Antagonist is an RPG where we take on the role of the villain. And not just any villain but the Dark Lord himself. We start off right away fighting and ultimately being defeated by the Hero of Light, Ralph. The real twist here is that our character named D’Vil, is actually a long time actor who finally landed himself a big role as said Dark Lord. Having just nailed this scene, we are then introduced to our childhood friend and fellow actor, Teeth. As you can no doubt tell by the names of the characters alone, this is a game that does not take itself seriously and is jam packed with humor.
After that epic battle scene with the hero, you are free to speak with everyone in the production staff, from cameramen to fellow actors. It is completely optional to speak to any of them but it does set the tone that this a Visual Novel as well as an RPG. You’ll be spending as much time talking as you will fighting, if not more so. Throughout certain conversations, you will have several ways of responding to a character and while your choices may not affect much, some are simply too funny not to pick, regardless of likely getting you into trouble. You can act like a villain, a confused actor and more to suit the situation or simply which seems more fun.
Visual Novels live or die by their characters. If they are terrible then all the interactions inherently are as well and you end up not caring much about the story or their journey as a result. Luckily, that is not the case here. As short as the game is clocking at around 3 hours, I’ve really enjoyed my time with the lot of them. With a plot that includes characters named Master Chef and other hamfisted video game look-alikes, it would be forgiven to think that the story is likely sub-par but in a surprising turn of events it is indeed quite good. I will not spoil it by explaining why, though it does take an interesting turn and there are two endings to see.
The combat sections are the typical turn-based RPG formula of having an attack, skills, guard and an item menu. There are some nice ideas such as certain character skills being able to be chained together to be far more effective against enemies. You level up and gain money after a fight while you learn new skills as you progress through the story. Besides yourself, you have a single party member that fights alongside you. Your party member is occasionally swapped out between Teeth and the Hero Ralph though both are controlled by the AI during battle. This is where the problems come in and you are left feeling like winning is more about luck than either skill or tactics.
The AI is simply too unpredictable to be reliable and seems to pull pick their attacks completely at random. That goes for both your partner and your foe. There is simply no rhyme or reason to the combat, you just have to hope that they don’t attack you and that your partner targets who you intend to take out first. I wouldn’t call the gameplay unplayable or even bad but it is this title’s weak point. It being a Visual Novel as well leads to a rather unique feel to the RPG part of it. There is no grinding or backtracking so you best take good advantage of the shops when you have the chance. Every battle has purpose; every coin is valuable and every action can lead to death because the AI will be damned if they ever heal you.
Shops only sell two items, one that lets you revive and a potion. There are no equipment or weapons to collect, even if the menus are there for them. I wouldn’t call this a hard game though there is no doubt that you will need to be prepared and aware of how to use the numerous amount of skills you will unlock. Near the end of the game, the combat does get more enjoyable as you start living up to your Dark Lord title and become more capable of wiping the floor with your enemies. With all these skills, the character combos and attack chains, I couldn’t help but keep thinking that the gameplay could have been a lot more enjoyable if you were given control of your party.
On the technical side of things, this game is stuck in a 4:3 ratio and you must use the Alt+Enter command to enter full-screen. I’ve experienced no crashes or other oddities throughout the 3-hour journey. Not a bad proposition when you consider the game itself is only 3 dollars. Looking at the art and the ton of other RPG Maker games on Steam it would be extremely easy to write this game off at a single glance but that would be a mistake. Finding titles such as these is why I love playing Indie games. You walk in not knowing what to expect and walk out in disbelief that you almost gave such a good game a pass. If the idea of an RPG without pointless filler, a good story and full of solid humor appeals to you then Antagonist is a no-brainer.