, and “Girl Power!” that raises everyone’s critical hit chance by 2% gained from having an all-female party.
When inside a dungeon, the group chosen to enter explores the location, with each click (or key press) of a direction sending them that way. A map can be viewed, displaying the current position, any known rooms, and contents wherein. Random encounters, loot chests, and camps can be discovered. Of course, there’s the monsters to deal with. Encounters happen frequently in dungeons, and can pit your warriors against common bandits, minibosses like a half-naked skeleton named Pantsless the Mighty, or fearsome bosses such as the Greater Earth Elemental. Layouts and boss locations of these areas stay the same each time you visit, but enemy arrangements and, naturally, those sweet loot chests change to make it feel slightly different each time you’re there.
Combat should be familiar to anyone who has played a turn-based RPG. Battles are fast-paced and fun, but feel a little draggy when fighting enemies with lots of health. A fantastic loot system is in place, so fights always feel worth finishing despite the great effort it sometimes takes.
Monster A.I. is oftentimes scary and unpredictable. It seems that there is a threat level they associate with your team members based on factors such as how much damage they can dish out or how well they can heal another character. The more dangerous they perceive you to be, the more likely you will be attacked. However, enemies with ranged attacks and spells love to pick on your low HP mage in the back row while ignoring your tanks in the front. At higher levels, spells tend to be more devastating than attacks from a melee class, so are perceived as more of a threat. A sensible reaction would be to always target and eliminate the ranged opponents first, but this becomes very difficult when you’re fighting a magic-using boss who has tons of life and lackeys who can heal it every turn until you get rid of them.
Dealing with battles directly is very time-consuming, and an important ruler such as yourself mustn’t use all their time messing with such squabbles. Between quests, it is your job to manage up to 48 different adventurers, keeping them rested, geared, and powerful enough to tackle the next main objective. Sound like too much, even for one in such a position as yourself?
Worry no more, as you can send out groups to hunt for monsters without having to control them. When in this mode, gold and experience are accumulated each in-game hour as the party’s health and endurance drain. The Auto Adventure mechanic is a brilliant and refreshing addition that adds an original dynamic to traditional gameplay. Resources gained are based on the difficulty of the job and can be checked anytime on the overhead map.
Time is crucial in Adventurer Manager. It takes hours out of your in-game day to let soldiers rest. Time advances by either dungeon delving or pressing the Fast Forward button on the map. Miraj isn’t just sitting idly by waiting for you to get everything perfectly prepared to come kill him; his invading forces will approach a random town if you let too much time go by. Hopefully, you’ll have a group ready to fight them off. If not, the army will pillage a village, barring you from entering for two whole days. Getting into an efficient routine of quest-solving, auto-adventuring, and resting while fighting off the hordes is the key to success in this section of the game.
There are several other tasks you can occupy yourself with between all of your duties. At your castle you can build upgrades, buy and piece together jewels, create new equipment, or visit the cemetery to resurrect your fallen heroes with gold. Upgrades to the kingdom grant you bonuses to resting time, inventory space, and auto-adventuring speed, among other things. The jeweler allows you to combine shattered stones into whole ones that can be used to give bonuses on crafted items. At the forge, new weapons and armor are made from base metals and jewels. Gear in your inventory can be smelted down to obtain the materials needed.
The university provides training to members of your army for a fee. Adventurers can improve on most anything, from damage dealt with one-handed swords to chance of finding magic items randomly during exploration. Classes can only be taken one at a time for each character, and take several hours or days to complete. Time in this case doesn’t matter too much, though, as they will continue to learn even if they’re out doing something else. While some may feel this cheapens the gameplay, I see it as necessary to progress. Advanced skills can be gained through this process, like a chance to hit two or even three times in one turn, so it’s best to start education early.
There are a multitude of tasks to do and keep track of in this game, and each one feels suitably balanced and worthy of your time. This is Adventurer Manager’s greatest success. While you have to keep your mind and eyes on many different elements at once, it never feels like it’s too much to handle. Combining this with quirky art, funny dialogue, and an easy-to-use interface means that you have an outstanding overall experience. But (there’s always a but isn’t there?) there are a few downsides.
Adventurer Manager is an extremely long game. Not because of an epic, branching storyline that changes depending on your decisions, but because of a lengthy, never ending grind. After completing a dungeon, you can always bet on having to do it again and again to get better gear and more experience just to have a chance at the next one. After spending around 20 hours with the game, there are still numerous areas that I haven’t even seen yet. That’s because after I’m able to finally complete a main quest and feel good about myself, the next one crushes my spirits yet again.
Minibosses and bosses are sometimes ridiculously overpowered. They are able to hit everyone in your party with a powerful spell and heal themselves for hundreds of hit points all in the same turn. It’s also a bit difficult to have auto adventures that last a worthwhile amount of time, as advancing time while they’re in progress brings the invading forces. When this happens, you’ll have to either fight with your idle crew or bring your active team back to combat. This makes progression feel very slow, and the game repetitive, since you’ll be seeing the same location multiple times before moving on.
Bugs are usually expected in indie games, especially ambitious titles such as this. Thankfully, I only had a few hitches during my my reign as king. A few times when I had a party wipe fighting an invasion boss, I would prepare another team to go back and finish the job. When I did this, the game went directly to the same combat room I had been in, but with no enemies present. This led to me having to forfeit the battle, letting the invaders ransack a town. There are a couple of nitpicky things like text going out of boxes and backgrounds for villages looking funny, but nothing else that gets in the way of actual gameplay. I also never experienced any graphical lag, even when lots of things were taking place on the screen.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
For a modest $9.99 on Steam, you can purchase a wonderfully original title that will guarantee dozens of entertaining hours. Many independently developed games try to cut corners with the excuse that they don’t have the money to make in-depth gameplay or include all the little details. VAStudios challenges that line of thinking, offering deep, time-consuming mechanics from multiple genres that make sense and are a blast to play.