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RPG Maker MV

Score: 80%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Steam
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Editor/ RPG/ Edutainment

Graphics & Sound:

Any chance we have to review a new game is always exciting, but looking at RPG Maker MV presents something a bit different and even more exciting than usual. This is a tool for making games, and a tool that doesn’t require a four-year computer science degree or specialty coding skills. Scratch that–no coding skills at all are required. Factor in a huge community of creators and you have something that can pretty much unlock any fantasy you’re harboring for any game you’ve dreamed of making.

For any person who’s dabbled with game making or been a frustrated coder over the years, RPG Maker MV scratches one of the biggest itches and impediments to actually getting started. Sure, you can jump in with something like Twine and make a piece of interactive fiction no problem, but the moment you want something more than text, you realize why game development is hard. Even 2D, 8-bit graphics are not trivial when you have to create them at a code level, and that’s not even getting into how graphic elements interact or the most basic animation. Yes, there have been tools like Scratch that made it possible to bring art assets into a palette and program them with plain-English commands, but the results don’t feel all that polished.

What RPG Maker MV immediately brings to your game creation palette is a large library of assets, everything from visual map elements, to character creation tools, to a lineup of monsters, to in-game menus, to sound and music. This is all just stock, available from first boot. You can expand on these elements even farther with community contributions, and of course go to work customizing for your own needs if you’re so inclined and capable. Not only is the pool you can draw from deep, but RPG Maker MV makes it simple to quickly build large maps. Some of the keyboard conventions are a bit odd at first, like right-clicking on empty spaces in a menu to find the editing tools. This is presumably to avoid having a million buttons or menu commands, which we can appreciate, but it takes getting used to.

Once you do master the controls, you’ll be up and running with the ability to drop in whole towns or landscapes, populate them with characters and treasure, and set up areas for enemy or NPC encounters. This can literally be done with WYSIWYG controls and no code, but that right-click mentioned earlier will open up a Pandora’s Chest of options for almost all game elements. Tiles can be created in the game’s relatively rudimentary editing tools, or you can import actual Photoshop or GIMP handiwork. This particular expansion offers new ways to build for a touchscreen context and to leverage side-views, which give you more platforms and ways of expression.


Designing for mobile gameplay is a huge deal since we know so much interaction happens now on those platforms. Even more impressive is how easily the tools have been adapted for building in touch controls. Publishing to the iOS and Mac platform is great, but Mac fans will be most excited about the chance to actually use RPG Maker MV on their OS for once. After all, this software has been around for some time. It’s been an obvious gap for aspiring game creators that is now officially filled. In a similar nod to modern devices, RPG Maker MV supports higher resolution screens to give your designs more punch.

Better yet, the tools available for expanding the game experience have now shifted to make them more accessible. We’re talking about plugins, which in the past were something proprietary to this tool, but which are now handled through JavaScript. Yes, that means that every capable front-end developer will be in familiar territory and capable of making minor or major modifications. Even non-coders have the option of importing plugins created elsewhere and dropping in to modify them with in-game editing tools, or at a code level. Think of plugins as the toolbox for any game you’re building, that create many of the in-game behaviors your players experience.

Powerful tools are great, but the ease with which you can use them in RPG Maker MV is again worth noting. Something as complex as an encounter or storyline can be quickly mapped out and literally "painted" on the game’s map. The only thing missing is a tool for outlining the game’s story, which is probably better done in a document or script-writing tool than in RPG Maker MV. That said, smart touches like a search engine for events make it simple to find that wedding or boss fight you worked into your story, at the point where it may be one of hundreds in your database.


The reality checkpoint is that you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs and you definitely can’t use RPG Maker MV to make a game without reading the fantastic manual. Yes, the documentation is quite good, if a bit scattered. We found ourselves wishing for a book–oh wait, there are plenty of those if you search Amazon or your local library. The existence of a small army of books written about the RPG Maker software belies the claim of this being "all you need" to make that game you’ve been dreaming about. To be clear, you can make a game in about 30 minutes, it just won’t be your dream game until you take time to study the software.

As mentioned earlier, some of the complexity isn’t at all the fault of RPG Maker MV but more so the fault of a designer who puts tools before story. If you start throwing a bunch of characters, monsters, map tiles, and events into the bucket before you have a real plan, you’ll come away feeling like RPG Maker MV is a confusing tool. It’s not. If you come in with a plan on paper, you’ll find that you can quickly line up the pieces in RPG Maker MV to make it a reality, but then come the finer points.

It’s so true that the devil is in the details and the expression of that here comes from shading, elevation, map transitions, character leveling, and about a million other tiny things you’ll want to tweak. The good news is that you can always refine these as you playtest and build on your beta version of a game. The bad news is that you have to be willing to commit the time to read through some documentation or learn through a painful trial and error process. We’d recommend the former, but there is also a huge war chest of YouTube videos if learning that way is more your style.

Game Mechanics:

Installation is a cinch and there are just a few times when you’ll need to break out of the game and drop .js files into the Plugins folder or tweak other aspects of your installation. Of course, this isn’t even a requirement to jump in and start building, so long as you’re okay with what’s installed. Learning your way around the interface isn’t easy, but you’re also not given a completely blank canvas. You can play a sandbox right after launching RPG Maker MV to see at least how a basic game is constructed. You have a map and a party prepared to explore the map, so you’re free to jump in and start tweaking/breaking things as a learning tool.

It’s extremely simple to test and export versions of your game for live play testing on target devices. Fully exploring the publishing mechanism goes beyond the scope of this review, since it depends greatly on the platform, but it’s amazing that you can literally use RPG Maker MV to create anything from a handheld RPG to a full desktop experience you’d distribute via Steam. Notably, RPG Maker MV supports both APK for Android packages and IPA for iOS devices, so you won’t need a developer account to test on either platform.

The process of creating a game on RPG Maker MV is not unlike creating on powerful editing suites from Adobe or others. The assumption you should make going in is that you’ll get out of the experience exactly what you’re willing to put in. These are development tools that any can use, but that all will need to invest some time with to really master. Even experienced developers who’ll have a leg up when it comes to the JavaScript will have to spend time learning the basic RPG Maker MV interface. The good news is that once you learn the tool, the only thing standing between you and your dream game is imagination and a little planning.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:

Mac: OS: Mac OSX 10.10 or better; Processor: Intel Core2 Duo or better; Graphics: Compatible OpenGLR; Additional Notes: 1280x768 or better Display

Test System:

Mac: El Capitan 10.11; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7; 16 GB RAM; Intel Iris Pro w/1536 MB VRAM.

Related Links:

Windows RPG Maker MV iPad Lost Souls: Timeless Fables HD Collector's Edition

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated