I am, as ever, a moth to folly’s candle.
The Tenth Line is an RPG by the creator of The Reconstruction and I Miss the Sunrise, and represents the developer’s first foray into commercial gamemaking. It is better than its predecessors in some ways — it has a self-contained plot with an actual ending, for one thing — and worse in other ways.
Here there be spoilers, so if you want the abstract: The story is an absolute disaster. I routinely found myself getting lost from line to line in cutscenes, because nothing anyone said or did made the slightest bit of sense. I really hoped that the poor character writing in the last two games was just because there were too many characters to manage, but here there’s a much more condensed cast and scenes still consist of characters chirping out their one character trait and then bending over backwards for the whims of Plot. I’m finally starting to understand people who say game stories take themselves too seriously. This is very much a video game plot, with the story being little more than a vehicle for cool fights and shocking plot twists with little vision for any coherent whole, yet the game clearly seems to be trying to say some deep things about prejudice, religion, and fatalism, despite not being able to deliver. Conversations also go on forever — I’m someone who normally eats up every line of dialogue, but here I routinely found myself saying “Yes, we get it, can we move on please” when talking to NPCs. But even aside from that, the story just felt… really bland, ultimately. The Reconstruction and I Miss the Sunrise may have executed their ideas poorly, but they did have interesting and original ideas. The Tenth Line does not — it’s a very standard fantasy world and fantasy RPG plot, and none of it really stuck with me.
Is it still worth playing for the gameplay? That depends, I suppose. I personally found the system simultaneously overdesigned and lacking in strategical depth. Battles tend to be extremely repetitive and drag out just a bit too long, with most of the strategy revolving around pre-battle setup and very difficult action commands. You can burn items to give your characters bonus strength that slowly degrades, and the game seems to expect you to keep them topped off after every battle but I just can’t be bothered. The platforming puzzles were generally nice; every character has their own jump physics and special abilities they can use to do stuff in the world, and this usually leads to there being multiple ways to progress through the area for each of them. However, there are tons of environmental hazards that serve only to waste your time by knocking characters all the way back to the start of the (rather large) areas. I definitely found it getting pretty tedious by the end, and I didn’t bother with the postgame grinds despite normally being a completionist. My recommendation would be to look at a let’s play and see if it’s something you think you’d enjoy.