Perhaps I’m being incredibly obtuse, or expecting too much from a project that has nothing yet to show for itself but a fancy Kickstarter page, but absolutely nothing about “Japan’s Indie RPG”, Project Phoenix excites me. I see it as yet another platform for sly industry vets to namedrop and ride on their past achievements to fund an otherwise-unremarkable project on very suspect terms. Indeed, it follows very closely the standard M.O. of successful Kickstarter ventures: putting forth very successful faces behind proposals that consist of nothing but promises and very vague handwaving. Quite frankly, I’ve been burnt far too many times on Kickstarter projects, and this particular one just raises the “bullshit” flag.
Let’s start with the game’s premise and promise, as presented through the Kickstarter page’s introductory video. Most KS users fail to understand their role in backing a project: most expect their contribution to be a “pre-order” or a guarantee for a finished product, when in reality they are looking at their financial contribution the wrong way. When I back a Kickstarter project, I consider myself an investor, rather than a consumer. I back projects because I believe in the project’s message and its people. Yet nothing in their presentation nor their “project plan” (aka the squiggles that go below the video) convinces me that Project Phoenix has anything of merit that I would personally feel comfortable backing, whether it’s for the cause of their lofty promise of “reviving” the JRPG genre, or the actual, finished product.
Project Phoenix is a sprawling adventure in which you explore a vast, rich land and do battle against formidable enemies. The gameplay eschews micromanagement in favour of a focused Real Time Strategy system enhanced by JRPG elements. You can level your characters and teach them new abilities but at the same time they behave intelligently when you are not controlling them directly.
I’m sorry, but even the game’s main sell sheet sounds incredibly condescending to me, and essentially masks the fact that they are creating what appears to be a MOBA. This is all speculation and conjecture, of course; but let’s call a spade a spade. At this point I’m guessing that this is a DotA clone with excellent concept art and potentially okay music (more on that later). Personal tastes are subjective, so it’s difficult to get excited over a game produced in a genre that I have zero interest in.
Alas, that’s one of the inherent problems in gaming fandom: the influence of name-dropping goes a long way, and nostalgia trumps reality. On paper, I suppose the “cast,” as it were, sounds solid: the project’s game designer worked on LA Noire (I’m one of those nutlords that actually enjoyed that game), its art director tangentially worked on Final Fantasy, and they hired a 3D modeler that worked on Halo and Crysis. In execution, I wholeheartedly wish this team luck: that’s quite an eclectic mix of tastes, and just seems to be a project manager’s worst nightmare. And for anyone expecting Nobuo Uematsu to churn out another classic OST — have you listened to anything the man has produced in the past few years? Dude’s there to collect a paycheck, and be a bulletpoint on the game’s sell page.
I hope our readers out there understand my apprehensions about Project Phoenix. I’m sure it has something of interest going for it, but upon further inspection, I could not find a single thing about the game that’s sold me on it… yet. Please sell me on this game! I really want to understand why people are hyped for an (iPhone-targeted) RTS that’s supposed to “revive” Japanese RPGs.