Players took to the rhythm mechanics well, and most of my testers showed interest in the system as a whole. One tester, who made it clear to me that they do not enjoy turn-based RPGs, said that they still enjoyed the basic system and thought that it has potential.
The visual effects for taking damage, dealing damage, and healing make it clear to the players what is happening at any given time. They also help establish that the player's and enemy's actions have consequences, and they make it immediately obvious that combos impact the efficacy of players' abilities. The "boss death" animation also makes it immensely satisfying for players to kill the boss monster.
Players also reacted favorably to the boss's "obstruction" ability, in which it covers part of the note track with mist to block the player's vision. They claimed that it makes gameplay more interesting and dynamic, and that it connects the RPG and rhythm mechanics together well. Some even offered possible alternatives for future bosses, generally seeming excited about the possibilities it could bring.
What Did Not Work:
One issue with this prototype is its lack of player feedback and that its menus are difficult to navigate. Project: Nocturne controls entirely using the arrow keys, which includes selecting options from menus and selecting abilities in combat. Unfortunately, I did not communicate this well enough, and as a result, players found themselves confused. In future iterations, I plan to improve this issue.
A second problem relates to the game's difficulty. In its current state, the enemy is too powerful and has far too much health, which made players feel frustrated while testing the game. This is indicative of me spending too much time working on the rhythm mechanics and not enough time balancing the turn-based gameplay. Some players enjoyed the game regardless, but many of them died or simply walked away before the could complete it. As such, I would like to spend more time balancing this aspect in the future.
Overall, I consider this system to be a success, even if it faced hardships along the way. Using rhythm mechanics to improve turn-based combat shows promise as an enjoyable, tense, and exciting system. It forces players to constantly pay attention to the game and appeals even to players who dislike the slow nature of traditional turn-based RPGs. In the future, I would like to expand on this system, perhaps implementing it in a full game.
One way that I could improve future iterations of this system is by giving bosses new and unique methods of interacting with the note track. These might include an ability that "mutates" notes into diagonal-facing versions that players have to input two or more notes to activate or an ability that launches a sound grenade, which would cut off the music as the notes continue flowing. Such obstructions will make gameplay even more interesting and will force players to alter their play styles without forcing them into a corner. This, in turn, should reduce frustration.