RPG Maker MV Review - Flying Blind in a Fighter Jet

Published: December 18, 2015 1:00 PM /

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When a chance to review RPG Maker MV came through my inbox, I was a little hesitant, but excited. I am the kind of person who likes to build things from the ground up, which is why I have spent a few years casually making a game engine, rather than just making a game on Unreal Engine or Unity. I am nothing if not open-minded.

Firing up RPG Maker MV was a little bit overwhelming. You are greeted by a character in the middle of a field, with options and buttons and other seemingly random symbols on the screen. Off to the documentation we go, and this is precisely where the problems begin. The documentation is abhorrent, and that isn't a word I would use lightly. As a software engineer myself, who is currently working on a project with a code base of some 10,000 files, documentation is my works' lifeblood, and it's pretty much nonexistent here. 

It may feel a bit cheap to harp on documentation first and foremost, but you have to consider this from the standpoint of someone who is using RPG Maker to make an actual game. Fumbling around in the dark is frustrating instead of fun. This will most likely cause a lot of people to just say no and move on to Unity or Unreal Engine, where the amount of documentation is insanely detailed. Reading the documentation included with RPG Maker MV did give me a small insight into how to do certain basic things, and navigate the UI. For more advanced topics I had to go to forums and various sites of dubious credibility. This is something that you need to consider before even continuing on in this review and thinking about making a purchase, can you handle the severe lack of documentation at your disposal? If you can get past all that, I have good news, the rest of RPG Maker MV is really good!

RPG Maker MV Character Creation Screenshot

After stumbling over the initial hurdle, I managed to get the hang of the features included, which are extensive to say the least. My favorite feature was the Character Generator, which allows you to generate a 2D representation of a character based on nineteen parameters, which include face shape, skin color, clothing, and most importantly, beard. The Character Generator will take all these options and allow you to export all the required sprite sheets that RPG Maker MV requires. That said, the speed at which this all works was the most impressive thing about it. I was able to create ten distinct characters in about 5 minutes thanks to the handy randomize button, and they all looked fantastic, and you can actually save the parameters in case you want to tweak it later. Another great feature is the Dungeon Generator, which grants the ability to create randomly generated dungeons based on either a maze or room based layout and using a tileset of your choosing. This can be a great way to cut the amount of time it takes to add new dungeons in, especially working in tandem with the random encounter mechanics included with RPG Maker MV

These two features, coupled with the large library of pre made assets, makes making a basic game very simple. Create a character, load in a map, create a dungeon, add some enemies, this can all be done in about 15 minutes. But that isn't where RPG Maker MV excels, it excels in letting you create complex skill trees, armor sets, weapon sets, and character progression. I was able to create a few different types of armor which different characters could equip, each with different accessories that increase different stats. I could then take all that and add them to a shop or include them as quest items with relative ease. I was able to change the way the characters stats increase using the inbuilt stat curve generator in no time flat, I was even able to make a two stage boss in mere seconds using the mechanics that already existed. But this is RPG Maker, and RPG's require a good narrative, and the ability to make that is something that RPG Maker MV requires to even be considered for use. Like previous titles, that functionality is there in the event system.

RPG Maker MV Event database

The event system in RPG Maker MV is used for everything, including door transitions, planned encounters, shops, and all the way up to giving the player new abilities and teammates. Events are central to making RPG Maker MV do what you want it to do, and unfortunately it stumbles over the same documentation hurdle as the rest of the engine. Even through a lot of the simple events like chat and shops are easy to get going, more complicated events are obscured. Examples such as talking to someone multiple times and getting varied results or getting different options based on how far into the game you are, are hard to accomplish without the help of Professor Google. It took me quite a while to figure out how to do something relatively simple like trigger a fight with an NPC on the map and then remove that NPC permanently from the player's save. All that said, there are a ton of options to choose from that make branching paths, text trees, and NPCs super easy to create and make interesting, once you get the hang of it. 

The battle system has also been enhanced, with the option to choose a side view battle system for the first time in RPG Maker. This is as easy as clicking a button to change. You can even change the way certain generic text prompts are displayed, such as receiving gold, and change the names of basic stats like HP and MP (which I called TechPoints, awesome I know!). The level of customization you can do is actually insane, and with the database of "things" (which includes all weapons, armor, skills, characters, enemies and enemy troops) increased to a limit of 2000, you can really take that customization and run with it to create the RPG you have always wanted to make. 

RPG Maker Game Screenshot 2
Screenshot from my magnum opus

Another issue with the engine is the play testing system. You can do a lot of different play testing including testing battles which is super handy for balancing purposes as you can change your items, skills and stats before starting it, but it does have a pretty big flaw. You can't jump into a new map you have created without playing through the game to that point first. Yes, there are ways around this, like resetting your starting point and changing variables and switches based on a temporary event, but this is cumbersome, and a real pain. Having an ability to jump into the game at any state, and any place would be super handy, especially for massive games where going through an entire game to test the final level is just not practical every time you make a change.

I would like to touch on the fact there is a scripting interface as well, based on JavaScript (not to be confused with Java), but honestly, I didn't use it. There is zero documentation when it comes to this, outside of certain things you can access, and the only guides I found online looked like someone had crawled through the prepackaged scripts the engine uses and they just guessed from there. It was a good effort, but I can not bring myself to do actual programming with no actual documentation, it is just madness to me. There are some other things that could be done a bit better from the perspective of a software engineer, including being able to use revision control effectively, and not include a cacophony of extra files that you aren't using to the final build, but most people wont find an annoyance in this.

My final impression for RPG Maker MV comes down to, you guessed it, the documentation. I can't in good conscience say that this is an excellent game engine when it is so poorly documented, even if it really is in any other aspect. Finding out how to do anything more complicated than map creation requires extensive use of Google and the hope that someone else has transferred knowledge from previous titles over to this one, and was nice enough to document it for you. I am most certainly not saying you couldn't figure it out yourself. Enough fumbling around will get you to where you need to be, but most people would get frustrated long before that and just download the free alternatives of Unity or Unreal Engine and start there.

Being a game reviewer myself, it would be extremely hypocritical to make a game in this engine, and not put it up for public scrutiny. As a result, everyone gets to be exposed to what is most likely the worst game narrative ever created, in House Of Raptors, which documents the struggle of two young raptors, to... get money? If this is something that sounds awful to you, click here for the download.

What do you guys think? Have you used this and found the documentation fine? Do you want to see a full House of Raptors release? Let us know in the comments below.

Review Summary


RPG Maker MV is packed with new and awesome features, but it really falls over when it doesn't tell you how to use them. A good documentation library would definitely bump the score a lot, but I can not give it a better score with the documentation as is.

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| Staff Writer

Gamer, Programmer, TechHead, Australian. If I'm not here, I am probably knee deep in the dead somewhere, or the dropbears got me.